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We have heard it time and time again…you should wear sunscreen. You may have also heard that you need to reapply your sunscreen every 90 minutes- two hours. Both statements are true. However, I have come to find that many individuals are under the impression that all sunscreens are created equal. And many have A LOT of questions regarding the use of sunscreen such as: Are they healthy? Do they prevent tanning? Do they prevent receiving Vitamin D? So, this article is to break it ALL down for you.
Let’s start with learning a little about UV Rays. There are three different types: UVA, UVB, and UVC. All types of UV radiation have the potential to damage your skin- but each type affects your skin differently. UVA rays account for roughly 95 percent of radiation that reaches the earth’s surface. UVA rays can also penetrate clouds and glass. These cause wrinkles, sun spots, and other types of premature aging. UVB rays, affect the skin’s top layer. They cause skin cancer and most sunburns. UVC is the shortest of all wavelengths and never reaches the earth and is absorbed into ozone. Although there are man-made sources for these such as welding torches and old-school tanning beds.
Are UV rays the only thing we need to be concerned about? Sadly, no. Other things we need to consider Blue light and infrared. Long term exposure to blue light (especially in the 380-400nm range) is problematic. Interestingly enough, the risk of blue light lessens when it is toward the top end at 500nm. Things that emit blue light are the sun, cell phones, and computers. Blue light energy can cause skin damage including color changes, inflammation, and weakening of the skin’s surface. In other words, it promotes stressor that causes photo-aging. When it comes to infrared- in proper doses and at the right intensity, it can have some benefits. But prolonged exposure and in a broad spectrum it can cause damage to the skin. It causes inflammation, hydration loss, and degradation of collagen and elastin. It can be found from the sun as well as various electronic devices and even your hair dryer.
Now that we have discussed UV rays, blue light, and infrared- let us dive into types of sunscreen. There are two types of sunscreen: Physical and Chemical. Physical sunscreens create a physical barrier and work by reflecting the UV rays by means of zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.
Chemical sunscreens are more commonly found- look for the “benzones” in the ingredient list (common examples are Avobenzone, oxybenzone). Chemical sunscreen can be seen as unhealthy for skin. They work by penetrating the skin and absorbing UV radiation through their chemical bonds. They slowly break down and release heat as a by-product of their chemical interaction with ultraviolet light. Additionally, they have been implicated in possible endocrine disruption meaning they may have a hormonal impact. They can also cause skin irritation and in some cases damage to the skin. This sunscreen is not recommended for those with acne, sensitive skin, or individuals with melasma.
So, what are some common barriers to wearing sunscreen? Many do not like the feel, some do not like the white residue it can leave (more common with certain physical sunscreens), many want to tan or get Vitamin D. Let us address some of these things. First and foremost, when most people think about physical sunscreen, often times they think of a lifeguard with the white nose. But long gone are the days of Baywatch with David Hasselhoff and his white nose. Physical sunscreen has come a long way and there are some such as our Clear Perfection sunscreen that does not leave any white residue. And it also feels light weight and celebrity make up artists love it under makeup! As far as a tan- sunscreen does not prevent tanning. It only protects against UV rays, blue light, and infrared. If your goal is not to tan, my suggestion would be to cover up and stay out of the sun especially when it is at its strongest (typically between 10am and 4pm). What about Vitamin D. Well, unfortunately, UVB does trigger the production of Vitamin D. As a result, sunscreen does prevent that. However, this is not an excuse to not use sunscreen because sunscreen would not lead to Vitamin D deficiency. The body requires small amounts to produce Vitamin D. And furthermore, many things are fortified with it such as milk and other foods. And if need be, one can always take a Vitamin D supplement.
If you have been in my office or heard my lecture “Making Pigmentation a Figment of the Imagination” at a conference, you know I relentlessly preach wearing sunscreen and reapplying it. I personally prefer physical sunscreen to chemical sunscreen. And as a result, carry 4 types of physical sunscreens in my office and online store to address any hesitation not to wear it. I have a clear sunscreen (Clear Perfection), and yes it really goes on clear no matter the skin type. I have a tinted sunscreen (Tinted Perfection), a powder sunscreen (Powder Me Protected), and a stick sunscreen (Glide on Perfection). The Tinted Perfection is great for those who may not want to wear makeup but would like a little light coverage to help even out their skin tone. The Powder Me Protected makes reapplication so easy-even when wearing makeup. And fun fact about Glide on Perfection- it was originally created with my nephews in mind. They told me they only like to use stick sunscreens. And I recalled as a child, I did not like the smell of sunscreen (that was my excuse when I was young) so it smells like vanilla. Though my nephews were my inspiration, it turns out my adult clients love it as well! Glide on Perfection fits in your pocket and is a quick and easy way to apply (and reapply) physical sunscreen.
One other thing notable about physical sunscreen. Anyone can use it (and should). It may be one of the best anti-aging products that can be used. And for some individuals, such as women who are pregnant, it may be the only therapeutic product they can use. So, the next time you reach for that physical sunscreen, know that putting it on is a great way to show yourself some selfcare by not only protecting your skin but also enhancing your natural beauty without compromising your health.