While sun protection can certainly be a hassle, it’s a must to protect you from the damaging effects of the sun!
Sunlight exposure increases your risk of skin cancer, significantly speeds up the skin aging process, and results in brown spots and blemishes. Use of a broad-spectrum, SPF 30 or above sunscreen is part of your arsenal of sun protection, in addition to wide-brimmed hats, large sunglasses, and protective clothing. Do not forget to reapply your sunscreen every two hours.
Important facts about sunscreen…
How would I get adequate Vitamin D wihtout exposing myself to the sun? Vitamin D is best acquired through diet and supplementation. Vitamin D formation from sunlight exposure on the skin is limited and is reached within minutes. Afterwards, longer exposure actually breaks down the Vitamin D into inactive compounds. Get this– A study of Hawaiian surfers who had numerous hours of daily sun exposure, half of them were found to be insufficient in Vitamin D!
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends daily intake of 600 IU (International Units) Vitamin D for adults less than age 70, and 800 IU for adults older than age 70. Obtain Vitamin D from fish, such as salmon, mackerel and tuna, or fortified milk, yogurt or orange juice, and/or supplementation. Obtaining Vitamin D through diet will not increase your risk of skin cancers. If you are concerned that you may not be getting enough vitamin D, you should discuss it with your primary care physician.
What about the “scary chemicals” I’ve heard about in sunscreen? Recently, there have been reports from special interest groups questioning a few ingredients in some sunscreens that were highlighted in popular media. It is best instead to base the answers on a review of the latest information that is “peer-reviewed” (meaning evaluated by experts in the field) and published in respected scientific journals.
For example, oxybenzone has been reported in rodents to penetrate the skin and produce free radicals, which may be harmful to health. However, oxybenzone has been approved by the FDA and available and widely used by humans in the US for about 30 years now. There is no evidence so far of serious side effects, or hormonal side effects, in humans. Often what applies to rat studies does not apply to humans.
Another example: An old, unpublished study of retinyl palmitate on mice suggested that it may accelerate tumor growth. Retinyl palmitate is a form of vitamin A stored by the skin. There is no evidence that vitamin A causes cancers in humans. In fact, vitamin A compounds (retinoids) have been shown to prevent skin cancers, treat skin precancers, and help restore skin damage from sun exposure.
Even if you do not feel comfortable using chemical sunscreens that contain oxybenzone or retinyl palmitate, that is not a problem! There are plenty of great sunscreens that are physical-blockers only. We recommend the EltaMD sunscreen line (available in our offices), or over-the-counter Blue Lizard’s Sensitive or Baby line of sunscreens, or Neutrogena Sheer Zinc line of sunscreens.
Where should you go to get credible information on sunscreen? Make sure you get your sunscreen facts from accurate, non-biased, scientific evidence-based sources such as the Skin Cancer Foundation (www.skincancer.org), the American Academy of Dermatology (www.aad.org), or American Cancer Society (www.cancer.org). Our dermatology providers at The Woodruff Institute would be happy to address your skin concerns. We offer same-day appointments.