Nine Tips For Sunscreen Safety

We are well into summer now, and in the spirit of enjoying all the joys summer has to offer without the downside, I would like to offer:

                       9 tips for Sunscreen Safety

Throw out your sunscreen with oxybenzone. Research indicates that this common sunscreen ingredient has hormone-disrupting effects.

Replace chemical based sunscreens with zinc oxide-based sunblocks. These can have longer-lasting protection without the harmful ingredients. Zinc oxide protects across the entire UVB and UVA spectrum, to an extent unique to all the sunscreen agents. As a physical blocker, rather than a chemical, it is not depleted as the sun's rays penetrate the skin, and may be safer for us and the environment.

Steer clear of super high SPFs. SPFs over 50 do not actually protect any better than a properly-applied sunscreen of SPF 15 or 30, and one might ask, does putting more chemicals on our skin and in the environment really make sense? If a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 is properly applied to the skin of a person who normally would burn in a hour with no sunscreen, that person would not burn until 15 hours of sun exposure (this assumes no sweating or activities that rub the sunscreen off).  There is evidence that super high SPF sunscreens may give you a false sense of security, parodoxically resulting in more burning. Sunscreen should be reapplied every hour to hour and a half, especially if one is sweating, in the water, or rubbing the skin with clothing or towels, and each application to a body with just a bathing suit on requires a full ounce (what would fit in a shot glass).

Avoid makeup in loose powder form claiming SPF protection (containing zinc or titanium nanoparticles). These could create damage because they’re often inhaled during use and the small particles can get lodged in your lungs.

Avoid indoor tanning. People who regularly get indoor ultraviolet (UV) tanning are 74% more likely to develop melanoma (the most dangerous of skin cancers) than people who have never tanned indoors. According to a JAMA Dermatology study, there are more cases of skin cancer due to tanning than the number of lung cancer cases due to smoking.

Dress to protect. Shield your skin’s elastin and collagen from potentially harmful UV light by wearing a hat and sunglasses when outdoors (and other cover-ups when possible). For water sports, I love the rash guards surfers wear.

Get some Vitamin D. Expose your arms and legs to the sun 5 to 30 minutes twice per week without sunblock but only in the morning and late afternoon hours (to avoid the most damaging rays). If you’re fair-skinned, 5 minutes twice per week is all you need. You can also get vitamin D by eating the following foods: Salmon Wild, Fresh – (3.5 oz = 600–1000 IU of vitamin D3), Cod liver oil (1 tsp = 400–1000 IU of vitamin D3) and Shiitake mushrooms, Sun-dried (3.5 oz = 1600 IU of vitamin D2). Almost everyone should get a 25-OH vitamin D level, and start supplementation with the aim of achieving a level of 50 to 75.  For more on Vitamin D, see my Facebook page, Sheryl Clark MD.

Eat antioxidant rich foods. Studies have shown that a Mediterranean diet, one rich in vegetables, fruit and olive oil, as well as certain dietary supplements incuding niacinamide, and carotenoids, can have sun-protective effects and can combat oxidative damage and prevent skin cancer. Helioplex is an OTC supplement that helps prevent sunburn. Talk to your functional dermatologist about your diet and what supplements you might consider.

Apply a properly-formulated, potent topical antioxidant.  There is considerable scientific evidence that a carefully-manufactured topical antioxidant can, much more effectively that oral antioxidants, protect you from the harmful effects of the sun, while still allowing Vitamin D to be produced from the sun's rays, even when only applied every  few days. Talk to your dermatologist about green tea and vitamin C formulations, such as Citrex and Replenix.

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