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Summer skin requires extra care and concern to keep it hydrated, nourished and free from sunburn.

By Maria Lambert


It seems that sun worshipping is finally on its way out and sun safety for skin is in. More and more, people are forgoing the coconut and piña colada scented tanning oils for high SPF creams and lotions. But before you reach for that sunscreen, do you really know what you are putting on your skin?

There are two types of sun defense: chemical sunscreens and physical sunblocks. The chemical ones have ingredients like oxybenzone, sulisobenzone, dioxybenzone, menthyl anthranilate and avobenzone. These are chemical blockers that protect against both UVA and UVB radiation. They work by essentially absorbing the rays from the sun and deactivating or degrading the sunlight. The physical sunblocks (also known as mineral sunblocks) use zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, and they also block against UVA and UVB rays; however, they “block” them and cause the waves to reflect off of your skin. Occasionally you can find products that contain both.

While the shelves at your local drugstore are stockpiled with the chemical sunscreens, the physical sunblocks are a bit harder to find. However, dermatologists recommend using the physical ones over the chemical types, and not only because the physical ingredients work better and more effectively. Chemical sunscreens have to be absorbed by the skin to work, which means they are also absorbed into the bloodstream. Physical blockers actually sit atop your skin to work and are not absorbed into your skin, which also means they are less likely to cause a reaction when applied.

Physical sunscreens are essential for children, as they are less likely to have an allergic reaction to it. Also, pregnant women are advised to steer clear of chemical sunscreen (especially those that use oxybenzone) since it is absorbed and can be passed to the fetus. Women who just had facial procedures done are also made to use physical sunscreens to protect the skin after a procedure. “It is especially important to use mineral sunblocks and not chemical ones after a cosmetic procedure,” says Kristy Reynolds, skin care therapist at Dr. Kenneth Odinet’s office. “The chemical sunscreens can be too harsh on sensitive skin.”

A downside to physical sunscreens and a big reason why they aren’t more popular is that they usually are thick and go on opaquely white, giving a ghastly pallor to the user. However many of the newer physical sunscreens address this problem. Dr. Odinet offers two amazing and easy to apply sunblocks from Skinceuticals: Physical UV Defense and Sheer UV Defense. They both dry quickly and leave no residue, are all physical, exceptional for sensitive skins types, and infused with a plankton extract that actually increases the skin’s defenses to UV rays and heat stress.

They also offer La Roche-Posay’s Anthelios line of sunscreens and sunblocks. While the mineral sunblocks have titanium dioxide as a main ingredient and are all physical, the sunscreens use the chemical avobenzone. However, dermatologists say that if you are going to use a chemical sunscreen, avobenzone is the best one as far as safety and wearability go.

For everyday use, women may find it more convenient to opt for a mineral foundation rather than combining a sunscreen and their regular foundation. Coming in liquid or powders, mineral foundations work as a sunblock and are an easy way to make sure your face is always protected from harmful rays while evening out skin tone at the same time. Mineral foundations don’t clog your pores, allow skin to breathe and are nourishing as well.

Coccolare offers the whole Jane Iredale line, which is recommended by dermatologists and skin care professionals. While the liquid mineral foundations are great, a mineral powder sunscreen is a wonder product for women. It allows them coverage of their imperfections while the convenience of a powder lets them freely reapply throughout the day. Jane Iredale has loose mineral foundation powder and pressed powders depending on what you prefer.

Don’t really wear much makeup? Dr. Odinet also carries Glo Minerals. A standout product is their Protecting Powder. It’s a translucent (but also available in a bronzer) sunblock that comes in an easy to use package with an attached brush dispenser.

Many people don’t apply normal sunscreens to their scalp because it’s too greasy, but a nice tip is to sprinkle or pat mineral powder onto parts in the hair or any other exposed areas of your scalp to avoid burns. As a bonus it absorbs excess oil in your hair.

Regardless of what you use as sunblock, it is best to remember the tried and true methods of sun protection: Avoid being in direct sunlight during peak hours, use SPF 30 or higher, cover up when possible, wear sunglasses that block UV rays, wear a hat, and reapply sunblocks every two hours. Doing all of these things will help ensure that you skin stays lovely for years to come.

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