Summer in Sacramento is finally here, which means we will all be spending more time in the sun. We’ve been gathering outside more in the past year as well with outdoor dining and socially-distanced backyard hangouts, increasing our sun exposure even more than usual.
A few facts about the sun in the summer are important to keep in mind. The worst and most damaging rays occur between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Often we become complacent about our early morning and afternoon sun exposure when it is not hot. However, this is the most critical time to ensure you are protecting yourself. While topically applied sunscreens are important, clothing is also an important form of sun protection. Ideally, these articles of clothing should be made of a lightweight nylon/polyester mix which is tightly woven. This type of garment very effectively blocks the sun rays and also permits wicking and rapid drying of sweat. It is important to keep in mind that light colors, especially white, reflect the sun rays. Hats with large brims are also very effective.
Finding the right sunscreen to protect your skin from the California sun can be difficult. Given that 90% of skin aging is caused by UV damage to the skin, it is imperative to wear sunscreen every day, especially from April 1 to October 1, to protect against wrinkles and photo damage, and more importantly skin cancer. Here is a primer on what to look for in any sunscreen and I’ve also included some of my favorite sun protection products that I recommend to my patients.
Sunscreen must haves:
- At least an SPF of 30—This will provide enough protection for everyday use. SPF 30 keeps out 97% of the UV radiation.
- Broad Spectrum—This ensures you are protected from both UVA and UVB rays.
- Physical Sunscreen such as Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide—Physical sunscreens, as opposed to chemical sunscreens, generally provide a greater degree of broad spectrum protection and are less harsh on the skin than chemical sunscreens. Look for high concentrations of these ingredients (5% or higher). These physical blocks are what the astronauts use in space to protect them from the sun rays that are not filtered by our atmosphere. These blocks also reflect the light off the skin rather than absorb it in the skin, potentially eliminating unwanted chemical changes or reactions. Another thing to keep in mind is that the chemical sunscreens such as avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene and ecamsule can be prohibited in some states such as Hawaii because they are toxic to coral and not “reef safe.” They also can be associated with the generation of benzene, which can be a health risk.
- Water-Resistant—This is especially important for those that are more active and as temperatures rise and we start to sweat.
Dr. Tanghetti’s Top Sun Protection Picks:
- Ex Officio Clothing—This brand offers clothing rated with Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF), which indicates how much UV radiation (both UVB and UVA) a fabric allows to reach your skin. I would recommend garments with a UPF of at least 30.
- San Diego Hat Company—This company offers many attractive hats for summer sun protection. Look for their products in their sun protection line that offers styles with a UPF 50+.
- EltaMD UV Sport SPF 50—The formulation is highly effective, not greasy, and after a gentle massage the product disappears on the skin. It is also effective for all day use if you are not immersing yourself in water.
- Cetaphil Sheer Mineral Face Liquid Sunscreen—This is a great drugstore pick that hits all the points I look for in a sunscreen: SPF of 50, high zinc concentration of 12% and water-resistant up to 80 minutes.
- Colorescience Sunforgettable Brush in SPF 50—These sunscreen powder brushes are great for reapplication during the day. I have patients that keep them in their purse or golf bag for easy sunscreen reapplication. The zinc and titanium percentages are high in this powder, ensuring you are getting good protection.
Don’t forget to reapply at least every two hours if you are in the sun for extended periods of time. Most importantly, for all you sun worshipers out there, remember there is no such thing as a “healthy tan!”