Sunscreens prevent the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays from damaging skin. These rays can cause sunburn and accelerate the growth of skin cancer cells, so it’s important to protect yourself from too much UV exposure. But what does the science behind sunscreen actually tell us? And how do the different ingredients in sunscreens work to protect our skin? Read on to learn more about this important topic in our article The Science Behind Sunscreen: Importance and Recommendations. The scientific community generally agrees that excessive sun exposure damages the body’s skin by causing wrinkling, redness and dark spots called lentigos. It also increases the risk of skin cancer by damage to DNA in skin cells.
Sunscreens are one of the best ways to minimize this damage. Sunscreens combine various ingredients to help stop the absorption of UV radiation from the skin, including chemical absorbers and physical blockers. Chemical sunscreens are typically aromatic compounds that contain a carbonyl group and absorb high-intensity UVA radiation by excitation to a higher energy state, then return to a lower energy state when exposed to the sun. They can be formulated to provide broad-spectrum coverage and come in different textures, such as lotions or gels. They can be white or greasy and may need to be rubbed in vigorously for proper adherence. Physical sunscreens are primarily mineral compounds, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, that reflect or scatter UV radiation.
They tend to be clear and easy to apply, but they can be greasy or have a strong smell. Both types are able to offer protection against UVA and UVB rays. Some research on sunscreens, mostly done in test tubes and lab animals, has raised concerns that minute amounts of some chemical sunscreens are absorbed into the bloodstream. In particular, oxybenzone has been shown to affect sex hormones and cause allergic reactions in some people. It’s also been suggested that the over-use of chemical sunscreens can lead to a vitamin D deficiency, which is linked to heart disease and osteoporosis. However, the vast majority of research has shown that sunscreens do not deplete vitamin D levels in healthy people. Aside from the potential vitamin D deficiency, there is little evidence that sunscreens prevent most skin cancers.
While it is clear that sunscreens can prevent sunburn, squamous cell and basal cell carcinomas, more research is needed to see if they also prevent melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer. In the meantime, it is recommended that people wear sunscreens when they will be spending long periods of time in the sun and reapply them frequently, especially after swimming or perspiring. If you have any questions or concerns about sunscreen, talk to your doctor or dermatologist. They can help you choose the right sunscreen for your needs. They can also give you safe and appropriate guidelines for daily use. Sunscreen should be applied in the morning before going outside, and reapplied often throughout the day, especially after sweating or toweling off.