If there is one undisputed fact in skin care, it is that sunscreen use is very important for optimal skin health. Many experts such as myself who devote their medical practice to skin care agree that sunscreen use is especially the most powerful facial anti-aging tool we have.
People frequently ask me how they can choose the best sunscreen from all of the sun protection products on the market. I have found that not all sunscreens are created equal, and an important part of my job is to help people pick the one that is best for them.
Really, the best sunscreen is one that will offer you the best coverage for all types of ultraviolet radiation exposure while also providing long-lasting protection. However, even the best sunscreen in the world does no good if people do not use it every day.
There are several components to deciding on the right sunscreen that I have outlined here for you:
1.) What are the active ingredients of sunscreen?
There are generally two types of chemicals that are approved by the FDA for use in sun protection:
- Those that absorb ultraviolet light waves before they can cause damage
- Those that physically block UV rays at the skin surface and reflect them away from the skin.
The absorbing type is effective, but many people do not like the fact that the ingredients are absorbed by the skin, and they worry about their long-term effects. In addition, this type is the most likely to cause skin reactions in those with sensitive skin.
The reflecting type is also very effective, is not absorbed by the skin, and has minimum likelihood of skin reaction. The most common ingredients of this type are titanium dioxide, or zinc oxide.
In the past, these have been the thicker and whiter preparations, but newer technology has allowed this type to go on smoother and with less residue. The sunscreens we carry here at Maine Laser Skin Care are predominantly of this type and very popular in terms of both effectiveness and ease-of-use.
2.) Does the chosen sunscreen give full ultraviolet protection?
How well a sunscreen protects is roughly measured by what is called SPF, or sun protection factor. I recommend a minimum SPF of 30 for every day use especially on the face. Higher levels may be needed if you have very fair skin, are going to be outside for a long periods of time without being able to reapply, or are going to more tropical parts of the country or the world.
Always look for sunscreen that specifically say “full” or “broad-spectrum UV protection” on the label. This term means that you will be protected from both UVA rays that are responsible for photo aging affects of sun damage, and UVB rays that are responsible for sunburns and skin cancers.
Even though we are well aware about sun damage during the summer when UVB rays are the strongest, UVA rays are persistent all year long, even in the winter. That is why daily sunscreen use is important for all seasons of the year, and all types of weather.
3.) What else does your skin need?
Many of the new sunscreens that we offer, as well as those in your local supermarket or drug store, offer additional ingredients that provide you with expanded benefits with one application. Many sunscreens now include antioxidants, such as vitamin C and green tea extracts, that help neutralize any sun damage that does occur.
Antioxidants essentially act as a safety net for your skin. They absorb any free radicals produced by UVA and UVB rays before they cause longer-term damage, such as hyperpigmentation.
For many with dry skin, the addition of moisturizers can help soothe the skin as well as protect it. Moisturizers are also important for those with acne prone skin because if their skin gets too irritated or dry from acne treatments, more oil or sebum is paradoxically produced, resulting in more breakouts.
I am constantly reviewing the newer products out there for skin care, including those that can only be sold in doctors offices. We want to provide the best products and recommendations for you and your skin.
If you have any questions concerning these products or any other skin care issues, please not hesitate to call us at (207) 873-2158. You can also drop by our Augusta office and ask us for specific recommendations tailored to your needs.