The cold season is at hand, and, as always, our interest in sunscreen goes into a slump, as if the skin-damaging sun rays can’t get to us through the winter sky. But this belief is nothing but true. Medical studies have shown that sun exposure can be more dangerous during the winter season in specific circumstances. As winter is right at our doorstep, we should continue talking about sunscreen use and not just its benefits, but also our concerns surrounding it.
What Are the Benefits of Sunscreen?
What sun exposure does to your skin in your 20s becomes visible as you approach your 40s, although we sometimes associate its effects with the aging process. However, we’re ignoring a key aspect: solar radiation has been piling up on your skin for decades, creating wrinkles, uneven texture or pigmentation and darkened spots. Sun exposure hastens natural aging, little by little.
The purpose of sunscreen is to absorb or reflect the sun’s UV rays, thus protecting your skin from its harmful effects. Prolonged and frequent sun exposure has been closely linked to sunburn, premature aging and even skin cancer.
The main health benefits of sunscreen are:
- It helps prevent sunburns, liver spots and cancer;
- It ensures a proper aging process for the skin.
What Are the Two Types of Sunscreen?
Sunscreen works as a shield between your skin and the sun’s rays by blocking their harmful radiation. There are basically two types of sunscreen, each with different effects and health benefits:
- Chemical sunscreens: Once applied to the skin, they absorb the sun’s radiation and convert it into heat.
- Mineral sunscreens: They reflect a significant part of the sun’s radiation.
How Do We Measure the Effectiveness of Sunscreen?
The effectiveness of particular sunscreen products is measured using the SPF (i.e., sun protection factor). High SPF products are more effective at protecting your skin. A sunscreen of at least 30 SPF will suffice if you’re going for a casual outdoor stroll. However, consider using a higher SPF sunscreen when planning a sunny beach day.
Sunscreen should be a solid part of your skincare routine when going outdoors — there’s no doubt about that. Daily sunscreen usage can prevent severe conditions related to the harmful effects of sun exposure, such as various types of skin cancer.
What Sunscreen Ingredients Should I Avoid?
In later years, a few research papers have cast some doubt concerning the safety of chemical sunscreen. It was discovered that active ingredients such as oxybenzone and octinoxate were absorbed into the body at a higher rate than the FDA-desired limit.
Studies have been inconclusive on whether this absorption poses a health risk. Some have linked excessive oxybenzone to hormonal changes, as well as kidney and thyroid functions. Breastfeeding mothers must be extra careful with sunscreen because research has concluded that oxybenzone can make its way into their breast milk.
Most studies are inconclusive, but one thing is certain: look for sunscreen products with lower levels of oxybenzone. No sunscreen should contain more than 2.2% oxybenzone in its composition.
Besides oxybenzone and octinoxate, there are other ingredients labeled “to be avoided or reduced” by some researchers:
- Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.
Although research disputing the health benefits of chemical sunscreen is inconclusive, people tend to give it credit. For example, people who have used sunscreen regularly rush to mineral sunscreen since there is no evidence mineral sunscreen ingredients get into the bloodstream. One thing to be avoided concerning mineral sunscreen spray products is inhaling them. You don’t want titanium dioxide and zinc oxide in your lungs, as they can harm your respiratory system.
Does Sunscreen Affect Marine Life?
Research has pointed out that some ingredients found in sunscreen may affect marine life. Coral reefs, dolphins, algae and fish might suffer in one way or another from sunscreen ingredients such as oxybenzone, octinoxate and titanium dioxide. Therefore, swimmers are advised to search for a sea-friendly sunscreen product.
Are There Any Benefits of Using Sunscreen in Winter?
Unlike us, the sun doesn’t take a holiday break during winter. As a result, some solar radiation penetrates the clouds and can reach your skin, as the sun’s rays are reflected and intensified by snow. Sunscreen helps block harmful radiation during all seasons, so don’t hesitate to use it regardless of the season.
Should We Use Sunscreen Even at Home?
Consider wearing sunscreen at home, especially if you work near a window through which the sun shines. Studies have shown that people working near a window for prolonged periods have more wrinkles on the exposed side of the face. A lower SPF sunscreen should do the job!
Keep Your Skin Away From The Sun’s Harmful Rays, Even in Winter!
Regularly applied sunscreen can be a lifesaver, as it can prevent malignant skin cancer. Research regarding its safety goes on, and we hope that in a few years, we might have the perfect sunscreen, safe beyond any doubt, both for humans and marine life alike.
Top Doctor Magazine is a magazine from doctors for doctors and patients. We cover everything from cutting-edge medical techniques and procedures to enterprising doctors, dentists, surgeons, naturopaths, chiropaths, orthodontists, and more who are thought leaders within their own medical practice and changing the way we all experience medicine for the better.
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Brianna Connors & Derek Archer Co-Editors