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Summer’s approaching, and you probably know that when you’re out on the beach or beside the pool, you’ll need to be slathered in sunscreen. Here’s what you may not know: you also need sunblock when you’re not out on the beach, even when it’s not summer. Taking good care of your skin means wearing sun protection every single day, any time you step outside. Do you know what kind of sunscreen you should be wearing?

When sunscreens advertise broad-spectrum coverage, that means they protect against both UVA and UVB rays. They accomplish this by using chemical ingredients to absorb the ultraviolet rays and keep them from penetrating your skin and physical active ingredients to deflect the sun by sitting on the surface of the skin. While physical sunscreen used to make white stripes on your skin, there are sunscreens today that contain a form of zinc oxide so fine that it leaves no residue on the surface of your skin.

In addition to zinc oxide, titanium dioxide is a physical active ingredient often used in sunscreen. These two mineral ingredients don’t tend to have the same level of toxicity as chemical ingredients, in part because they don’t penetrate the skin. In terms of environmental impact, physical sunscreen is safer than chemical. Both zinc oxide and titanium dioxide guard against UVA and UVB rays, but zinc oxide provides more complete protection.

The chemical active ingredients in sunscreen include oxybenzone, avobenzone, homosalate, octocrylene, octisalate, and octinoxate. Studies indicate that oxybenzone can irritate skin and may disrupt natural hormone production. Unfortunately, most chemical sunscreen ingredients carry some risk of hormone disruption or skin allergy. The Environmental Working Group ranks avobenzone highest among chemical ingredients, because it doesn’t penetrate the skin very much, hasn’t been shown to interfere with hormone production, and offers the best protection of all the chemical ingredients. It’s best to avoid oxybenzone and octinoxate, not just because they can negatively impact your health, but also because they can have a dangerous effect on the environment.

Sunscreens come in different levels of sun protection factor, commonly called SPF. With an SPF of 15, for instance, it will take your skin 15 times longer to burn than if you weren’t wearing sunscreen at all. People with fair skin or a family history of skin cancer should wear sunscreen with a high SPF, as should those who spend extended amounts of time outside. It’s important to reapply sunscreen, especially if you’ve been swimming or sweating.

Wearing sunscreen can protect your skin, but if you’re showing signs of skin damage, it’s smart to see a Board-Certified dermatologist. For over 40 years, the Board-Certified dermatologists at Arlington Dermatology have been serving patients, making the health and welfare of our patients our top priority. We offer innovative methods of treatment, using state of the art medical equipment, in our conveniently located, patient-friendly facility in Rolling Meadows, Illinois. For more information, contact us through our website or call 847-392-5440.

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