The Lowdown on Sunscreen

Sunscreen can seem complicated and controversial, but it does not need to be. Given the fact that there are so many sunscreen products available in Florida and there is some misinformation regarding sunscreen safety, I want to break down your options, specifically discussing ingredients and addressing the bad press that sunscreen gets.

First, let us tackle the different kinds of sunscreen. There are two main types: chemical sunscreen and physical sunscreen.

Many chemical sunscreens are on the market, including (but not limited to) avobenzone, octinoxate, octisalate, and oxybenzone. These ingredients are absorbed into the skin and then absorb the UV rays and convert them to heat.

The only two options for physical sunscreens are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These ingredients sit on top of the skin and directly block the UV rays.

Some products contain both chemical and physical ingredients. So how do you know what your bottle contains? On the back of the bottle, you will find the type of sunscreen listed under “active ingredients.” The back of the Elta MD UV Pure, for example, shows that it only contains physical sunscreen.

Sunscreen has recently been in the news because the FDA has determined that it wants more information and research on certain chemical ingredients. Many news outlets have incorrectly interpreted this new FDA investigation as a definitive statement against sunscreen, however, the FDA ruling does not mean that these ingredients are not safe. The FDA still fully supports the use of sunscreen—but it should be noted that two sunscreen ingredients have already been deemed unsafe by the FDA (PABA and trolamine salicylate), and these are no longer available in the United States. The FDA has no concern with physical sunscreen (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) and considers them safe.

There is no sensible reason not to protect your skin. Scientific studies continually and unequivocally demonstrate that wearing sunscreen reduces the risk of skin cancer. It is important to be well informed on the products we use daily and important that the FDA continues to ensure product safety. I personally use both chemical and physical sunscreens, although I mostly rely on products with a combination or just physical block.

I highly recommend that you find a product that you like and feel comfortable using, whether it’s chemical sunscreen, physical sunscreen, sun protective clothing, or staying inside.

For more advice on sun protection or to schedule a consultation, contact Skin Wellness Physicians by calling (239) 732-0044 or sending a message online.

Dr. Anne Marie Tremaine

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