This Friday before Memorial Day is known as "Don't Fry Day." Skin cancer experts want to raise awareness about sun safety because skin cancer is so common in the U.S. and cases are increasing.
Sunscreen is one tool to protect against skin cancer and premature skin aging. But picking a sunscreen can be a challenge with so many options available.
The first main type of sunscreen is mineral or physical sunscreen with ingredients including zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. They sit on the surface of the skin and reflect UV rays. "Physical sunscreens are known to be completely safe and effective, but sometimes they can be less pleasing to apply to the skin, especially in people with darker skin types because they might be a little harder to rub in," says New York City dermatologist Dr. Elizabeth Hale.
The other type of sunscreen is chemical. Dr. Hale says some ingredients in chemical sunscreens get bad press. "Recently some of these ingredients have come under bad press because some of them, most notably oxybenzone or octinoxate, have been associated with damage to coral reefs and some endocrine issues in rodents. But for humans, even the chemical sunscreens have been found to be safe and effective," she says.
The skin needs to absorb chemical sunscreens, so apply and wait 15 to 30 minutes before heading outside.
Physical sunscreens work right away. "For children, I often recommend physical sunscreen ingredients because they can be less irritating, and they are safe and effective on all skin types," Dr. Hale says.
Dr. Hale adds chemical sunscreens work better with sweat and water. So, if a child is outside swimming and sweating all day, you may want to choose a chemical sunscreen. And remember sun-protective clothing, hats and sunglasses.
The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends using a water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher if you are going to get extended sun exposure like at the beach or working outdoors. Be sure to reapply every two hours or after swimming or sweating.