Sunscreen 101 and Summer Skin Health

For many, summer means more time outdoors, frequent trips to the beach, and more travels, but this also calls for more attention to how we are treating and caring for our skin. 
Increased sun exposure is a common thing to experience in the summer, and while there’s nothing wrong with soaking up the sun for extra Vitamin D, sun exposure can pose great risks to your skin health if you’re not keeping your skin protected. Today, we’re discussing optimal summer skin health, how to choose the right sunscreen for you, and sharing Dr. Elsa’s top sunscreen recommendations. 
Sun damage and Skin Cancer 

Most skin cancers are caused by the sun’s UVA and UVB rays, both which can cause DNA damage greatly increasing this risk. Other effects of heavy sun exposure can include the development of dark patches, wrinkles, loose skin, premature aging, sun burns, and eye problems. 

There are three main types of skin cancer including: basal cell carcinoma (most common form), squamous cell carcinoma (second most common), and melanoma (most fatal form). While basal and squamous forms of cancer can be curable especially when treated early, melanoma can spread to other areas of the body making it difficult to control if untreated. 

Skin cancer is something that can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender or race, therefore it is best to take the proper precautions to keep yourself protected. 

Prevention: Choosing the Right Sunscreen

When it comes to protecting your skin from sun damage, early aging caused by the sun, and to lower your risk of skin cancer, sunscreen is an incredibly important tool. 1 in 5 adults will experience skin cancer in their lifetime, but proper prevention like choosing the right sunscreen can help. 

There are two types of sunscreen that you’re likely to come across—physical and chemical sunscreen. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, a physical sunscreen works more as a shield to protect your skin from harmful sun rays, whereas a chemical sunscreen works as a sponge to absorb those sun rays. If you have sensitive skin, a physical sunscreen is a solid option. You should opt for physical sunscreens that contain zinc oxide or titanium oxide for maximum protection. 

If you’re looking for a formula that is easier to rub in, a chemical sunscreen can do the trick. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends looking for one or more of the following ingredients in a chemical sunscreen including: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, and octinoxate. 

Choosing the Right Sunscreen: Factors to Look For 

Amongst the various sunscreens to choose from, there are some important factors to look out for. It is recommended that you choose a sunscreen that states on the bottle that it is:

Broad Spectrum

This indicates that the sunscreen protects the skin from the two main causes of skin cancer—ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. 

SPF of 30 of Higher

This shows how well the sunscreen can protect you from sunburn. 

Water Resistant

Sunscreens may be water resistant for a certain period of time, however, sunscreens are not water or sweat proof and must be reapplied.

Sunscreen Application

One thing that many may be unclear about when it comes to sunscreen is how much to apply. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends at least one ounce (enough sunscreen to fill a shot glass) for adults to fully cover their body. 

Another important aspect of sunscreen is reapplication. Various factors like sweating, toweling off, or being in the water make it important to reapply sunscreen throughout the day. Every 2 hours is a good timeframe to keep in mind for reapplying both to your face and body.

Dr. Elsa’s Recommendations

With all the information above, and the amount of sunscreens that are on the market, you may be at a loss for where to begin. Dr. Elsa recommends using a mineral and broad spectrum sunscreen meaning that it is not a chemical that absorbs the UV’s. 

Dr. Elsa’s favorite sunscreens include:

1. Elemental Sun Balm SPF 30

For a minimal composition, this makes a solid choice. While the product may be on the lower end for SPF coverage, it offers a lovely glow and has zinc oxide as its main active ingredient, one of the main factors to look out for in a physical sunscreen.


2. Cotz Skincare Sensitive SPF 40 Non-Tinted 

One of Elsa’s favorites for beach and outdoors, this sunscreen has no preservatives or fragrances. It doesn’t leave a white cast and is incredibly easy to apply. Most importantly, it offers broad spectrum protection and is water resistant (40 minutes).


3. pipette™ Mineral Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50

This final sunscreen is on Dr. Elsa’s wishlist as it is a baby-friendly, reef-friendly sunscreen with incredible SPF coverage. It includes zinc oxide and broad spectrum protection to protect against UVA/UVB rays, and has plant extracts to moisturize and calm the skin. 

Given that the summer is an ideal time of the year for extended time outdoors, it’s important to remember that sunscreen alone is not enough. Making sure you are prioritizing and practicing safety in the sun is essential in protecting your skin from further sun damage. Things like seeking shaded areas, wearing a cap/hat and protective clothing, and trying to avoid harsh sun exposure as best as you can will keep your skin in tip top shape, especially in the long-term. How do you practice safe sun?

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