Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, affecting one in five Americans in their lifetime. Yet most cases of skin cancer can be prevented by protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. The best way to do this is by seeking shade, wearing protective clothing, and applying a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. However, if you’ve recently perused the sunscreen options at your local store, you may feel overwhelmed by the number of options available. Specifically, there has been a rise in sunscreen options labeled as “physical” over the last few years. So, what does “physical sunscreen” mean and how is it different from other types of sunscreen?
Also known as “mineral sunscreen,” this sunscreen sits on top of your skin and works like a shield to physically deflect the sun’s rays. It will contain the active ingredients zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide which can sometimes create a visible white cast on top of skin. Physical sunscreens can be a better option for those with sensitive skin as they are less likely to clog pores or cause allergic irritation.
Chemical sunscreens work as a sponge, absorbing the sun’s rays. Look for one or more of the following active ingredients: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate. This formulation tends to be easier to rub into the skin without leaving a white residue.
Is one better than the other?
Neither option is considered “better” or more protective than the other, it’s really up to personal preference. We say the best sunscreen is the one you will actually use! As long as it’s broad-spectrum, water-resistant and has an SPF 30 or higher, it can effectively protect you from the sun. Be sure to reapply every two hours, or after swimming or sweating.
Dermatologist Recommended Options
Take the guesswork out of selecting a sunscreen that meets AAD standards and will work well for your skin type by asking your physician for a recommendation the next time you come in for an appointment. We carry a variety of dermatologist-recommended formulations from brands like Revision Skincare, Coola Suncare, and ISDIN that will meet your needs.
Savannah River Dermatology is located at 575 Furys Ferry Rd in Augusta, Ga. For appointments, product availability or other questions, our office can be reached at 706-691-7079.