As a dermatologist, I see first hand the damage to our skin from sun exposure. It varies from mild consequences like wrinkles and age spots to life-threatening melanoma. Sunscreens can effectively block sun rays that cause this damage if used properly. Below is a guide to making the best sunscreen choice for you, your skin and your activities.
How long will you be in the sun?
Making the best sunscreen choice can depend on how long you plan to be in the sun. I love to play tennis, but sometimes that means I am in the sun during the worst times of the day, when the sun is most intense between 10 am and 2 pm. Under these conditions I select a sunscreen containing Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of 30 or above. The label must also say it is Broad Spectrum and Water Resistant (80 minutes). I like Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide because I have found that these ingredients work best at preventing me from getting a sun burn. On a recent trip to a local store the following brands fit my requirements, all have an SPF 50 ,prices will vary depending on store and location: Vanicream (had the highest concentration of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide) 4 oz $18.49, CeraVe 3 oz 14.99, Banana Boat Kids 8oz 6.99, Ology 8oz $10.00.
What, When and How Much Sunscreen should I apply?
Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide when applied can leave your skin looking a little chalky white, but they provide excellent protection and I have never seen an allergic reaction. Hence, I recommend titanium dioxide and zinc oxide for patients who have sensitive skin and get rashes from sunscreens. Water Resistant (80 minutes) means you will get protection even if you sweat or go swimming but after 2 hours you need to reapply to get the same amount of protection. I also try to apply sunscreen 30 minutes before my outdoor activity to allow it to penetrate my skin, that way if I sweat or swim it does not immediately wash off. In general, apply a teaspoonful to face and neck, one teaspoon for each arm, two teaspoons for each leg and a teaspoon each to chest and back.
Which sunscreen is best for my face and daily use?
The best anti aging cream to reduce wrinkles and age spots is a moisturizer with an SPF of 15 or higher applied every morning. If you are using other products on your face in the morning, apply those first and your moisturizer with sunscreen should go on last and then apply your foundation or powder. I even recommend that you purchase makeup (foundation and face powder) with an SPF 15 or greater. This is because the sun rays that cause wrinkles and age spots comes through your window at work or as you are driving to work. While you may not be outside on days when you are working, just going from your car to work or the store while running errands gives enough exposure to sun that the cumulative effect over time causes wrinkles. S
tudies have been done to prove that patients who where sunscreen on a daily basis maintain younger looking skin. Apply year round, even on a cloudy day since 80% of sun rays will still come through the clouds. Currently, I am using EltaMD UV Clear SPF 46, designed for acne or rosacae prone skin. Other products I have used with good results over the years are: Purpose Dual Moisturizer SPF 15, Aveeno Positively Radiant SPF 30, Olay Complete All Day SPF 30, and Neutrogena Clear Face SPF 55. The best sunscreen choice for you may depend on whether you have dry skin, acne prone skin, oily skin etc. You may have to experiment with different brands and select the one that you like and will use every day.
What about daily use on the hands?
I will admit, I am not as religious about using daily sunscreen on my hands as I am on my face. As a result, I have “liver spots” on my hands. The facial moisturizers come in smaller volumes and are a little more expensive. What works best for hands and is more cost effective would be to have a larger bottle of moisturizer that comes with pump, placed by sink and apply a pump every morning. I find my male patients like this for their faces too. Brands that fit this bill are : Eucerin Daily Protection 16.9 oz SPF 15 $11.00; Lubriderm SPF 15 13.5 oz $7.50; Aveeno Daily Moisturizing SPF 15 12 oz $11.00.
Multi Purpose Sunscreens
While on my search for the best sunscreen choice, I also found two that are multi purpose. Jergens Natural Glow SPF 20 6oz $11.00, protects, moisturizes and tans the skin. Most self tanners do not have a sunscreen. And finally, Bull Frog Mosquito Coast SPF 30 6 oz continuous spray $9.00, a sunscreen that also protects from mosquito bites. Be sure when using spray sunscreens that you do not inhale it, apply to hands and then rub on or apply closely to legs and rub so you are not wasting it into the atmosphere.
More Sun Protection Recommendations
Finally, the American Academy of Dermatology (aad.org) recommends you wear sun protective clothing, hats, long sleeved shirts, pants and sun glasses; seek shade, especially between 10 am and 2 pm when the sun rays are most intense; eat foods rich in vitamin D or take a D supplement and avoid indoor tanning beds.
Now, make the best sunscreen choice for your needs and play smart in the sun!