As we approach warm summer months we look forward to longer days, pool parties and barbecues. But along with lovely sunny days come some hidden dangers. UVB (burning) rays and UVA (aging) rays put us at risk for premature aging, pigmentation (aka: brown spots, liver spots), and skin cancer. In fact, according to skincancer.org, each year more new cases of skin cancer arise than breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers combined. Just one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of their lives. If that isn’t enough an estimated 90% of skin’s aging is caused by the sun! Skin cancer doesn’t discriminate as actor, Hough Jackman, recently had his 6th skin cancer removed. The scars from these procedures are often large and unsightly, not to mention the detriment to your health. These can be some scary statistics, but we can take action to protect ourselves!

Even though we no longer sit baking in the sun with baby oil and UV reflectors people love to be out enjoying activities in the sun, especially in New England, where we have such a short period of warm sunny days. Although it is said time and time again sunscreen is THE best way to protect ourselves against the sun’s damaging rays. What people don’t always know is that there are differences in how sunscreens work. First, there are two types of sunscreens: physical (mineral) and chemical. Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing the sun’s rays, while a physical block deflects the sun’s rays. There can be positives and negatives about each type. Chemical sunscreens are more cosmetically elegant by spreading evenly over the skin as it tends to be a thinner consistency. A common complaint with pure physical sunscreens is that they tend to be thicker, and leave the skin white or chalky looking. A couple benefits of physical sunscreens are that they work immediately and offer full protection against both UVA and UVB rays, while chemical sunscreens need to absorb for 20 minutes before going outside. Physical blocks can also be better for sensitive or acne prone skin, however they can sweat or rub off more easily than chemical sunscreens can.

To get the most adequate protection and great “blendability” into the skin it is great to find a sunscreen that provides a combination of physical and chemical sunscreens, however whichever sunscreen type you’ll be most compliant with is ultimately going to be the best. Physical sunscreen ingredients to look for are zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, and a few chemical sunscreen ingredients to look for are avobenzone, octisalate, and octinoxate.  Furthermore, it is ideal to use an antioxidant serum under your sunblock to offer more protection against free radical damage and help your sunblock perform its best.

But this still begs the question: how much sunscreen do I need? This is actually still a bit of a debate, but in order for the sun protection factor to achieve the protection listed on the bottle you would need to apply about 2 milligrams/square centimeter. For those of us who don’t carry measuring tools to the beach a general, good rule of thumb is to apply at minimum, a shot glass worth of product, to exposed areas of the face and body [according to Dr. Elizabeth Hale on “Ask the Expert” from skincancer.org]. For the face alone it is good practice to apply roughly  ½ teaspoon, which includes the neck and ears (this is equal to about a nickel sized dollop!). You should also be applying sunscreen about every two hours otherwise you’ll leave yourself vulnerable to burning and increased risk to skin cancers.

If you have any questions on what sunscreen might be best for you one of Elite’s skin care therapist can suggest one for you and answer any other summer skin care related questions you may have. At Elite Aesthetics in Needham, MA we always offer complimentary consultations to go over any skin care questions you may have. We can be reached at 781-559-3433 or email us at info@eliteaestheticsmd.com. Stay tuned for more summer skin care tips!