Get Expert Answers to Your Skin Protection Questions
Remember when all you had to think about before heading outdoors was to apply sunscreen?
Protecting your skin from sun damage has become more complicated, said Tabatha Pratt, LA, who provides aesthetic services at Samaritan Plastic, Reconstructive & Hand Surgery in Corvallis.
Like is my sunscreen eco-friendly? Is chemical sunscreen safe? And do I still need to put on sunscreen if I wear sun-protective clothing?
Adding to the confusion are recent changes proposed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to more tightly regulate the sunscreen market.
Physical Vs. Chemical Sunscreens
There are two types of sunscreen that can be applied to the skin.
Physical sunscreens, also called mineral sunscreens, act like a shield, deflecting the sun’s rays, but can feel sticky going on and leave a white residue.
Chemical sunscreens acts like a sponge, absorbing UV light, and goes on easier.
In 2019, the FDA proposed labeling just two of the 16 active ingredients in sunscreen, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide found in physical sunscreen, as safe and effective. It listed chemical sunscreen as needing more safety information, leaving the public to wonder if the ingredients found in chemical sunscreens are harmful.
“I respect people’s concerns,” said Pratt. “We don’t want people to stop using sunscreen out of fear of the unknown or because physical sunscreen isn’t attractive or easy to apply.”
The FDA has asked the makers of sunscreen to assure the safety of the chemicals used, which are more easily absorbed into the body than previously thought. Currently, there is no research that chemical sunscreen is harmful. The American Academy of Dermatology and the American Academy of Pediatrics state that using chemical sunscreen remains safe.
Samaritan Plastic, Reconstructive & Hand Surgery continues to offer an array of both physical and chemical sunscreens to accommodate all skin types and skin care concerns. Plus, all of the products sold at the clinic meet the highest standards for ingredients and have clinical data backing their effectiveness.
“Many also have additional anti-aging benefits or are more beneficial for various skin types,” Pratt said.
Some people are interested in sunscreen formulated without chemicals linked to pollution that can damage coral reefs. Whether you want to protect yourself and the ocean, or you’re looking for a daily sunblock, consumers should be savvy about reading product labels and choose broad-spectrum protection against both UVA (deep penetrating) and UVB (upper layer sunburn) rays.
Pratt acknowledges the worries about chemical sunscreen and also that for some people, environmental protection is a greater concern. If a person wears a broad-spectrum sunscreen – chemical, mineral or eco-friendly – it’s better than no protection.
“When you find a sunscreen you like, you’re more apt to wear it,” said Pratt. “And that’s our goal.”
For people who love to be outdoors, sun-protective clothing provides additional armor against damage that can lead to skin cancer or premature aging. “I am happy to see that UV-blocking clothing is becoming more available and popular,” said Pratt.
But it’s still important to wear sunscreen, because you might not be as protected as you think.
“Clothing can’t cover everything and can shift around,” said Pratt.
With or without protective clothing, if you’re exposed to sunlight, remember to reapply sunscreen every two hours.
“Most people are really good about applying it first thing as part of their routine, but forget to re-apply,” Pratt said. “It’s also important to use an adequate amount of sunscreen to be fully protected.”
Samaritan Plastic, Reconstructive & Hand Surgery carries medical-grade sunscreen products. To find the right sunscreen for your skin type, request a complimentary skin consultation