Memorial Day has come and gone, which means two things: white pants are back in season, and the swimming pools are open for business.

Summertime in the Triad usually brings more hours in the sun, whether it’s by the pool, on the beach, or while exercising. Of course, with the sun comes the danger of skin damage and even skin cancer. However, the right sunscreen can help you enjoy the benefits of the sun while reducing the harm to your skin.

The Rays of the Day

Two kinds of ultraviolet radiation from the sun—UVA rays and UVB rays—can cause skin cancer and skin damage. UVA rays penetrate deeper and cause premature aging, as well as contributing to the development of skin cancer. UVB rays cause immediate effects like sunburn and are more instrumental in creating the melanomas of skin cancer. In order for a sunscreen to have the label “Broad Spectrum,” it must block both UVA and UVB rays.

Chemical vs. Physical Sunscreens

There are two types of sunscreen: chemical and physical. Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing UVA light and transforming it so that it does not harm the skin. Chemical sunscreens have ingredients like oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate, homosalate, avobenzone, and octocrylene. Chemical sunscreens can be very lightweight, non-greasy, non-comedogenic, and quick-drying. Once rubbed in, they don’t show up on the skin. However, the chemicals can be irritating to sensitive skin, and Hawaii has recently banned sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate because of the damage these chemicals cause to coral reefs. If Hawaii’s ban improves its coral reefs, other areas might follow suit.

Physical sunscreens have mineral ingredients like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, which work as physical blocks to the sun’s rays, both UVA and UVB. Picture the lifeguards at your pool when you were growing up; they probably covered their noses with bright white zinc oxide to prevent sunburn. Mineral sunscreens have come a long way, as the zinc and titanium are now micronized to tiny particles, making them much lighter-weight than they used to be, and more cosmetically elegant. Mineral sunscreens work as soon as they are applied, unlike chemical sunscreens, which work best when they can soak into the skin for 20 minutes. Physical sunscreen provides the most effective coverage for sun protection.

“Sunscreen” vs. “Sunblock” and “Waterproof” vs. “Water Resistant”

In 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates sunscreens, passed new requirements for packaging, marketing, and selling sunscreens. Part of the new law banned sunscreen manufacturers from labeling their products as “sunblocks” because no product can truly block the sun’s rays. The law also required manufacturers to replace the words “waterproof” and “sweatproof” with the terms “water-resistant” and “sweat-resistant.” These terms are more in line with what sunscreens can actually accomplish: resist water and sweat for a certain period of time (usually no more than 80 minutes).

Sunscreens for Different Skin Types

At Davie Dermatology and The Med Spa, we have a full range of sunscreens to fit every skin type. If you have sensitive skin or acne prone skin, try EltaMD UV Clear SPF 46. Dry skin benefits from EltaMD UV Facial SPF 30+. Visit our Sunscreen Bar today, and let our experts help you choose the sunscreen that’s right for you this summer.


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