Posts for tag: ingredients

By Dr. Roger Moore
June 01, 2015
Category: Sun Protection


A sunburn is the pink to red color our skin becomes as a warning sign and reaction to being in the sun too long.  Most of us have had at least one sunburn in our life.  Understanding why it happens and the possible consequences can help us avoid this harmful reaction in the future.

Sunburn is the skin’s response to an excess amount of ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun.   The skin initially does not turn pink right away, but rather it often loses moisture and can feel tight or painful.   The skin will begin to turn pink or red, which might not show up for hours after the exposure.  Often we do not realize what has happened to our skin until it is too late. 

Even as little as 10 minutes of intense UV exposer can burn the skin causing redness, tenderness and swelling.   In response to UV rays, the outer layer of skin produces a tanning pigment called melanin.  This melanin is a protective agent which blocks some of the harmful UV rays which normally penetrate the skin.  Some of the harmful rays can cause damage to the skin’s DNA which can ultimately lead to skin cancer. 

Sunburns can have harmful effects on the body, even years after exposure.  Science has shown that even a single blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence more than doubles a person’s chances of developing melanoma later in life. A person’s risk for melanoma, the most serious and potentially fatal form of skin cancer, doubles if he or she has had five or more sunburns. The two most common types of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, are also directly related to sun accumulation over many years. The most common locations for these cancers are sun-exposed areas: the face, ears and hands.

It is so important to avoid sunburns if at all possible.  The most useful tip to avoid sunburn is to avoid the sun and protect the skin.   Wear sunscreen when you are outside, even for short periods.    Sunscreens with an SPF of at least 30 or higher which contain one of the following ingredients: titanium dioxide, zinc oxide or parsol 1789 (avobenzone) are best.  Also protective clothing and avoiding the sun a when it is at the worst, typically 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. is ideal.   Protecting your skin is essential to your health and well-being. Be sun smart this summer and protect your skin from the harmful rays of the sun!

Skin cancer is the most common cancer of all cancers today.   It is estimated that 1 in 3 Americans will have a skin cancer during their life time.  Over 3 million skin cancers are diagnosed each year.   The harmful rays of the sun contribute to the development of rough scaling precancer spots termed actinic keratosis,  basal cell carcinomas (BCC), squamous cell carcinomas (SCC), and  the deadly melanoma cancer.   Each of these growths can lead to bigger problems and require treatment.  Some cancers can even become life threatening.   Skin cancer prevention is a major reason to wear sunscreen.  

Which sunscreen should I buy?

The important point here is to buy a sunscreen you will wear.  This means the one which you tolerate best.  There are now sunscreens available in lotions, creams, sprays and powders (of which many active people who sweat prefer the powder).   Find the right product for your skin.  Then you need to pick the right ingredients.  All sunscreens block UV-B  the rays, which cause sunburn, but not all block UV-A rays.   In fact, only a few ingredients block UV-A rays and provide true broad spectrum coverage.  The strongest UV-A blockers are thought to be  Zinc Oxide, Titanium Dioxide, Parsol 1789 (Avobenzone) and Meroxyl.   Of these, Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide are labeled as physical blockers which bounce the sun off the skin rather than absorb it, so many clinicians prefer these.  

 When do I need sunscreen?

The most important time to wear sunscreen is when the sun is intense.   This is mostly between 10 am and 2 pm. However,  a little known fact is that up to 85% of our sun exposure comes from incidental sun exposure.  This means the trips to the grocery store, work, etc. are the times we get most of our sun damage over a life time.   Though most of us don’t do this, we should wear sunscreen on a daily basis.   This would reduce dramatically our cumulative sun damage.

 So what SPF do I need?

This is better understood if you learn about SPF.  So please take a minute to read so you make the right decision.  SPF stands for sun protective factor.  More simply,  it is a laboratory measure indicating a person under lab conditions would take longer to burn as represented by the rating on the bottle.   An SPF of 15 used by someone who normally burns in 10 minutes at the noon time sun would take 15 times as long to burn (150 minutes) if using the sunscreen properly.     The SPF also dictates how much of the UV is blocked.    The amount of UV blocked for SPF 15 is 93%, for SPF 30 is 96.7%, and SPF 45 is 98.5%.   So wearing an SPF of 60 does not provide double the protection of SPF 30 but rather takes the SPF number from 96.7% closer to the 100% mark.  Thus many researchers indicate an SPF higher than 30 does not yield much more protection.   So use an SPF 30 or higher.