Sunscreens: Your Key to Healthy Skin

Medically-CitedMedically Cited Fact-Check Fact Checkedby Reviewed by CHD TeamUpdated: Jun-12-2024
Most people recognize the importance of sunscreens during the summer months, but did you know that you should be applying this product all-year round? Find out why.

Dermatologists recommend the best sunscreens for acne-prone skin, dry skin, & sensitive skin. Shutterstock Images

What are Sunscreens?

A sunscreen, otherwise called a sunblock, is a skincare product that helps protect the skin against frequent and prolonged sun exposure. It is a topical product that comes in various forms, with the most common being the lotion, gel, and spray forms. The use of this product is encouraged by reputable medical organizations such as the American Cancer Society and the American Academy of Dermatology.

There are two main types of sunscreens, classified according to their composition[1]:

  • 1) physical sunscreens (a.k.a. mineral sunscreens)
  • 2) chemical sunscreens.

Physical sunscreens[2] consist of titanium dioxide[3] and zinc oxide[4]. They work like a shield that sits on the surface of the skin, physically blocking and deflecting the UV rays from the sun.

Chemical sunscreens, on the other hand, is like a sponge that absorbs UV rays. Unlike physical sunscreens, they don't leave a white residue and are much easier to rub onto the skin. Among the most popular chemical sunscreens are avobenzone[5] and octisalate[6].

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Important Reasons You Should Always Wear Sunscreen

Sunscreens are used to protect the skin against the harmful rays of the sun and prevent the development of skin cancer. It is recommended for everyone, regardless of age. It must be applied everytime you go out, all-year round. That's because the sun always emits UV rays even on dark, cloudy days.

Key Ingredients to Look for in Sunscreens

Sunscreens contain ingredients that works by blocking or absorbing UV rays, thus preventing them from reaching and causing damage to the skin. Of the many compounds incorporated in sunscreen products, there are only two which are Generally Recognized as Safe and Effective. They are:

Titanium Dioxide - This inert earth mineral is one of the most commonly used ingredients in the cosmetics and skincare industry[7]. Its light-scattering properties effectively protects the skin against UV rays without causing any form of irritation on the skin. Because of its gentleness, it is often recommended for sensitive skin.

Zinc Oxide - Another active ingredient that physically blocks UV light, but with the added benefit of not being easily decomposed by sunlight. Because of that, it tends to stay on the skin longer. And just like titanium dioxide, zinc oxide is also gentle and non-irritating one the skin.

Do Sunscreens Really Work?

Sunscreens are proven to provide effective protection from harmful UV rays, especially in fair-skinned individuals. When used the right way, they can reduce the risk of skin cancers (i.e. squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma) by up to 40-50%. They may also help fade away sun-induced signs of aging such as age spots, wrinkles, and sagging skin.

To get the most out of your sunscreen, it is advised to apply it about 15 minutes before going outdoors then reapply every two hours or as frequently as needed.

How to Choose the Best Sunscreens?

In general, sunscreens that provide the best protection are those which have an SPF of at least 30. When it comes to skin types, however, sensitive skin may be more suitable to products which contain physical sunscreens instead of chemical sunscreens, as the former have been found to be less irritating.

Other desirable characteristics of a good sunscreen include being water-resistant and broad-spectrum. Water-resistant sunscreens are recommended if you're going to get wet or sweat a lot, while broad-spectrum sunscreens offer protection against both UVA and UVB.

Final Thoughts

The use of sunscreens may be an important part of your strategy to shield the skin against the harmful effects of the sun, but you shouldn't always rely on it alone.

Other ways to protect the skin include staying away from the sun as much as possible and using protective clothing, hats, UV- blocking sunglasses, etc.

**This is a subjective assessment based on the strength of the available informations and our estimation of efficacy.

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