Dermatologists everywhere can agree that using sunscreen is a must. However, recently there has been some misguided information that can be downright confusing to the rest of us.
Here to answer some must-know questions about sunscreen is Dr. Alexa Stecker.
There has been a lot of controversy around sunscreen lately. Can you explain what the new research is saying and what it means?
Recently there have been new concerns raised around toxic chemicals in sunscreens causing cancer.
The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published a study showing 6 of the active ingredients in sunscreen were absorbed and found in the blood.
This study was conducted using a high frequency of application and high volume of sunscreen per application. This means it was not real-life application amount or frequency, which makes it much harder to determine the actual impact this may have on humans.
In this study, oxybenzone was found to be absorbed the most. In another study, oxybenzone when ingested in high concentrations by rats was shown to cause uterine enlargement.
Keep in mind, however, that the oxybenzone ingested by rats in the study was much higher than the amount absorbed in the blood.
Dr. Stecker says, “We cannot conclude causality based on a rat study. Ultimately, we’re unsure of the link between chemicals and cancer, so further studies are needed to fully understand the risks. The AAD (American academy of dermatology) states that the benefits of sunscreen outweigh any associated risks.”
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, 1/5 American will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.
Another option for sunscreen would be any that contain Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, as they are not chemicals (physical blockers) and are both safe and effective.
Are there any other concerns out there about the use of sunscreen?
Some people have shouted concerns about Vitamin D levels being too low when using sunscreen, especially in places like Ohio where we can be sun-deprived in winter months.
Dr. Stecker’s take is, “Regular use of sunscreen will not decrease vitamin D production from the skin. In fact, most of vit D comes from diet and not physical sun exposure.”
Another concern many have had when it comes to sunscreen is its impact on ocean reefs.
Further studies are needed, but there is some evidence of oxybenzone and avobenzone causing coral reef damage in the oceans. Again, this concern can be handled by switching to physical instead of chemical sunscreens, and therefore does not need to be a reason to stop wearing sunscreen.
Which ingredients should we choose, and which should we avoid?
If any of these concerns, though they need more studies, steer you away from wearing sunscreen, don’t let them! Here are some options for sunscreens without chemicals and instead have physical sun blockers:
- Sunscreens containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are physical blockers
- Apex sunscreen products contain only physical blockers (no chemicals)
Apex tinted sunshield, and Apex sheer sunshield contain physical sunblock (non-chemical) combined with ceramides and phospholipids as well as antioxidants that serve as both a moisturizer and prevent harmful rays from reaching the skin
Do people with all skin types need sunscreen?
Yes. While some may believe they don’t need sunscreen due to a darker complexion, this is a myth that can lead to skin damage and even skin cancers.
All skin types can be damaged by the sun, and therefore people of all skin types should use sunscreen.
How much sunscreen should we use?
“The SPF number tells you how long the sun’s UV radiation would take to redden your skin when using the product exactly as directed versus the amount of time without any sunscreen.”
Here are the rules to help you use the right amount of sunscreen for you:
- An SPF 30 allows about 3 percent of UVB rays to hit your skin.
- An SPF of 50 allows about 2 percent of those rays through.
- SPF of 30 is allowing 50% more rays to hit skin than SPF of 50
- 1 shot glass (8oz) should be used under ideal circumstances to cover skin
How often should we re-apply sunscreen?
Sunscreen should be applied every 2 hours to maintain its effectiveness.
Does sunscreen expire?
Yes, it is best to check the expiration date and make sure that you are applying non-expired sunscreen in order to better protect your skin from the sun.
Ultimately, sunscreen does more good than not. One in five Americans will suffer from skin cancer in their lifetime. Protect your skin to remain a part of the 4 in 5 who don’t, and always seek answers from an experienced dermatologist if you ever have concerns about skincare products for you.
Dr. Stecker is originally from Cleveland, Ohio. She completed her undergraduate training at the University of Miami where she majored in biology and English and received a presidential scholarship. She then attended Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine and graduated with honors.
She completed her dermatology-focused traditional internship at University Hospitals Regional Hospitals and served as internship chief resident. She then completed her dermatology residency at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, where she was appointed academic chief resident. During her residency, Dr. Stecker was elected to the American Council for Graduate Medical Education dermatology review committee board, where she reviewed residency applications at a national level. Her research focused on patient education through enhancement of the electronic medical record. Upon graduation, she received the department of dermatology Quality Improvement award for her research.