Regardless of the time of year, any time that you spend outdoors leaves your skin vulnerable to sun damage. Whether you're sitting outside on a lunch break or at the pool, the benefits of sunscreen can't be overemphasized. Although the benefits of sun protection are highly publicized, how exactly does sunscreen work? And are there people who cannot or should not use sunscreen? These are important questions to consider.
How Does Sunscreen Work?
Sunscreen combines both organic and inorganic ingredients that protect the skin from both UVA and UVB rays. There are two types of sunblock available: physical and chemical. A physical sunscreen is one that contains physical UV filters that will reflect and block the sun rays before they can penetrate and damage skin. They are made from mineral ingredients that physically block the skin and sit on top of the skin rather than being absorbed.
Chemical sunscreens contain organic active ingredients that are designed to absorb UV radiation. They contain compounds that create a chemical reaction when exposed to the sun. This transforms UV rays into heat which are then released into the skin. A chemical UV filter will usually protect only against UVA or UVB rays but not both.
Should Everyone Wear Sunscreen?
Although your skin tone affects the damage caused by sun rays, it's important to note that sunscreen is still recommended for all people. If you have lighter skin, it's incredibly important to wear sunscreen when spending any significant amount of time outside. People who have darker skin are less prone to damage. However, they should still put on sunscreen when outside for 30 minutes or longer.
Can You Be Allergic to Sunscreen?
While sunscreens are safe for the general public, it may be possible that some ingredients used in sunscreen can cause an allergic reaction. Ingredients such as fragrances or oxybenzone may cause a rash or other symptoms. If you find that you have these symptoms when applying sunscreen, you should work to identify the underlying cause rather than forego sunscreen altogether.
If you find that you have a sensitivity, consider switching to a sunscreen that tends to be better tolerated. Sunscreens that contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide have a lower risk for an allergic reaction while still protecting from UVA and UVB rays. If you're unsure whether this new product will work for you, consider a patch test with any new sunscreen. Apply a small amount to a small area and note if there is any redness, swelling, or itchiness.
Alternatively try avoiding using sunscreen where and when possible by wearing sun protection swimwear and UV protective clothing which provide around the clock sun protection.
Finding a Sunscreen
If you're struggling to find a sunscreen that is compatible with your skin, it may be best to talk to your dematologist. This professional specializes in skin-related disorders and conditions. They can recommend a sunscreen that suits your skin type and won't cause any undesirable side effects. Since sun protection is important for everyone, you'll want to find a sunscreen that you can rely on every day. Make sure that you apply sunscreen as directed and you'll reduce your risk of sun damage and skin cancer later on in life.