The summer sun is upon us, and we thought it would be interesting to pick the brain of our local cosmetic dermatology expert to see what we could learn about sunscreen and the effects of sun on our skin.  We asked Dr. Norris at Nicole Norris MD Medical Spa in Peru, Illinois to answer our “burning” questions.

Dr. Norris, what is the ideal SPF for the best sunscreen protection?  “The ideal sunscreen SPF is between SPF 30 and SPF 45.  Less than that is not enough and more than that does not add significant protection.   Most make-up that has SPF in it is less than SPF 30 and therefore is not enough by itself.  Sunscreens sold with SPF over 50 are just a marketing gimmick to get you to pay more because you assume you are getting double the sun protection. The amount of added sun protection between SPF 45 and SPF 100 is 1%.”

How long does sunscreen last and what else protects us from harmful UVA and UVB radiation? “Once applied, sunscreen is active on the skin about 2 hours and then it needs to be reapplied, especially if you are in the water or sweating.  Topical skin care products that contain higher concentrations of Vitamin C or E (antioxidants) can afford additional protection as they can last up to 6 hours in the skin reversing the damage from UVA/UVB radiation.   UVA/UVB radiation causes skin cancer and signs of skin aging.  Most sunscreen does not contain antioxidants, but you can apply these topical antioxidants for added protection prior to sunscreen if yours does not contain antioxidants.”

When should we wear sunscreen?   “I educate my patients to wear sunscreen on their face daily.  Even on cloudy days, we are absorbing UVA and UVB radiation through windows, when outside and from lightbulbs!  Many of my patients are surprised to learn that we get just as much UVA/UVB radiation from LED lights in our homes and work environments as from the sun.  A SPF 30 sunscreen mixed with a moisturizer is a good everyday sunscreen when we are in temperature-controlled environments.  When we are exposed to hot temps or working outside, sunscreen moisturizers melt right off, so then it is important that the label says waterproof sunscreen.”

Are self-tanner products safe?  “Self-tanning lotions are lotions with chemicals that irritate our cells in our skin that produce brown pigment called melanosomes.  When we get a tan from the sun, it is because we have sufficiently irritated our melanosomes.  Whether it is a chemical irritation or a UVA/UVB irritation, both forms of insult create pigment in our skin.  If you are a person trying to have fewer age spots or you are afflicted with a condition called melasma, you should avoid self-tanner products and the sun.  I often tell my patients that being tan is over-rated and skin that is free of brown spots and wrinkles, whatever the color, is always in style.”

Are there some sunscreens that are better for our skin and the ocean reefs than others?  “There are 2 types of sunscreens.  They are classified as chemical-defense or physical defense.  Chemical defense sunscreens work by absorbing UVA/UVB rays like a sponge.  They, however, can be irritating to people who have sensitive skin, and they are not good to wear in the ocean as there is evidence that they are contributing to destroying the reefs and the sea life that depend on reefs.  Physical defense sunscreens, which include zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, sit on the skin and act as a barrier to prevent UVA/UVB absorption.  These mineral-based sunscreens are considered reef safe and are the least irritating to sensitive skin so are better for children’s skin, patients with rosacea or melasma, and anyone concerned with ocean reef preservation.”

Dr. Norris went on to tell us that she and her team have researched many sunscreens and have what they consider the “best” in their office for purchase.  Dr. Norris goes on, “Sunscreen prevents signs of skin aging and all forms of skin cancer.  It is really the skin care product that you should invest the most money and time applying.  It should be something that feels good on your skin and that you put on as soon as you wash your face in the morning.  If you don’t have a sunscreen that you love and can’t wait to apply each day, call us and we can introduce you to sunscreen that doesn’t feel like sunscreen!” Call 815-780-8264 for more information on sunscreen and to schedule your anti-aging consultation with Dr. Norris today!