Slow down time with your SPF

June 13, 2012

With the commencement of summertime here, many will flock to the beach, park, or wherever the sun is shining. But do not forget your sunscreen! One of the best, long-term anti-aging precautions to take is to wear sunscreen regularly. The options can often be overwhelming when perusing the aisles of the drugstore to buy sunscreen. Here is a crash-course on the ABCs of what to look for in a sunscreen and on how to get the maximum benefits from its use:


Apply sunscreen at least 15-20 minutes prior to sun-exposure. Why? This gives the active ingredients time to build its protective layer over your skin. Be sure to reapply after swimming or excessive sweating. It is also often recommended to reapply after every two hours, since some sunblocks can begin to lose effectiveness after a while.


Broad-spectrum protection. This means that the sunscreen will protect you from both ultraviolet-A (UVA) and ultraviolet-B (UVB) rays. The FDA only allows sunscreen that provides protection from both rays to be labeled as “Broad-Spectrum Protection” on the packaging.

  • Up to 95% of the radiation reaching the Earth’s surface comes from UVA rays; these are also the same rays used in tanning booths.
  • UVA rays are known as “the aging rays,” due to the fact that they are 30 to 50 times more prevalent than UVB rays. They also cause pigmentation, loss of elasticity, or wrinkling.
    • It is implicated as a cause for melanoma – the deadliest of all skin cancers.
  • UVB rays are considered to be “the burning rays.” It is the main cause of sunburn and reddened skin. Although this burning and reddening result may seem superficial on the surface, it is an important factor in developing skin cancer, especially the basal cell and squamous cell varieties.
  • UVB rays are the most intense between the hours of 10am and 4pm, so make sure to wear protective especially during these peak hours.


Chemicals? Sunscreens with primarily chemical active ingredients occasionally cause skin irritation or rashes. For those with sensitive skin, look for sunscreens with physically active ingredients such as zinc oxide and titanium oxide. They both offer broad-spectrum protection and are gentle on sensitive skin. When choosing sunscreens, our recommendations are to look for at least 9% zinc oxide (physical), along with either 7% titanium dioxide (physical) or 7.5% octinoxate (chemical block) as active ingredients. Physical blockers work by scattering the UV radiation before it reaches your skin; chemical blockers absorb the energy of UV radiation before it affects your skin.

Below is a list of active ingredients approved and recommended by the FDA. Our office also offers EltaMDsunscreen, which offers many of the guidelines recommended for optimal sun protection. We’ve chosen to carry products that have physical blocker-based ingredients as opposed to chemical in order to achieve better broad-spectrum protection. If you have any questions about how to take care of your skin in these summer months, we are just a phone call or email away.

FDA-approved sunscreens

Active Ingredient/UV Filter Name Range Covered
UVA1: 340-400 nm
UVA2: 320-340 nm
UVB: 290-320 nm
Chemical Absorbers:
Aminobenzoic acid (PABA) UVB
Avobenzone UVA1
Cinoxate UVB
Dioxybenzone UVB, UVA2
Ecamsule (Mexoryl SX) UVA2
Ensulizole (Phenylbenzimiazole Sulfonic Acid) UVB
Homosalate UVB
Meradimate (Menthyl Anthranilate) UVA2
Octocrylene UVB
Octinoxate (Octyl Methoxycinnamate) UVB
Octisalate ( Octyl Salicylate) UVB
Oxybenzone UVB, UVA2
Padimate O UVB
Sulisobenzone UVB, UVA2
Trolamine Salicylate UVB
Physical Filters:
Titanium Dioxide UVB, UVA2
Zinc Oxide UVB,UVA2, UVA1