What You Need To Know About Sunscreens to Stay Safe

Melissa Toyos, MD

Summer’s here and that means it’s time for our annual update on sunblocks. I’n here to answer your most pressing questions about sun protection like: What’s the difference between sunscreens and sunblocks? What’s the difference between chemical and physical sunblocks? Does a certain SPF guarantee safety? And do some sunscreens ever CAUSE cancer?

Melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, is on the rise – it has tripled in recent decades --especially women under 40. Because ultraviolet rays found in sunlight and tanning beds are one the most important causes of DNA damage that leads to melanoma, you need to know how to protect yourself and your family.

Physical sunscreens, also called sunblocks, contain products like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. They physically block sun rays from reaching the skin and provide broad protection from UVA (aging) and UVB (burning) rays. Micronizing the zinc can make it transparent and much more cosmetically acceptable than the white nosed lifeguard we often think about when we think of zinc sun protection. They protect skin with no wait and last longer in direct light. They also are less likely than chemical sunscreens to clog pores, important for acne sufferers, and less irritating for those with rosacea or sensitive skin. Mineral sunscreens can protect the skin but are not found in sufficient levels in makeup to be used alone.

Chemical sunscreens like PABA, oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate and avobenzone work by changing UV rays into heat and then releasing the heat from skin. They are easier to apply, especially when used in sprays, but require application 30 minutes before sun exposure to be most effective, require frequent application in direct light (the chemical can get “used up”), often clog pores and cause more direct skin irritation with higher SPFs. Not all chemical sunscreens cover both UVA and UVB rays, resulting in accelerated aging even with diligent sunscreen use.

A recent study from Consumer Reports showed that 40% of commercially available sunscreens fall short on SPF. Some of the products claiming SPFs of up to 50 tested out with an SPF of 8 or lower. Many of the chemical sunscreens like oxybenzone, octisalate, avobenzone have been identified as “endocrine disruptors” which may increase the risk of certain cancers, including breast cancer. Some of the chemicals like retinyl palmitoate can become directly toxic to cells with sun exposure, actually increasing the risk of skin cancers.

It’s important to be safe in the sun this summer. Protect yourself and your family with the best sunblocks science has to offer. Our IScience branded sunscreens come in clear (MIXTOClear) and lightly tinted (MIXTOSheer and regular Antioxidant Sun Protection 30) and have not one but two physical sunblocks, titanium and micronized zinc which is transparent and perfect under or in place of makeup. We also go above and beyond by including melanin – a naturally occurring substance within our own skin that is designed to trap and absorbs harmful UV rays. We understand the science of skin care and of sunscreens and have formulated the safest, most effective, most cosmetically acceptable products available on the market. Call or check our website for more information and to order on our sun and skin care for your family today.

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