Summer is usually everyone’s favorite time of year… well, maybe everyone except for dermatologists! One of the main things you are asked when stepping into the treatment room is “How often are you wearing your sunscreen?”
You’ll also know that you’ll be fast friends if your answer is you wear it everyday!
Dermatologists, general practitioners, and even estheticians will tell you that sunscreen is your skin’s best ally throughout the whole year, but this is never more important than during the serious sunshine of the summer.
If you’re eager to know how best to protect your skin this summer, the team at Adult and Pediatric Dermatologists is always ready to answer your questions on sunscreen. What’s the best SPF to use? How often should it be reapplied? And a very common question recently: should you use physical or chemical sunscreen? To dig into this question a little deeper, it’s important to know the difference between the two.
Physical sunscreen is your typical over-the-counter sunblock that lines the aisles of your local grocery store or drugstore over the spring and summer. Think of your typical Blue Lizard or Neutrogena sunscreen – if you’ve ever smothered SPF 50 sunblock on your skin creating a thick physical layer that lasts a while (and almost paints your body white!) then you know the type. These sunblocks do exactly what they claim to deliver: they create a physical block to the sun that reflects UV rays. The active ingredients here are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide which work well in protecting your skin. It works well as long the sunscreen covers every area of skin and there is a high enough SPF. But we will explore this later.
You may or may not be familiar with using a chemical sunscreen. Unlike physical sunscreen, chemical sunscreen absorbs well into the skin and then actively absorbs UV rays of the sun. These rays are converted into heat and then released from the body before ever being absorbed into the skin. The active ingredients here are oxybenzone, octinoxate and avobenzone.
Chemical vs. Physical sunscreen – A Dermatologist’s Verdict
Both chemical and physical sunscreen have their important value in terms of optimal skin protection.
Physical sunscreen is far more widespread and tends to be cheaper. A long-term audience staple, current sunscreens also come in various shapes and forms, with functions that suit every need. Some user-friendly functions such as a spray caps, can be a literal lifesaver due to easy full-body application or reapplication – if you’ve ever tried to sunscreen your own back, or made sure every inch of skin is sunscreened on your active child, ready to run off into the sunshine, then you’ll know just how valuable that can be!
Speaking of children, physical sunblock also tends to be less irritating and therefore a better fit for sensitive skin, including young skin. This is also the case if you suffer from rosacea, melasma or other irritation-prone skin conditions; similarly a physical sunscreen is your safest bet. As physical sunscreen only sits on the top of the skin, it’s important to know that it is vulnerable to anything that can rub or wash it off the skin such as clothes, sweat, and water activities, so the key is using a high SPF (at least 50) and regularly timed re-application.
Chemical sunscreens are unique in actively absorbing UV rays rather than just blocking them. While physical sunscreen provides a barrier/film on the skin that some individuals might find heavy, sticky, or greasy, chemical sunscreen absorbs quickly into the skin and allows a smooth, invisible feel that many find easier to wear. In addition to being a preferred choice for the sensory sunscreen wearer, the absorbent nature of chemical sunscreen means that it’s not as easily rubbed or washed off. This means that chemical sunscreen might be a better option for you to buy if you find that you or your family is often sunburnt while swimming, very active, or if they sweat a lot.
You might be thinking, is chemical sunscreen safe? Well if you want answers you’ve come to the right place. In 2019 the FDA proposed rules banning two single ingredients (aminobenzoic acid and trolamine salicylate) but found no other evidence that chemical sunscreens posed any health concerns or had any negative side effects. As ongoing research continues into sunscreen and many other daily skin products, just make sure you stay tuned to news from your local dermatologist for all the dermatological news and updates.
So that’s everything you need to know on the differences between the two main types of sunscreen. While there are differences between the two, it’s important to know that both work. The team at APDKC suggests to follow these four simple tips for sunscreen safety:
- Don’t skip out – Use sunscreen every time you are outside.
- Sunscreen is not just an inconvenient body lotion – Buy broad spectrum sunscreens that protect from both UVA and UVB rays. Always use a high enough SPF that your skin is protected; SPF 50 is highly recommended to ensure optimal skin protection.
- Use a sunscreen that is most appropriate for your activity. For lots of swimming/activity – try a Chemical sunscreen. If you’re applying sunscreen to a child, have sensitive skin and/or need a trusty budget-friendly sunscreen for a warm day – physical sunscreen is great.
- Does it work? Make sure your sunscreen is within its use-by date and that you are reapplying every two hours (or sooner, if you’re wearing a physical sunscreen that’s easily washed off.) Avoid oil-based sunscreens – these clog the skin and wipe off easily.
After that, you’re good to go, and ready for your well-deserved fun in the sun!
The team at APDKC is always happy to answer your sunscreen and skin protection questions. Call us today, at (913) 469-1115 to make an appointment or chat about individualized skincare advice.