Unfortunately the message that many people heard this past week is about CHEMICAL sunscreen leading to higher bloodstream absorption of specific chemical ingredients than originally thought. And the public simply does not realize that this does not apply to all sunscreens, specifically it does not apply to PHYSICAL BLOCK MINERAL sunscreens — that are regarded as safe and effective.
PHYSICAL BLOCK sunscreens, like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, are specifically regarded by the FDA as generally safe and effective. The ingredients in the serum-level study, however, are all chemical sunscreens, and some of these are under greater scrutiny – – according to the recent FDA guidance. I have always preferred physical sunscreens for me, my family, and my patients. There is a great deal of literature on the safety and efficacy of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, as well as the fact that they cover a more broad spectrum of UVA sun exposure than the chemical ingredients. And physical sunscreens have definitely become much more cosmetically elegant and rub in very well — no longer looking like lifeguard toothpaste. Physical block sunscreens also have the advantage of working right away, as soon as they are applied to the skin (vs. chemical sunscreens that need about 20 minutes before they are more effective, as they actually work more like a sponge to absorb ultraviolet rays).
Having said that, applying sunscreen in this study amount of 2 mg/cm² to 75% of body surface area is really not consistent with typical sunscreen use among my patients, family, friends — even among my skin cancer patients. If we’re fortunate enough to get patients to embrace sun protection, then they often apply sunscreen at best to their face, neck, and hands (as the more exposed skin) routinely for most activities – – and we recommend that they cover other areas such as the trunk (chest and back) with sun-protective long sleeve shirts, beach rash-guards or long sleeve biking and fishing shirts etc. specifically with UPF rating (ultraviolet protection factor).
PHYSICAL BLOCK SUNSCREENS are what I recommended to my patients, family and friends. And it is what I personally use every day. Remember to reapply sun-BLOCK every 2 hours — and more frequently if sweating, swimming, or toweling off. And don’t forgot to always wear your wide-brim hat as well as UPF long sleeve shirts.