While Daylight Saving Time was originally established to save energy and make better use of daylight, it also means we’re spending more time outdoors, potentially exposing our skin to harmful ultraviolet light.
When it comes to choosing a sunscreen, three key features to look for are 1) “broad spectrum,” which means it covers both UVA (which is involved in skin aging and increased risk of melanoma) and UVB (which is more involved with burning and other non-melanoma skin cancers), 2) SPF of 30 or more, and 3) water resistant for 40–80 minutes.
UVA filters are generally not very stable in sunlight, so Neutrogena is a good brand since it has Helioplex, which combines ingredients to better stabilize the UVA filters.
La-Roche Posay (Anthelios SX) has a newer UVA filter (mexoryl), which recently got approval in the U.S. It is very light, not irritating and offers great broad-spectrum coverage.
Higher-end sunscreens such as SkinCeuticals may be more cosmetically elegant and have antioxidants to improve signs of aging.
Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are physical blockers—they reflect the sun’s light and are not absorbed into the skin. These are good for those with sensitive skin since they don’t cause allergic reactions. However, these can leave a whitish residue. For darker-skinned people, inorganic filters such as avobenzone, octocrylene, octinoxate and oxybenzone are most effective and won’t leave a residue.
For those with sunscreen allergies, avoid oxybenzone. Vanicream is a good brand for those with sensitive skin or allergies.
When planning to be outside, apply a generous amount of sunscreen to sun-exposed areas (don’t forget the scalp and ears) 30 minutes prior to sun exposure. Reapply every two hours and/or after swimming.
Sunscreen expiration dates do matter. Sunscreen will last about three years and will not work as effectively after the expiration date listed. Also, discard sunscreens if they change color or consistency, even if still within the expiration date.
Don’t forget sun-protective clothing, including wide-brimmed hats and sun shirts.
Avoid midday sun, especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Seek shade instead.
Don’t use Vitamin D as an excuse to stay exposed longer. The amount of Vitamin D your skin produces with sunlight maxes out after about 10 minutes.
Daily SPF 30 use (such as in face creams and makeup) has been shown to prevent skin aging as well as decrease the risk of skin cancer, compared with just using it “when needed.” Remember that UV light does come through windows, too.
The article was first published in the Coastal Virginia Magazine Health in the Beauty Section in the May – June 2017 edition.