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  • Writer's pictureJackie Morrill-Faucher

What Do You Know About Sunscreen?

Summer is here and Sunscreen is a hot topic on the news right now. We all know we should be wearing sunscreen to protect our skin from UVA and UVB rays. With the depletion of the ozone layer, our risk has increased as the sun rays have become stronger. Although some people are questioning the safety of sunscreen as its absorbed by your skin, it's highly recommended by dermatologists that you protect your skin with sunscreen daily. They also recommend wearing protective clothing and stay in the shade, especially during the hours of 10am to 2pm when the rays are the strongest.

Many scientific studies support wearing sunscreen on a daily basis to decrease the risk of skin cancer. Skin cancer is currently the most common cancer in the United States. Due to the increase in concern about the effects of sunscreen, the FDA is working on gathering data from manufacturers about the ingredients in their sunscreens. The FDA is using this data to evaluate how the ingredients are absorbed by the skin and if there are any long term effects on your skin or body. Although the FDA is asking for more information they have not stated that using sunscreen is unsafe, and at this time no data has concluded that there are any effects on a person's health. According to the FDA there are two specific ingredients in sunscreen that are recognized as “safe and effective”; Titanium dioxide and Zinc oxide.

There are two different types of Sunscreen; Chemical and Physical Sunscreen. Each of them protect you differently.

Chemical sunscreen works like a sponge and absorbs the sun rays. This type of sunscreen usually rubs in easily without leaving any white residue. This type of sunscreen usually contain one of the following ingredients; oxybenzone, avobenzone,octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate or octinoxate.

Physical sunscreen is a mineral based sunscreen. This sunscreen acts like a shield and sits on the surface of your skin rather than being absorbed, deflecting the suns rays rather than absorbing them. The main ingredients in this type of sunscreen are titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, or both.

When you buy sunscreen there are a few things you want to keep in mind. Sunscreen should be broad-spectrum (meaning it protects against both types of sun rays), SPF 30 or higher, and water resistance. For the best protection sunscreen should be applied to dry skin 15 minutes before going outside, and should be reapplied every 2 hours, or after swimming or sweating. When applying sunscreen it's important not to forget about your ears, neck, hands and tops of your feet. To properly cover all exposed skin you need about 1oz of sunscreen, and don’t forget to protect your lips with a lip balm that has SPF 30 or higher in it. Sunscreen is only good for three years. Some of the bottles are printed with an expiration date on it, if yours does not, its recommended that you write the date of purchase on the bottle when you buy it so you know when you need to throw it away.

The type of sunscreen you choose to use is your personal choice and maybe you have a variety for the family and different areas of the body. They say creams are best for the face, sticks are good around the eye, and sprays are easiest. Be aware with sprays that you can not always be sure if you have applied enough. If using a spray be sure not to inhale, or use these products near open flame, or while smoking. The FDA is still evaluating spray products to ensure their safety and effectiveness.

It's not recommended to use sunscreen on infants and toddlers younger than 6 months old. Its best to keep them out of the sun, keep their skin covered as well as wearing a hat. Children 6 months and older should be wearing a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen SPF 30 or higher. They should also be wearing protective clothing, hats and kept in shade when possible.

Sunscreen should be worn year round, even on cloudy days as 80% of the sun's rays can pass through the clouds. Snow and water can reflect the sun, increasing the risk of sun exposure and damage. If you are a skier like me, be sure to always bring sunscreen as the higher the altitude the greater the UV exposure. Sunscreen will not protect you from ever being diagnosed with skin cancer but it will help reduce your risk, as well as prevent sunburns and decrease signs of aging, and dark spots from sun damage. If you are unsure of which sunscreen to choose to speak with a dermatologist. I have also included a list of recommended sunscreens for babies & toddlers and a video on how to properly apply sunscreen.

Sunscreen List:

How to apply sunscreen video:

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