In recent years, the American Academy of Dermatology has been educating Americans about the risks of skin cancer and the need for sun protection. This year the FDA has changed the guidelines related to claims made on sunscreen packaging. We know it’s important to limit our time in the sun (avoid peak hours 10am-2pm), to cover up, and to use protection when we are in the sun, preferably year-round. As a result of this information, sun protection products are flying off supermarket and pharmacy shelves as people purchase sun protection to keep safe in the sun.
A question that we get at the pharmacy is, “What is the difference between sunblock and sunscreen?”
There is a difference. Sunblock or physical sunscreen contains ingredients that reflect and scatter the UV light and acts as a barrier on the skin. They are opaque in color, are FDA approved and are less irritating to the skin. The main ingredients are Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide. Also, physical sunscreens do not cause free radical formation. Examples of physical sunscreens include Badger, Blue Lizard and Vanicream. Certain national brands also offer these now such as Neutrogena and Coppertone to name a few.
Sunscreen or chemical sunscreen, on the other hand, contains chemicals that protect the skin by absorbing UV rays. Broad spectrum sunscreens protect against UVA and UVB rays. Look for Avobenzone as an active ingredient in quality chemical sunscreen products. Chemical sunscreens tend to be more irritating to the skin and generate free radicals which make your skin wrinkle and age.
Should you get too much sun, there are a number of over-the-counter remedies to alleviate sunburn pain and promote healing. Keep the skin moist with cool compresses. Apply aloe vera, lavender water or moisturizer to the skin to replenish moisture. These treatments will minimize peeling and promote quicker healing. If you are really suffering, take an ant-inflamatory such as Advil to reduce swelling and pain. Avoid picking at peeling or blistered skin.