Dermatologists and professors of dermatology seem to agree that the use of sunscreen can not only help prevent skin cancer but also the application of sunscreen is the ultimate anti-aging tool.
The Skin Cancer Foundation states that people who daily use sunscreen with an SPF 15 or higher demonstrate 24 percent less skin aging than those who do not regularly apply sunscreen. Mineral-based broad spectrum sunscreens are also shown to be effective in minimizing acne and by providing protection from free radicals and reducing inflammation, sunscreen has been shown to be effective in reducing the symptoms of rosacea — a chronic skin condition manifesting in redness, bumps and skin sensitivity.
All the experts agree that sunscreen can help protect against the appearance of skin aging signs such as wrinkles, brown spots, discoloration and broken blood vessels. They also agree that sunscreen must be worn every day and even while driving to protect against harmful UVA rays.
The method of application of sunscreen is critical as well to maximize protection. Dr. Day, a dermatologist at New York University Langone Medical Center, notes that many people present with skin cancer and sun damage spots along the hairline and on the sides of their face because typically people apply their sunscreen from the center of the face outward, rather than working inwards.
I have a client who has cancer spots on her ankles even though she has always put sunscreen on her legs; the ankles obviously got missed. It is important to get all the exposed skin, and to wear sun-resistant clothing over the rest of your body.
Getting a tan does not confer protection. In fact, the change in color of your skin means that it is damaged. People who naturally have darker tones to their skin are a little more protected from the sun’s harmful rays.
However, a sobering statistic is that a 2016 study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology reported that African Americans were more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma in its later stages, and have a lower survival rate than other groups as a result.
Another startling statistic is that according to surveys published in the Journal of Preventative Medicine, 63 percent of African Americans in California have never worn sunscreen.
SPF sprays are effective, especially zinc-based ones. As well, SPF foundations with a tint of color tend to be even more protective. Experts say that the level of protection listed on the bottle is hard to achieve in practice, so it is better to go to a high SPF number and realize that you are getting less than it says on the label.
A study given in the Journal for American Medical Association in Dermatology noted that 78 percent of those people who relied solely on the protection afforded by a sun umbrella got a sunburn compared with those who used sunscreen as well. Umbrellas cannot protect against reflected light from the sand or water.
Sun protective hats should feature at least a 3-inch brim that goes all the way around and should be a tight weave. A white T-shirt alone only has a SPF of 7, which falls to a 3 if it gets wet. Specialty clothing with sun guard can afford much greater protection, and the re-application of sunscreen on exposed body parts is essential. On a clear day, essentially all the UV rays pass through to us, on a slightly cloudy day about 90 percent, and on an overcast day, still about 30 percent gets through.
Sunscreens commonly contain mineral or chemical filters. The most common sunscreens on the market contain chemical filter such as oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate. Mineral sunscreens use zinc oxide or titanium oxide. And some combine both chemical and mineral filters.
Lab studies indicate that some chemical UV filters mimic hormones and also may cause skin allergies. The most dangerous is oxybenzone which is added to approximately 70 percent of the non-mineral based sunscreens available.
The Center of Disease Control and Prevention has detected oxybenzone in more than 96 percent of the American population. It is now commonly found in mother’s milk, and acts like an estrogen in the body, altering sperm production in males and causing endometriosis in women.
Octinoxate is also highly suspect and has the same widespread usage and causes hormone disruption issues. Octinoxate alters thyroid function, reproductive system activity such as delayed puberty and development, testosterone levels and as well, can cause behavior changes in animal studies.
Zinc oxide or titanium dioxide based sunscreens have little known toxicity, provide excellent UV protection, have no evidence of hormone disruption, and no finding of skin penetration.
The brand that I use and have for over 11 years is mineral based, and hardly a day goes by when someone does not comment to me on how nice my skin looks.
Dr. Jane Riley, EdD., is a certified personal fitness trainer, nutritional adviser and behavior change specialist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 212-8119 cell/text, www.janerileyfitness.com.