FAQs on sunscreen
Below, our dermatologist experts answered some common questions on sunscreen use and ingredients to look for, based on your skin type.
What is the difference between mineral and chemical sunscreen?
“Mineral sunscreens typically contain
oxide or titanium dioxide and physically block UV rays by reflecting them away from the skin, while chemical sunscreens, containing ingredients such as avobenzone, octisalate, and octocrylene, work by absorbing UV rays, converting them into heat, and then releasing the heat from the skin,” Dr. Garshick explained.
But both are considered safe and effective options for protecting the skin against UV rays, she added.
The other major difference between the two is that chemical sunscreens can be absorbed into the bloodstream. However, it does not necessarily mean these ingredients are unsafe or that the absorbed quantity is enough to cause any problems or concerns, Dr. Garshick pointed out. The FDA is continuing to look into this, but until we have research that shows these ingredients in this amount are harmful to humans, the FDA (and all our experts here) still recommend using whichever type of sunscreen you like most.
What consistency is best for a mineral sunscreen?
“The best sunscreen consistency is the one that feels good on your skin,” Dr. Garshick said. “Those with oily or acne-prone skin may opt for a gel consistency, while those with dry or sensitive skin may prefer a lotion or cream. Those with darker skin types may prefer a lightweight lotion that absorbs easily without leaving a white cast.”
How do I know if a sunscreen is “reef safe?”
According to the National Ocean Service, some sunscreen chemicals threaten marine life, ocean reefs, and the overall ecosystem, simply because humans engage in water-related activities.
“The term reef-safe doesn’t actually have an agreed-upon definition and more research and formal testing requirements would be needed to truly determine what is considered reef safe,” Dr. Garshick said.
Typically, sunscreens formulated without oxybenzone or octinoxate are labeled as reef-safe, she added.
How do I know if sunscreen is vegan?
“Vegan sunscreens refer to sunscreens that don’t contain animal products and aren’t tested on animals,” Dr. Garshick said. “Some ingredients that may be found in non-vegan sunscreens include beeswax, lanolin, stearic acid, and more.”
What sunscreen should I look for if I have acne-prone skin?
Dr. Garshick recommends looking for a non-comedogenic sunscreen to ensure that the formula won’t clog your pores, thus worsening the condition.
Can I use mineral sunscreen with prescribed acne or facial medications?
“It is especially important for those with acne to wear sunscreen,” Dr. Garshick said. Some acne treatments can make you more sensitive to the sun, plus sunscreen can help to prevent and reduce the dark marks or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation that can go along with breakouts, she added.
Moreover, some sunscreens may also be formulated with calming or soothing ingredients, like niacinamide which can help to reduce redness and blemishes.
What sunscreen should I look for if I have dry skin?
For dry skin, Dr. Garshick recommends looking for hyaluronic acid, an ingredient known for its hydrating properties. This will nourish and protect your skin from the sun.
What sunscreen should I look for if I have oily skin?
For oily skin, Dr. Garshick recommends looking for an oil-skin sunscreen to prevent clogged pores.
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