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Your Dermatologist is Not Using the Same Sunscreen as You, and Here's Why:


Many of you are aware of the benefits of sunscreen and there are many. For those of you who are fair skinned and sunburn easily, sunscreen can decrease your risk of skin cancer. For those with more pigmented skin, sunscreen is unlikely to alter your risk of skin cancer (most skin cancers in brown skin are not a result of sun exposure), but can help your skin age gracefully and minimize skin discoloration.


There are a plethora of sunscreen ingredients and they can usually be divided into two groups: Chemical and physical. Chemical sunscreens are popular in almost all skin types because they can be rubbed in easily and do not leave a white cast on the face. Physical sunscreens often provide better protection but historically have not rubbed into the skin well. The most well known physical blocking agents are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Well here's the secret: most of your favorite dermatologists are sticking to sunscreens containing physical blockers only.


Why?


Well in late 2019, the FDA announced that it had concluded multiple studies which showed that chemical sunscreen ingredients are absorbed into the bloodstream at high levels. As background, typically, when active ingredients are present in the bloodstream at a certain amount, the FDA will require safety studies to make sure these ingredients are not harmful. The following ingredients all surpassed the threshold in the bloodstream for safety studies : Octinoxate, Avobenzone, Octisalate, Oxybenzone, Octocrylene and Homosalate. These ingredients are the most common ingredients found in sunscreen. The FDA has requested additional safety studies because to date, very little is known about them.

Oxybenzone has been shown to act as an endocrine disrupter when given in very large doses to mice in studies but data is inconclusive as to whether it causes the same issues in humans. However, in 2021, several aerosol sunscreens were found to contain benzene, a carcinogen, some (but not all) of which were removed from the market. These sunscreens typically contain chemical ingredients as well.


So what can you do about it? For one, stick to sunscreens in the lotion or cream form. These tend to provide better coverage than spray sunscreens anyway. Two, try to stick to sunscreens containing titanium dioxide or zinc oxide only.


I hear the groan already. Don't worry, you don't think I would end this post without recommendations do you? This list below contains pigmented physical sunscreens in lotion, cream and powder versions. This is different than your run of the mill TINTED sunscreens, which, for the record, pretty much look terrible on everyone (sorry sunscreen companies!). Instead, these products usually contain 3-4 different skin tones that generally blend well with about 85% or more of the population. Check out the list below for a few of my favorite physical sunscreens that look good on ALL skin types



Powder sunscreens are great because they are less likely to leave that dreaded white cast that makes you look like a ghost. Colorscience and Supergoop both have great options. These tend to be more expensive than other sunscreens but are a great option for the summer, especially if you notice that your skin gets oily easily.











Dr. Dennis Gross Instant Radiance comes in two pigmented colors that cover a broad swath of the population and are more color matched than typical tinted sunscreens. This is a great option for the wintertime when you want sunscreen to give your face a little bit of a glow








Neutrogena Purescreen-This is probably my favorite sunscreen at the moment. Neutrogena just released an affordable sunscreen with four colors, retailing for less than $20. This sunscreen is very moisturizing and gives off a little glow as well. It comes in four colors: Light, Medium, Medium Deep, & Deep covering most skin tones.

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