Is My Sunscreen Killing Coral Reefs
In May 2018, Hawaii banned chemical sunscreen ingredients oxybenzone and octinoxate, which scientists believe contribute to coral reef bleaching. This law took effect in 2021.
Overall, its not a bad idea to be proactive and opt for reef-safe sunscreens that dont include oxybenzone or octinoxate, such as Blue Lizard Sensitive SPF 30 which gets its UV protection from zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
Not all mineral sunscreens are totally in the clear, though. Many mineral sunscreens contain microscopic-sized particles of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which are called nanoparticles. Recent research suggests that these nanoparticles may also be harmful to coral reefs.
If you want to err on the side of caution, go with a sunscreen that includes non-nano zinc oxide on the ingredient list, such as Raw Elements Face Stick SPF 30.
Oxybenzone is one chemical sunscreen ingredient thats been linked to hormone disruption. However, a 2017 paper notes that youd have to use this ingredient continuously for 277 years for it to disrupt your hormones. Current studies also show that nanoparticles are safe for humans and dont go deep into your skin .
How Long Does Sunscreen Last
Even if you slather on a large amount of sunscreen, it eventually breaks down and rubs off. The key is to apply early and often for the best protection.
The active ingredients in sunscreen need about 30 minutes to kick in, so give it time to work before going out, says Dr. Piliang. Reapply at least every two hours. And even if your sunscreen says its waterproof, always reapply after swimming and toweling off.
Protect Yourself By Wearing Sunscreen
Using sunscreen significantly reduces the risk of developing skin cancer. Sunscreen contains filters that reflect, scatter or absorb UV radiation to prevent it from reaching your skin.
Sunscreens are categorized as chemical or physical. Chemical sunscreens have filters that absorb UV rays, convert them to heat and release them from the body the AAD compares chemical sunscreens to a sponge. Physical sunscreens are more like a shield, as they reflect the suns rays. Both are safe to use.
Every sunscreen contains a sun protection factor , which is a measure of how well the product will protect you from the suns UVB rays, or the rays that damage the surface of your skin. Using a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 means that if it usually takes 10 minutes for your unprotected skin to burn in the sun, the sunscreen protects your skin 30 times longer than that .
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Where Are The Modern Rcts That Answer: Does Sunscreen Prevent Skin Cancer
One of the authors of the original Australian study admits that randomized controlled trials are essential to answer the question whether sunscreens prevent skin cancer . Thats because observational evidence is intractably confounded. In other words, it is not trustworthy. The only meaningful RCT remains the Australian study that was conducted between 1992 and 1996.
We are not suggesting that people should avoid sunscreen. Quite the contrary. But if we believe in evidence-based medicine, we really do need large, well-controlled clinical trials using modern sunscreens for the 21st century. Why hasnt the very lucrative sunscreen industry sponsored such studies?
Sunscreen’s Active Ingredients And How They Work
Sunscreen active ingredients are divided into two varieties: chemical and physical.
Chemical active ingredients work by creating a barrier that absorbs and neutralizes the UV light. Homosalate, octinoxate, oxybenzone, and avobenzone are well-known chemical actives. These chemicals do break down and become less effective after being in contact with UV light, which is a reason why sunscreen usage directions always tell us to reapply.
Mineral active ingredients, on the other hand, are zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. They act like a mirror and physically reflect light off your skin. These are more resistant to breakdown, which is why they have slightly broader UV coverage. Sunscreens containing mineral active ingredients are also better suited for individuals with sensitive skin.
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How Can I Tell If My Sunscreen Is Expired
Like any other skincare product, sunscreen has an expiration date. If one is not listed on the product, write the date of purchase on the bottleit should maintain its original strength for at least three years, per the FDAs standards.
However, your sunscreen can actually go bad before this time, especially if it sits in the heat or direct light . Any changes in formulafunky smells, colors, or textureshould be your sign to toss it. Using an expired sunscreen is risky and can increase your risk of sunburn and skin cancer.
High Spf Suncreen Does Not Protect Against Sunburn During Intentional Sun Exposure
The laboratory data on the properties of sunscreen have been challenged by results of epidemiologic studies. These findings showed that sunscreen use was associated with an increased, not a decreased, risk of cutaneous melanoma., Results of recent studies of sunscreens have failed to show any link between the SPF and the prevention of skin nevi.
Epidemiologic data suggest that behavioral issues could be involved in this association between high-factor sunscreen and melanoma. In one double-blind, randomized trial, people who used higher SPF sunscreens during intentional sun exposure, such as sunbathing, were exposed to the sun for a longer period of time. The ability of sunscreen to delay sunburn occurrence probably encouraged people toward longer exposure. Increasing the quantity of sunscreen applied to the skin may also have this effect on people’s behavior.
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Mineral Vs Chemical Sunscreen
A facial sunscreen can include either mineral sun blockers or chemical sun blockers. Both types can effectively protect your skin, but they do it in different ways.
Mineral sunscreen: Also known as physical sunscreen, this uses natural ingredients like zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide to deflect the suns rays away from your skin. Its usually a better option if you have sensitive skin, though it can leave a white cast on the skin thats particularly apparent on darker skin tones. Physical sunscreens are typically more expensive and harder to blend into the skin, too.
Chemical sunscreens: These use several different chemicals, such as oxybenzone, avobenzone, octinoxate, and/or octisalate, to absorb the suns rays and change the wavelength to prevent them from damaging the skin. If your skin is sensitive, chemical sunscreens can cause a reaction. They tend to blend more easily into the skin than mineral sunscreens and are usually more affordable.
What Does The Evidence Say On Whether Sunscreen Use Is Linked To A Decreased Risk Of Skin Cancer
The research is pretty clear that sunscreens can help reduce the risk of at least one type of carcinoma , but less clear on melanoma.
The main problem is the challenge of actually studying this. Melanoma tends to show up years after damaging sun exposure. Its also linked to more intermittent sun exposure .
Not to mention that these studies are tangled up by all kinds of confounding factors. The best evidence researchers have is a long-term study from Australia, which indeed shows that sunscreen has a small effect on melanoma.
The truth is we dont have great data from a randomized controlled trial where they give sunscreen to half a group that sunscreen use prevents melanoma, Linos said.
Heres the bottom line: Though high-quality evidence is a little patchy and hard to come by, sunscreen very probably helps reduce the risk of cancer. As Linos explained: We do have a lot of suggestive evidence. And we do know sunscreen use prevents sunburn, and we know sunburn is one of the main predictors of all types of skin cancer.
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Where Should I Apply Sunscreen
Experts recommend applying sunscreen to your entire body before you dress for the day. That way your skin will be protected if your clothing shifts or you remove layers. At the very least, you should use sunscreen on every part of your body that is exposed to the sun, including those easy-to-miss spots: the tops of your ears, back of your neck, your scalp , tops of your feet and behind your knees.
Which Sunscreen Should You Choose Though
For starters, the American Dermatology Association recommends one that’s labeled broad-spectrum, because this means it protects against both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays are the ones that prematurely age your skin, causing wrinkles and age spots, while UVB rays cause sunburn. Overexposure to both can lead to skin cancer.
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The Abcde Warning Signs Of Melanomasigns To Look For:
One half is unlike the other half.
B = BorderAn irregular scalloped or poorly defined border.
C = ColorIs varied from one area to another it has shades of tan, brown or black, or is sometimes white, red or blue.
D = Diameter
Melanomas are usually greater than 6mm when diagnosed, but they can be smaller.
E = Evolving
A mole or skin lesion that looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape, or color.
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Courtesy of Colleen Rothschild
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What About Sunscreen Vs Melanoma
Basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma are serious cancers, but they are common and rarely life-threatening if discovered early and treated appropriately. Melanoma is a different matter. This skin cancer can be lethal. That is why it is so important to try to prevent melanoma.
Another meta-analysis examined whether sunscreen use reduces the risk of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer. The outcome was also inconclusive .
The authors wrote:
While the current evidence suggests no increased risk of skin cancer related to sunscreen use, this systematic review does not confirm the expected protective benefits of sunscreen against skin cancer in the general population.
Sunscreen Is Only One Tool In The Sun Safety Toolbox
Now, its important to note that there is no perfect sunscreen. Many contain harmful chemicals, and even mineral-based ones often containnanoparticles, minute ingredients that can cross the blood-brain barrier and also harm aquatic life. Beyond that, sunscreen is unique compared to many other personal care products because you coat it thickly onto your skin, often multiple times a day. You dont get that type of hours-long, skin-absorbing exposure with something like, say, shampoo you quickly wash off.
Thats why its very important to look for safer sunscreens if you use them and to recognize that you cant only rely on sunscreens alone to prevent sun overexposure.
No product is going to be fully protective and no product will last on your skin for more than two hours max, EWG has noted in the past. They recommend thickly applying sunscreen coatings, reapplying every time youre out of the water and choosing a better product to begin with are all key. But other sun smart methods to avoid overexposures are a must. In fact, sunscreen should actually be your last line of defense against the sun after adopting other more effective measures. More on those later.
So what are the best sunscreens out there? Lets take a look.
The Research On Sunscreen And Skin Cancer Is More Complicated Than You Think
More than 3 million Americans develop skin cancer each year. Our understanding of how skin cancer develops is limited the only known medical strategy to lower the risk of developing skin cancer is to avoid skin damage from the sun. There are several ways to accomplish this: stay inside during the middle of the day, wear clothing and hats to cover your skin, and of course use sunscreen.
But the evidence of how well sunscreen protects against skin cancer is mixed. For starters, its difficult to study the links between sun exposure, sunscreen use, and skin cancer because sun exposure across a persons entire lifetime contributes to skin damage. By the time a participant enrolls in a study, the damage may have already occurred. In addition, it can be hard to assess how well and often study participants apply sunscreen.Researchers categorize skin cancers into two main types: melanoma and non-melanoma. Some data show that sunscreen is more useful in preventing non-melanoma skin cancers. There is also limited evidence that sun exposure and sunburns increase ones risk for developing melanoma, the deadliest form or skin cancer. But there are also manystudies that find sunscreen does not reduce ones risk for developing either type of skin cancer.
Despite the mixed evidence, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends sunscreen to prevent skin cancer. But which ones are the safest and work the best?
Is It Bad To Wear Sunscreen Everyday
Wearing sunscreen every day, especially if youre outside a lot, can help prevent certain conditions such as premature skin aging, sunburns, and even skin cancer. The risks are serious skin cancer affects over 3.3 million people each year, according to an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
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Finding The Best Sunscreen Products
Good sunscreen products are the best ways to prevent skin cancer. So, you want to protect your skin? Then, the best ways to prevent skin cancer is with the use of top-rated sunscreen products whenever you are outside. Quality sunscreens help shield you from the suns dangerous ultraviolet rays in two ways. First, some work by scattering the sunlight, i.e., reflecting it away from your body. Others absorb the UV rays before they reach your skin. You should use a good sunscreen product year-round for best protection!
Best ways to prevent skin cancer is to wear clothing that blocks the suns rays from reaching your skin without being too hot. Also, wearing a hat to protect your head will help as one of the best ways prevent skin cancer. More importantly, staying indoors during the hottest part of the day is one of the best ways to prevent skin cancer!
What Does Sunscreen Do
Sunscreen uses active ingredients to filter ultraviolet rays before they reach your skin. UV rays which come from the sun and tanning beds can cause skin cancer and extra signs of aging.
Sunscreen comes in gels, creams, powders and sprays that you apply directly to your skin. People who use sunscreen regularly have:
- Lower risk of skin cancer: Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S. Daily use of sunscreen that is SPF 15 or higher can reduce your risk of skin cancer. You can slash your risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, by 50%. And you can decrease the risk of the most common skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma, by 40%.
- Younger-looking skin: The suns UV rays damage the skin and cause wrinkles, dark spots and sagging, says Dr. Piliang. Regular sunscreen use reduces and prevents these effects.
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Educating The Public Regarding Sunscreens And Sunscreen Use
Australia, given its high UV radiation levels has an environment that means two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer before the age of 70 . It is recommended people venturing into the outdoors during sunshine hours should wear a hat, sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, clothing that covers skin, and stay in the shade . In a survey done in Australia during the 19982004 period among adolescents, use of sunscreen was the most frequently practiced sun-protection behaviorsimilar to findings in US and European adolescents . The use of hats significantly has however decreased between 20012002 and 20112012 whereas the use of sunscreen and wearing protective clothes were unchanged, indicating the importance of ongoing public education . Wearing protective clothing was the least frequent behavior across all survey years . Another study done in Norway revealed the prevalence of sunscreen use increased from 1997 to 2007 but this increase was not accompanied by a decrease in sunburn and this may reflect the use of anti-inflammatory agents discussed earlier. As many authors have stated, more effort and education is needed to encourage greater enactment of sun-protection behavior .
How Does Uva And Uvb Protection Work
The sun emits different types of light rays, two of which are primarily responsible for damaging your skin: ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B . UVB rays are shorter and cant penetrate glass, but theyre the ones that cause sunburns.
UVA rays, which can get through glass, are more insidious because even when you cant feel it burning.
For that reason, youll want to make sure your sunscreen says , UVA/UVB protection, or multi-spectrum on the label. The term broad spectrum is the one youll most often see in the United States because its regulated by the Food and Drug Administration .
Is sunscreen from Europe or Japan better?
Possibly. Sunscreens from other countries have a wider variety of sun-blocking ingredients. These sunscreens list a PA factor, a measure of UVA protection that ranges from + to ++++. The PA rating system was developed in Japan and is only starting to catch on here in the United States.
Monique Chheda, a dermatologist in Washington, DC, adds that usually the two ingredients that provide UVA coverage are avobenzone and zinc oxide, so you definitely want to make sure your sunscreen has one of these.
To recap: Both
Youll hear the terms physical and chemical sunscreens. These terms refer to the active ingredients used.
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