Enjoy the Sun Without Harming Your Skin

Monday, July 25, 2016

Roya Mansouri, MD, MPH

Although many people make efforts to protect their skin from the sun, they may still experience sun burn and wonder what they did wrong. Understanding how the sun and sunscreen work can help you more effectively protect your skin from the sun.
The sun has two types of damaging radiation: UVA and UVB. UVA is responsible for tanning, wrinkling and photoaging, and also increases your risk of skin cancer and melanoma. UVB is a key player for development of sunburns, skin cancer, and to a lesser degree, wrinkling. Sunscreens work to chemically absorb or physically reflect the sun’s harmful rays.
SPF, or Sun Protection Factor, is a number that can be used to roughly calculate how long you can stay in the sun and not sunburn. So if after 10 minutes your skin turns red, SPF 15 would let you stay out about 150 minutes before turning red.
But it is not that simple. SPF only refers to UVB rays and there is no clear rating for UVA. So you have to look carefully at the ingredients listed. In addition, a more expensive sunscreen is not necessarily better.
What sunscreen should I buy?
Consumer Reports came out with their top picks, all of which are relatively affordable and work well even after water immersion.
Spray Options
Trader Joe’s Spray SPF 50
Banana Boat SunComfort Continuous Spray SPF 50
Neutrogena Beach Defense Water + Sun SPF 70
Caribbean Breeze Continuous Tropical Mist SPF 70
Equate Sport Continuous Spray SPF 30
Non-Spray Options
La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 Melt-In Sunscreen Milk SPF 60
Pure Sun Defense SPF 50
Coppertone Water Babies SPF 50
No-Ad Sport SPF 50
Natural Options
Note: Natural sunscreens are not the best options because they do not perform as well as a chemical-based sunscreen.
Cotz Plus SPF 58
California Baby Supersensitive SPF 30+
Ocean Potion Protect & Nourish SPF 30
How can I reverse my skin damage?
While prevention is the most effective way of dealing with the issues related to sun damage, sometimes it cannot be avoided. What can be done to reverse the process?  We like to use an IPL laser to help eliminate some of that sun damage. This laser has virtually no down-time between treatments and over a course of 3-6 treatments, the pigmentation improves and skin looks healthier.