May 19, 2020

Facts to help you pick the right sunscreen for YOU!

Regularly using the right sunscreen is the single most important thing you can do to care for your skin.  Not using enough sunscreen often enough can lead to serious health issues including skin cancer, not to mention damage to your skin’s youthfulness that nothing can remedy.  Are you looking for authoritative guidance to sort through the zillions of sunscreen products and confusing marketing claims?  Want to understand how to tell just how good your favorite sunscreen is?  Looking for a sunscreen that you and your family will use all the time?  I’m here to help.  These FAQs are from the American Academy of Dermatology and are as authoritative as it gets.  I’ve highlighted the essential points for ease of use.  All my patients know how important it is to me to get the word out about proper sunscreen use.  I know it can be confusing but putting the effort in to really understand the different types of sunscreen and how to use them  is worth it.  Think about it—why risk undoing all the time, effort, and expense we’ve put in to keep our skin looking young and beautiful?  Don’t risk it all for the short-term benefits of a tan.

Who needs sunscreen?

Everyone. Sunscreen use can help prevent skin cancer by protecting you from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. Anyone can get skin cancer, regardless of age, gender or race. In fact, it is estimated that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.

What sunscreen should I use?

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends everyone use sunscreen that offers the following:

  • Broad-spectrum protection (protects against UVA and UVB rays)
  • SPF 30 or higher
  • Water resistance.

When should I use sunscreen?

Every day you go outside. The sun emits harmful UV rays year-round. Even on cloudy days, up to 80 percent of the sun’s harmful UV rays can penetrate your skin.

Snow, sand and water increase the need for sunscreen because they reflect the sun’s rays.

How much sunscreen should I use, and how often should I apply it?

  • Most people only apply 25-50 percent of the recommended amount of the recommended amount of sunscreen.
  • Apply enough sunscreen to cover all exposed skin. Most adults need about 1 ounce — or enough to fill a shot glass — to fully cover their body.
  • Don’t forget to apply to the tops of your feet, your neck, your ears and the top of your head
  • Apply sunscreen to dry skin 15 minutes before going outdoors.
  • Skin cancer also can form on the lips. To protect your lips, apply a lip balm or lipstick that contains sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
  • When outdoors, reapply sunscreen approximately every two hours, or after swimming or sweating, according to the directions on the bottle.

Broad-spectrum sunscreens protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Are they both harmful?

Sunlight consists of two types of harmful rays that reach the earth — UVA rays and UVB rays. Overexposure to either can lead to skin cancer

There is no safe way to tan. Every time you tan, you damage your skin. As this damage builds, you speed up the aging of your skin and increase your risk for all types of skin cancer.

What type of sunscreen should I use?

The best type of sunscreen is the one you will use again and again. Just make sure it offers broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB) protection, has an SPF of 30 or higher and is water-resistant. 

The kind of sunscreen you use is a matter of personal choice, and may vary depending on the area of the body to be protected. Available sunscreen options include lotions, creams, gels, ointments, wax sticks and sprays.  

  • Creams are best for dry skin and the face.
  • Gels are good for hairy areas, such as the scalp or male chest.
  • Sticks are good to use around the eyes.
  • Sprays are sometimes preferred by parents since they are easy to apply to children. Aerosol sprays may pose some concerning issues.
    • Make sure to use enough of these products to cover all exposed skin
    • Do not inhale these products or apply near heat, open flame or while smoking.
    • Current FDA regulations on testing and standardization do not pertain to spray sunscreens. The agency continues to evaluate these products to ensure safety and effectiveness.

 Some sunscreen products are also available in combination with moisturizers and cosmetics. While these products are convenient, they are not subject to the same regulations as products labeled as sunscreen and therefore may not provide the same level of sun protection.  Sunscreen also may be sold in combination with an insect repellant.  The AAD recommends purchasing and using these products separately -- sunscreen needs to be applied generously and often, whereas, insect repellant should be used sparingly and much less frequently.

Regardless of which sunscreen you choose, be sure to apply it generously to achieve the UV protection indicated on the product label.

What is the difference between chemical and physical sunscreens?

Chemical sunscreens work like a sponge, absorbing the sun’s rays. They contain one or more of the following active ingredients: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate. These formulations tend to be easier to rub into the skin without leaving a white residue. 

Physical sunscreens work like a shield, sitting sit on the surface of your skin and deflecting the sun’s rays. They contain the active ingredients zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. Opt for this sunscreen if you have sensitive skin.

Is a high-number SPF better than a low-number one?

Dermatologists recommend using a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, which blocks 97 percent of the sun’s rays. Higher-number SPFs block slightly more of the sun’s rays, but no sunscreen can block 100 percent of the sun’s rays. 

It is also important to remember that high-number SPFs last the same amount of time as low-number SPFs. A high-number SPF does not allow you to spend additional time outdoors without reapplication. All sunscreens should be reapplied approximately every two hours when outdoors, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating, according to the directions on the bottle.

Can I use the sunscreen I bought last summer, or do I need to purchase a new bottle each year? Does it lose its strength?

Dermatologists recommend using sunscreen every day when you are outside, not just during the summer. If you are using sunscreen every day and in the correct amount, a bottle should not last long. If you find a bottle of sunscreen that you have not used for some time, here are some guidelines you can follow:

  • The FDA requires that all sunscreens retain their original strength for at least three years.
  • Some sunscreens include an expiration date. If the expiration date has passed, throw out the sunscreen.

Will using sunscreen limit the amount of vitamin D I get?

Using sunscreen may decrease your skin’s production of vitamin D.

  • If you are concerned that you are not getting enough vitamin D, you should discuss your options for getting vitamin D with your doctor.
  • Many people can get the vitamin D they need from foods and/or vitamin supplements. This approach gives you the vitamin D you need without increasing your risk for skin cancer.

I recently heard reports that suggest the FDA is saying many sunscreen ingredients are unsafe. Is this true?

No, but the regulatory language can be confusing. What the FDA has done is issue a proposed rule, which asks manufacturers to provide more data about the safety of several sunscreen ingredients. These sunscreen ingredients have been used in the United States for years.

A recent study by the FDA looked at four sunscreen ingredients and concluded that absorption of these ingredients into the body supported the need for additional safety data. However, the study noted that the data do not conclude that there are any effects on a person’s health and more research would be needed before it that can be determined. Importantly, the study authors stated that individuals should continue to use sunscreen.

 Why is the FDA concerned about these sunscreen ingredients?

The FDA is asking for more safety data to find out the following:

  • To what extent your skin absorbs sunscreen ingredients
  • Whether absorbing sunscreen has any effects on your skin or body

What does the FDA proposed rule say?

This proposal rule classifies sunscreen ingredients.

 The FDA is proposing that two ingredients are “generally recognized as safe and effective” (GRASE). These ingredients are:

  • Titanium dioxide
  • Zinc oxide

 The FDA proposes that two other ingredients are not GRASE:

  • PABA
  • Tolamine salicylate

 Not to worry. You won’t find either of these ingredients in sunscreen legally sold in the United States.

  The FDA is calling for more safety data on the following 12 ingredients before determining whether these ingredients can be classified as GRASE:

  • Ingredients commonly used in the U.S.: ensulizole, octisalate, homosalate, octocrylene, octinoxate, oxybenzone, avobenzone.
  • Ingredients not frequently used in the U.S.: Cinoxate, dioxybenzone, meradimate, padimate O, sulisobenzone.

Should I stop using sunscreens that contain any of the 12 ingredients that the FDA wants more safety data on?

While the FDA is asking for more data, it does not say that the ingredients are unsafe. It does not ask the public to stop using sunscreens that contain any of these ingredients.


Hopefully these FAQ will help you choose the right sunscreen for you.  The following is a list of the products that are available in our office and our on-line store and what I love about each one.  Use  code SUMMER2020 for 15% off 2 or more MGMD sun protection products through May 26, 2020.

You can now purchase Skinbetter products through my portal online.  Visit our on-line store and click on the link to "Enroll to Buy" to purchase Skinbetter products.  Order $250 and receive a FREE Skinbetter Instant Effect Gel EYE until May 31, 2020.

MGMD Sheer Effect SunscreenMGMD® Sheer Effect Sunscreen
Chemical – Free sunscreen great for sensitive and acne prone skin
MGMD Sheer Effects Tinted SunscreenMGMD® Sheer Effect Tinted Sunscreen
This product is beloved by many due to its silky matte finish and Chemical - Free ingredients.  Perfect for daily use, especially when treating skin pigmentation.
MGMD Sheer Effect Sunscreen SprayMGMD® Sheer Effect Sunscreen Spray 

I love this spray.  It’s a pump spray, not aerosol and its Chemical - Free. It is lightweight, non irritating, and easy to rub in.  I use it on my body but can be applied to the face and scalp using your hands.

 MGMD Citrix SunscreenMGMD® Citrix Sun Shield Ultra 
A great choice when you need a bit more moisture and if you will be spending time in the water.  This physical and chemical sunscreen contains powerful antioxidants and is Water Resistant 80 minutes.  I use this when skiing out West and sometimes on my chest layered over the Sheer Effect Spray if I will be in the water. 

SkinBetter sunbetter Tone Smart SPF 68 Sunscreen Compact
Skinbetter sunbetter® TONE SMART SPF 68 Sunscreen Compact
So excited about this new product.  It’s a great addition to the crew.  This handy compact provides a mineral based sunscreen with a hint of color.
SkinBetter sunbetter Tone Smart SPF68 Suncreen Stick
Skinbetter sunbetter® SHEER SPF 56 Sunscreen Stick
Another must-have for those areas that need extra protection like the nose, tops of ear, and the delicate areas below the eyes.

Woman in Sun Protective Clothing

Remember, sunscreen alone cannot fully protect you.

In addition to wearing sunscreen, dermatologists recommend taking the following steps to protect your skin and find skin cancer early:

  • Seek shade when appropriate, remembering that the sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. If your shadow is shorter than you are, seek shade.
  • Dress to protect yourself from the sun by wearing a lightweight long- sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, when possible.
  • Use extra caution near water, snow and sand as they reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of sunburn.
  • Get vitamin D safely through a healthy diet that may include vitamin supplements. Don’t seek the sun.
  • Avoid tanning beds. Ultraviolet light from the sun and tanning beds can cause skin cancer and wrinkling. If you want to look tan, you may wish to use a self- tanning product, but continue to use sunscreen with it.
  • Check your birthday suit on your birthday. If you notice anything changing, itching or bleeding on your skin, see a board-certified dermatologist. Skin cancer is highly treatable when caught early.


Stay Safe 

 Dr. Grodberg



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