Which sunscreen should I be using?
We are now entering the higher UV rating seasons and sunblock is a must for all individuals. UVA and UVB are both carcinogenic. UVA penetrates to the mid-dermis layer and causes most of the photoaging issues such as wrinkles, lentigines, telangiectasis, and altered collagen and elastin. UVB penetrates to the base of the epidermis where cells DNA is damaged and potentially causes cancer. UVB is also responsible for those nasty sunburns.
Now how do we select the right sunscreen? I suggest any sunscreen is better than none, but if you have a choice then select wisely.
We have chemical and physical sunscreens:
- Chemical sunscreens protect the skin by creating a photochemical reaction, it absorbs the UV and transforms it into harmless wave radiation and re-emits it as heat. These have a less cloudy and better appearance on the skin. Roughly 2% of people will see skin irritation due to the chemicals. Also they degrade with sun exposure and need to be re-applied.
- Physical sunscreens protect the skin by scattering and reflecting the UV rays. The older versions are cloudy and hard to apply, but newer micronized versions apply almost as nicely as the chemical ones. The risk of irritation is much lower and they do not breakdown over time and therefore do not need reapplications as frequently.
Every year the EWG (Environmental Working Group) releases a guide that includes most sunscreens and provides the hazards and effectiveness of each. You can log on to their website and search each sunscreen. https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/ (2021 list comes out soon)
I check out the EWG list every year as some companies change their ingredients. I also like to minimize my chemical burden therefore I choose a physical sunscreen.
There are also other things you can do to protect against sun damage:
- wear UV absorbing clothes
- wear a hat
- avoid sun exposure ie bring an umbrella to the beach
- take supplements that are photoprotective (Vitamin C and E)
- make sure your current medications are not photosensitizing
What can I do if I do have sun damage?
- again there are supplements that can help repair skin damage (Vit A/C/E, zinc and selenium)
- topical creams including certain ingredients, timing of these creams matter as some of the creams should not be put on when you are outside (Vit A/B/C)
- laser treatment to remove sun spots and decrease wrinkles (IPL and Nanofractional radio frequency)
If you have any questions regarding prevention or treatment of sun-damaged skin please book an appointment with Matthew Pace, Naturopathic Doctor or Lada Milos Lee, Chiropodist.