Sunscreen and SPF
Dr. Perricone Discusses

Sunscreen and SPF

Many of my patients, readers and viewers are confused when it comes to sunscreen and SPF. What is the right SPF for me? Should I choose chemical or non-chemical sunscreens?

Understanding SPF

SPF (Sun Protection Factor) is a numbering system, which shows a sunscreen's ability to protect against UVB. 15 is a good choice, however, some people may need more - in that case I recommend a non-chemical sunscreen of SPF 26 for face that protects against both UVA and UVB rays.

If you have sensitive skin, are taking medication that increase sensitivity to the sun and/or plan to have prolonged exposure to the sun, even the highest SPF will not be adequate to protect your from visible signs of damage such as sunburn, increased risk of wrinkles and skin cancer, etc. In these situations, your best defense is to wear a hat and protective clothing.

Chemical vs. non-chemical

I recommend non-chemical sunscreens such as "physical" blockers titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide and not chemical sunscreens. Chemical sunscreens are more likely to cause allergic reactions or irritate the skin but the formulations are often lighter and easier to apply.

Chemical sunscreens can start to decompose in the presence of UV rays and lose effectiveness; therefore they must be applied continuously. Unfortunately, they may still leave the skin vulnerable to damage. In addition, a number of studies indicate that chemical sunscreens penetrate the skin, get into the bloodstream and are harmful to the body. The breakdown of chemical sunscreens forms additional harmful chemicals. Chemical sunscreens can also be irritating to some skin types, particularly acne-prone and sensitive skin.

To protect skin from breakouts or irritations, try to find non-chemical sun protection that doesn't cause acne breakouts.

To protect skin from breakouts or irritations, try to find non-chemical sun protection that doesn't cause acne breakouts. In general, non-chemical sunscreens (physical sunscreens) are less likely to cause skin reactions. Non-chemical sunscreens such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are better choices because they are not able to penetrate the skin but rather stay on the surface of the skin and physically block the sun's rays from entering the skin. Micronized (micron-sized) titanium and zinc oxides provide adequate sun protection and blend beautifully without leaving a pale, ashy appearance on the skin.

Be sure to remove sunscreen thoroughly as soon as you come indoors.

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