What Is In Sunscreen And What’s the Best Way to Use It?

My advice to all patients is to use sunscreen (SPF 50), which is available at most stores. Apply to the face, ears, back of the neck, hands, exposed legs, and feet. Reapply ever two hours, and immediately after sweating or water exposure.

It’s important to know the key ingredients in the sunscreen product itself, and how safe they are.

Zinc oxide and Titanium oxide are common ingredients found in many products. These micronized particles are for the most part safe, and don’t penetrate unbroken or undamaged skin. However, there are some concerns about these substances being absorbed into damaged areas. They should be avoided when the skin barrier is impaired. For example, if you have eczema or even a sunburn, don’t apply sunscreen directly to the wound site. Make sure you have an alternative method of protecting the site.

Products that contain benzophenone pose risks to the environment: they are harmful to coral reefs. They may also cause hormone complications: theoretical absorption may lead to estrogen-like effects, based on a rodent study. Benzophenone is most commonly found in organic sunscreens.

How you apply sunscreen has a direct effect on how well you are protected. While using sunscreen:

  • Apply generous amounts of sunscreen fifteen minutes before going outside. For optimal protection, apply your sunscreen before you get dressed.
  • It’s important to reapply every two hours, and to do so immediately after swimming or excessive sweating, even if the bottle promises water resistance.
  • Just because it’s cloudy doesn’t mean you don’t have to sunscreen. Clouds don’t protect you from damage, as UV light passes through them. Apply sunscreen as you would if it were sunny.
  • Keep in mind that sand, water, and snow are reflective surfaces.

The sunscreen product itself doesn’t protect you from serious complications such as heat stroke and dehydration. Don’t stay in the direct sunlight for too long, drink plenty of fluids, and reapply.