Summer safety: What type of sunscreen should you use?

Posted at 7:07 AM, May 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-27 11:21:56-04

The Friday before Memorial Day is known to skin cancer specialists as "Don't Fry Day," a day to remind the public of the importance of sunscreen.

But with so many activities to do at the beach or pool, how do you know what type of sunscreen is best for you?

There are two different types of sunscreens: physical and chemical.

Physical sunscreens sit on the surface of the skin and act as a shield, reflecting the UV rays.

"Physical sunscreens are known to be completely safe and effective," said Dermatologist Dr. Elizabteh Hale. "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."

Dr. Hale adds that physical sunscreen is less likely to irritate the skin, sometimes making it better for kids.

To tell if your sunscreen is physical, take a look at the back of your bottle. If zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are listed under active ingredients, you have a physical sunscreen.

Chemical sunscreens, on the other hand, use different ingredients and are absorbed into the skin. This means you'll want to apply it 15 to 30 minutes before going outside.

Dermatologists say chemical sunscreens work better with sweat and water. With scientists predicting our hottest summer in recent years, chemical sunscreen may be the best bang for your buck.

While Dr. Hale says chemical sunscreens has gotten bad press in the past, they're safe and effecting.

"Oxybenzone or octinoxate have been associated with damage to coral reefs and some endocrine issues in rodents," she explained. "But for humans, even the chemicals sunscreens have been found to be safe and effective."

Dr. Hale says it doesn't matter which kind you use, as long as the sunscreen is over 30 SPF.

Dermatologists also recommend sun-protective clothing, hats and sunglasses.