I’ve been learning more and more through nurse practitioner school about sunscreen, skin, skincare, and things you NEED to know about SPF. What do you think is the best anti-aging product available today? Shocker, it is sunscreen. In one study, participants who used sunscreen daily showed NO detectable increase in skin aging after 4.5 years. I mean I think we all know how important sunscreen is but I wanted to share certain brands I recommend and chat about why.
Physical vs Chemical Sunscreen
Physical sunscreen sits on top of the skin and blocks ultraviolet rays from penetrating. Physical sunscreens ( mineral sunscreens) are going to contain zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide as their active ingredients. This is my favorite type of sunscreen because it’s a physical barrier that doesn’t get absorbed into the bloodstream, yet protects you from UVA and UVB rays.
Chemical Sunscreen works by absorbing and converting UV rays into heat before they can cause free radical damage. I am not a fan of chemical sunscreens because I literally don’t like having to put anything with ‘chemicals’ on my skin. You also have to apply chemical sunscreen 15-20 mins before going into the sun allowing it to activate… which is super time-consuming.
A new study from JAMA shows that after common chemical sunscreen ingredients (avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, and ecamsule) were applied to 75% of the body for 4 days, blood was collected from each participant for a week. Among the participants, they found maximum plasma concentrations systemic of these chemicals over the 7 days. The are levels are high enough that it has now started a government safety investigation. This is is scary and should definitely raise some red flags when you are shopping for sunscreen. SO just remember just because there are a bunch of things are packed into a product doesn’t make it beneficial or safe. BUT don’t be freaked out and stop using sunscreen all together we still need to be using it but just the right formula.
Favorite Tip From Beauty By Dr. Kay
My favorite plastic surgeon Dr. Kay Durairaj truly believes that that physical / mineral-based sunscreen are better for pigmentation patients (aka dark spots or melasma) because it doesn’t generate as much heat as a chemical sunscreen. She wants you to avoid UV rays hitting the skin, penetrating the skin, and then going through a chemical reaction generating heat, which she believes creates/flares pigmentation. She believes using a mineral sunscreen that deflects light and doesn’t even allow for pigmentation to be triggered is best for all pigmentation patients.
Ingredient Profile: Physical Sunscreen
Are the ingredients in our sunscreens truly safe? That has been a question asked for years. Right now, the FDA has only 17 active ingredients approved. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are two of those safe and effective ingredients to use. When looking for sunscreen the goal is to protect against both UVA and UVB rays.
Zinc oxide is your best protector again UV rays and is what you want to be looking for when picking sunscreen. Zinc oxide is a physical protector because it scatters, reflects, and absorbs UVA & UVB rays. It works as soon as it is applied unlike chemical sunscreens and it’s not absorbed into the skin.
Titanium dioxide is also common in physical sunscreens and blocks ultraviolet-B and short-wave ultraviolet-A rays, however, it is not as effective in blocking long ultraviolet-A rays. Zinc oxide is the queen of UVA and other ray blocking which makes it super effective at fighting the sun’s rays.
- UVA rays: penetrate the skin, reaching beyond the thickest layer of skin the dermis. It is this type of UV radiation that can cause aging and wrinkles. Anything with a Broad spectrum is protecting you from UVA rays
- UVB rays: UVB rays burn the surface of your skin because they are shorter rays that only reach the most superficial layers. UVB rays lead to lead to sunburns and eventually can cause skin cancer. The SPF tells you it is protecting you from UVB rays.
Favorite SPF Brands
SPF Formula & Concentration
There is a wide range of concentrations found in sunscreen formulas – from very little to the legal maximum.
Zinc Oxide: 5% minimum; 10-20% is ideal in a sunscreen. It’s really common to see 2-7% concentrations and 25% is the legal maximum in a sunscreen. You may often see some zinc oxide-based sunscreens that will give you that super white ghost appearance after applying. That has to do with the nanoparticle size. Smaller particles like nanoparticles used in a sunscreen will appear less white when applied, and larger non-nano zinc oxide sunscreens will leave you with more of a white ghost look. Some are concerned that there might be some health risks using nanoparticles because they could penetrate the skin. However, the USA is very relaxed when it comes to the whole nano- non-nano debate, so there is no regulation and I’m sure we will see more about this in the future.
Titanium Dioxide: 5% minimum; 25% is the legal maximum. It is often used in conjunction with Zinc oxide to help increase the SP factor.
Through all my research I’ve learned that if you have to pick between Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide, you should always choose Zinc Oxide but even better high % of zinc oxide in combination with titanium dioxide to give you that higher SP factor and UVA and UVB protection.
Positively Posie Sunscreen Tips
- Sunscreen should be broad-spectrum – protecting against both UVA & UVB rays.
- Sunscreens can expire making them less effective
- Sunscreen should be at least SPF 30 – there is not a big difference in of UVB protection between an SPF 30 vs SPF 50+ (SPF 30 protects against 97% of UVB rays, while SPF50 protects against 98% of UVB rays), however, the American Academy of Dermatology questions if there is better UVA protection in higher SPFs.
- Formula matters always look for a high % of zinc oxide in combination with titanium dioxide to give me the most UV protection with a higher SP factor.
- Iron oxide and Antioxidants are two ingredients that when added to sunscreens can help reduce the amount of UVA radiation even more.
**Just a reminder you’ll never see me promote something I don’t believe in or use. And please remember The Modern Practitioner and the materials on here are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material is provided is for educational purposes only. Please seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions.