By Stephanie Simons,
Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire
Summer is approaching and as we prepare the barbeque and dig out the swimwear, chances are we’re looking for some good sun protection too. But when it comes to protecting your skin – and your health – sunscreen isn’t just for the beach. It’s for every single day.
All year round, the sun gives out two types of harmful ultraviolet rays which penetrate the skin – even on cloudy days. UVB rays can cause sunburn, while UVA rays have a longer wavelength that damages deep into skin cells. Both types cause DNA damage which, over time, can trigger premature ageing and mutations that lead to skin cancer.
Anyone can get skin cancer, regardless of age, gender or race, and approximately one in five people in the US will develop the condition. However, wearing a sunscreen of SPF 30+ every day can significantly reduce your risk, whilst also preventing sunburn and stopping those fine lines cropping up before they should!
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and comes in two types: chemical and physical. Physical sunscreens like Blue Lizard and Alba sit on the surface of your skin and contain active ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide which act as a shield, deflecting the sun’s rays. Chemical sunscreens like Coppertone and Banana Boat, on the other hand, penetrate the surface of the skin to form a sponge that absorbs UVA and UVB rays, significantly reducing their harmful impact.
Which one is right for you? The best sunscreen is the one you like most – because this is the one you’re most likely to use. It’s therefore a good idea to try a few brands and see what suits you best.
Chemical sunscreens are often lighter formulas that sit nicely with makeup and suit all skin tones. However, common ingredients like oxybenzone or avobenzone can sometimes cause irritation. Great chemical sunscreens include Neutrogena, Aveeno and Cerave for the face, or Aveeno Body Lotion with SPF for the body.
Physical sunscreens are thicker creams that can leave a white cast on darker skin tones, yet their gentler ingredients are less likely to provoke sensitive skin. It’s also worth noting that chemical sunscreens take 20-30 mins to absorb, so if you’re often in a morning rush, an instantly effective physical sunscreen might be the one for you! Try Blue Lizard Face for the face, or Blue Lizard or Alba Mineral Sunscreen for below the neck.
It’s equally important that you apply the right amount – ideally a thick layer on all skin that will be exposed to the sun (including those areas where clothing may slip, such as shoulder straps). If you’re out and about, remember to reapply during the day, as most sunscreens will protect you for no more than two hours – even less when you sweat or swim. Spray sunscreens like Australian Gold, Coppertone or Banana Boat are always useful for topping up.
Of course, no sunscreen can protect from 100% of UV rays, but there are additional ways you can protect your skin too. Balance your sun exposure with time in the shade, especially from 10am – 2pm when the sun is at its strongest. If you’re keen to boost your Vitamin D, try a supplement like Nature’s Bounty, Sundown or Now Vitamin D products or a multivitamin, and avoid sunbeds at all costs! Products like Neutrogena or Australian Gold Sunless tanners are here to give you that summer glow without the skin damage.
Skin cancer is highly treatable when caught early, so it’s vital that you keep an eye on your skin – and check your children’s too. If you notice any new or growing moles, itching, bleeding or more general changes, do consult your GP or pharmacist. After the past year, we all deserve some sunshine. Just remember to stay safe too.
Stephanie Simons is the head pharmacist at Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and has been practicing for over 20 years. She is a registered pharmacist with the Bermuda Pharmacy Council and is a member of the Bermuda Pharmaceutical Association.