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3 Ways Your Sunscreen May Be Harming Your Skin (And How to Fix It)

August 3, 2017

You enjoy tanning, playing outside, or perhaps lounging by the pool. You hate getting sunburned, and know that not only is it uncomfortable, but that it also damages your skin. So you apply your favorite sunscreen and hope that you won’t be one of the 87,000 people that will be diagnosed with melanoma in 2017.

But what if your sunscreen is doing more harm to your skin than good? Actually, that’s a pretty common problem and I break it all down below!

By: Kaitlyn, NP


1. SPF does not protect against the more dangerous UVA rays.

SPF, or “sun protection factor”, is a rating of how well a sunscreen blocks against UVB rays. But UVB rays only affect the superficial epidermis skin layer; basically, what hurts when you get sunburn. The worst damage – what causes skin cancer and accelerated skin aging – comes from UVA rays. And these aren’t guaranteed in your sunscreen, even if your sunscreen is labeled as “broad-spectrum”. To make matters worse, UVB rays only make up 5% of the UV energy that reaches us; UVA is about 95% of what reaches us.

2. A higher SPF level does not protect your skin more.

Advertisements often mislead the public on SPF protection, making people believe that the higher an SPF number, the better the protection. While it’s true that SPF 50 provides 4% more protection than SPF 15, there is not much difference between anything above SPF 50. For example, according to Life Extension Magazine, “a 100 SPF provides just 1% more UV protection than a 50 SPF – although the higher rating encourages longer exposure.”

3. About 75% of sunscreens contain “worrisome ingredients”.

In 2016, the Environmental Working Group examined sun protection products and found that almost three-fourths contained “worrisome ingredients” that may actually increase your risk of cancer, and that higher SPF products usually contained higher concentrations of the dangerous chemicals. Two such ingredients, oxybenzone and octibenzone, generate free radicals and other substances that damage DNA when they are applied to your skin and exposed to sunlight.

So how do you fix these issues?

1. Look at the ingredients list on your sunscreen.

If it contains oxybenzone or octibenzone, trash it. These two chemicals are too harsh for your skin, and can lead to accelerated skin aging, skin malignancies, and the further breakdown of collagen and elastin (what keeps your skin looking and feeling great). I took a look at a few popular lines, and found worrisome chemicals in products from Banana Boat, Aveeno, Sun Bum, Hawaiian Topic, and Coppertone (including the one for babies!).

2. Invest in quality skincare lines.

The best skincare and sun protection lines don’t contain “worrisome chemicals”, such as our favorites, Elta MD and Revision Skin Care (both of which we carry in our MedSpa). Mineral-based sun products are often better, because they protect against sun rays that cause “photoaging” (deep wrinkles, mottled pigmentation, rough skin, skin-tone loss, spider veins, and precancerous lesions).

  • Elta MD – Recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation as effective broad-spectrum sunscreens, they are formulated with transparent zinc oxide and are noncomedogenic, sensitivity-, fragrance-, and paraben-free.
  • Revision Skin Care – Intellishade(R) is their anti-aging tinted moisturizer with sunscreen that conceals, corrects, and protects against UVA and UVB rays. It also contains a blend of antioxidants for added sun protection.

3. Wear the sunscreen!

It may sound like silly advice, but the American Academy of Dermatology reported that only 14% of men and 30% of women regularly wear sunscreen, and even they often don’t use enough.

So lather up, friends, and remember: when it comes to your skin, cheaper is not always better. Your skin is your biggest organ, and it needs regular nourishment and protection for it to glow inside and out. If you have any questions about the correct sunscreen for you, stop in and talk to me or give me a call at 513-791-9474. I will be happy to give you samples of Elta MD and Revision Skincare products!