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Choosing the Right Sunscreen (Sun Damage)
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Choosing the Right Sunscreen

Kevin C. Smith MD FACP FRCPC

Sunscreens have been gaining more and more attention with the public learning about the harmful effects of overexposure to sunlight. Regular use of sunscreens can protect your skin from the long-term effects of sun damage including premature aging, and some forms of skin cancer. Read this guide for some key points to keep in mind when choosing a sunscreen to use:

  • Sun Protection Factor (SPF) is an indication of how well the product will protect your skin from ultraviolet-B light, which causes sunburn and can lead to skin cancer. However, the SPF is not the only way that one should judge the efficacy of a sunscreen. Ultraviolet A light which cause wrinkles and contributes to skin cancer, also needs to be protected against, and SPF does not factor this type of light. For protection against ultraviolet-A lights, ensure that your sunscreen contains the following ingredients: avobenzone (Parsol-1789) and Mexoryl®, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
  • If you will be involved in activity that induces heavy sweating or swimming, understand that some sunscreen agents will stay on the skin better than others. Titanium or zinc based products can look white or pale when applied to the skin. If you do not like the way that it looks on your skin, choose products that contain ultramicronized titanium or zinc. These products will not be visible, but are still able to absorb and reflect ultraviolet light.
  • Some sunscreens will last longer on the skin than others. UV light can cause some sun screen agents to break down over time, and they can lose their ability to protect the skin. Mexoryl®, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide do not break down to UV light, and can continuously provide protection for a full day.
  • Sunscreens can come in a variety of different forms. Creams are recommended for people with smooth skin, and some creams are also prepared with water resistant formulas so the products last longer on the skin, even after heavy sweating or swimming. Gels and sprays may be more effective on hairy areas, and on the scalp.
  • Don’t neglect non-medical factors like how it looks or feels on the skin. Remember that the most protective sunscreen is useless if people don’t use it.
  • Get into the habit of applying sunscreens regularly, so that you can enjoy having healthy younger looking skin for longer, preventing premature aging and skin damage. Prescription products such as Retisol-A 0.01% cream which contain sunscreens are also helpful.


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