Skin cancer is a serious disease that affects millions of Americans every year. As our country’s most common type of cancer, it’s time we start making changes to our lifestyle and taking preventative action that will reduce our chances of developing skin cancer. One of the best ways to accomplish that is by using sunscreen. However, a lot of the information about sunscreen online is contradictory or unreliable. That’s why we’ve paired with experts to address some of your most pressing sunscreen questions.
How safe is sunscreen? Should I be worried about the ingredients or chemicals being used?
Sunscreen will help protect you from the sun, and therefore, deadly skin cancer. It’s been proven that sunscreen reduces the chances of getting skin cancer, so it’s much safer than going without it. However, the safest way to reduce skin cancer is through minimized exposure to the sun.
The ingredients used in sunscreens are all chemicals—all molecules are considered chemicals. If you’re worried about unnecessary added chemicals, opt for organic-based ingredients.
How can I check the label to look for a good product?
Sunscreen labels have a few crucial pieces of information. Every time you make a purchase, you should check for five major things: broad spectrum, sun protection factor (SPF), water resistance, a seal of recommendation, and the active ingredients.
- Broad Spectrum: This means that you’re getting protection against ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) light. Both UVA and UVB are damaging in their own ways and broad spectrum gives you protection from each.
- Sun Protection Factor (SPF): This is a measure of how long you can stay in the sun before the sunscreen wears off. For instance, SPF 50 works to protect you from the sun 50 times longer than you’d be protected without sunscreen. Reapplications are necessary, especially when you’re outside for extended periods of time.
- Water Resistance: This means you can still get wet, swim, or sweat without completely losing the sunscreens effectiveness. Keep in mind that water resistance is not the same as waterproof.
- The Skin Cancer Foundation Seal of Recommendation: A product with this seal has been reviewed and approved by the Skin Cancer Foundation. These products are safe and effective in protecting you from the sun.
- Active Ingredients: Look at the active ingredients to make sure you’re not allergic to anything and that your sunscreen contains ingredients such as avobenzone and benzophenone to best protect you from UV rays.
Why is broad-spectrum protection so important?
Broad-spectrum protection is essential. It protects you from both UVA and UVB, which are each dangerous in their own way. UVA rays lead to premature aging, wrinkles, and the tanning of your skin—which is actually a sign of DNA damage. UVB rays are what primarily lead to sunburns. Both UVA and UVB rays contribute to skin cancer, which is why a broad-spectrum sunscreen is important.
Can you safely use sunscreen around your eyes?
You can absolutely use sunscreen around your eyes, in fact, it’s important to do so. Just avoid getting it inside the eye itself and opt for a sensitive mineral formula. Sunscreens made with zinc or titanium dioxide are good choices. If you get sunscreen in your eye, don’t panic; it’s not dangerous. Just make sure to flush it out as soon as possible.
What type of sunscreen works best with sensitive skin?
If you have sensitive skin, take a look at the ingredients. Chances are, you’re allergic to one of the inactive ingredients such as fragrances, plant extracts, preservatives, or other. If you have an allergic reaction, which takes about three to five days to manifest, talk to your doctor. It may be better to switch to an inorganic sunscreen that has fewer ingredients.
Does sunscreen stay effective after its expiration date?
No. Over time, sunscreen loses its effectiveness and will no longer prevent harmful UVA and UVB rays from reaching your skin. If you can’t find the expiration date on the bottle, keep in mind that sunscreen lasts for about three years.
How can I get the most out of my sunscreen?
Some of the best ways to get the most out of your sunscreen include actually using a broad-spectrum sunscreen (not just bringing it with you places), finding something that works best with your skin, and reapplying it as necessary.
It’s also important to apply enough sunscreen, not just the bare minimum. But what is enough? Typically, more is better—aim for a consistency that reminds you of a thick coat of paint to ensure you’re covering yourself completely.
Sunscreen questions have recently been a major topic as skin cancer becomes more prevalent in our country. We hope that we’ve answered some of your most pressing questions and want to remind you that skin cancer prevention is always recommended. If you have any serious questions or concerns about sunscreen, skin cancer, and how to prevent it, talk to your doctor today.