First, Happy First Day of Summer! What better way to kick off the summer season than with a brief discussion on sunscreen. I was born with eczema and have the most sensitive skin. My mother used cloth diapers with me, because everything seemed to irritate my skin as a child, including diapers. Many a dermatologist has said that I may outgrow my eczema, but 2-kids later, my eczema is still going strong. My older daughter now has it, so it is plaguing our household even more these days. Although the itchy skin and rashes are very frustrating, I am grateful for good health, otherwise.
I was perusing the internet last night, and found that the FDA had put out a press release last week regarding sunscreens. When it comes to sunscreens, as with most products, there are far too many choices. I am, by no means, a dermatologist or expert on the matter, BUT I have frequented many a dermatologist’s office, and here’s what I’ve learned over the years (as someone who’s battled sensitive skin all her life).
If you look at the active ingredients in any sunscreen you are really looking to see if it contains a chemical or physical sunblock. Chemical sunblocks absorb the energy of UV radiation before it affects your skin, and physical sunblocks reflect or scatter UV radiation before it reaches your skin. Some sunblocks combine both chemical and physical sunblocks. Whether you opt for a chemical or physical sunblock, just make sure you look for a sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. These should be labeled as, “Broad Spectrum.”
From a more practical perspective, I’ve found that chemical sunblocks are easily “absorbed” into the skin and seem to “disappear” upon application. Physical sunblocks, on the other hand, appear chalky white on the skin and are difficult to apply without looking like a ghost. Why would anyone choose to use a physical sunblock then? Well, I only use physical sunblocks, because they are great for people with sensitive skin and provide protection against both UVA and UVB rays.
If you’re shopping for a physical sunblock, look for zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as an active ingredient. If you opt for chemical sunblocks, avobenzone, mexoryl sx, octinoxate were recommended by my dermatologists. Because my children and I have very sensitive skin, we use physical sunscreens, because they rarely cause irritation. However, they do not look great on the skin and are rather difficult to wash off.
As for all the different formulations: oils, creams, sprays, etc., I always opt for the good, old-fashioned, sunscreen creams. I’ve been reading some mixed messages about the safety of sunscreen sprays. The FDA says, “The ANPR will allow the public a period of time to submit requested data addressing the effectiveness and the safety of sunscreen sprays and to comment on possible directions and warnings for sprays that the FDA may pursue in the future, among other issues regarding dosage forms for sunscreens.” Sprays are really convenient, but apparently they may not provide adequate coverage, may wash off more easily, and there have been questions about the safety of inhaling the fumes released from the sprays. I guess we’ll have to wait and see what comes of the research.
I hope this helps. Have fun in the sun this summer, but stay safe and apply and re-apply your sunscreen!