Which Sunscreen Should You Be Using?Jul 23, 2014
Interviewer: All sunscreens are not created equal. There are actually some that are better than others. We're going to find out more about that next on The Scope.
Announcer: Medical news and research from University Utah physicians and specialists you can use for a happier and healthier life, you're listening to The Scope. Dr. Doug Grossman is an expert in early diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer at Huntsman Cancer Institute. All sunscreens are not created equal and I think I'm a little stressed out because I don't think I'm using the right sunscreen. Let's talk about that for a second. From my understanding, there are two different kinds of sunscreens.
Dr. Doug Grossman: Right, well we'll get to that. There are actually a variety of products. A lot of patients like the sprays because they're easy to apply. The problem is you don't get enough of the material on the skin and so I also worry about if you're spraying a lot and inhaling.
Interviewer: I know. I was at the pool the other day and somebody was spraying and I was getting more in my lungs. My lungs were not sunburned after that.
Dr. Doug Grossman: Right and some of these that have alcohol could also potentially be flammable, so that could be a risk as well. So I don't like the spray-ons. I do like the lotions that can be applied and as you indicated there are two basic types. The first are the mineral containing products that have either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide and these work as a physical UV blocker. The UV rays just bounce of these minerals and they stay on the skin, so they're very long lasting.
Interviewer: So kind of like a mirror?
Dr. Doug Grossman: Yeah and they block the entire UV spectrum. The other class of products which tend to be more popular because they tend to be less expensive and not leave as much of a white-ish residue on the skin are the chemical sunscreens and these work by absorbing the highest energy UV rays, so they prevent sunburn but some of the lower energy rays still get through and cause damage and they work again by absorbing so one they get saturated, then they loose their effectiveness, so they wear off very quickly, so you have to keep reapplying them.
Interviewer: So that's why you have to keep reapplying? So it's like if I tried to mix a lot of salt into water, eventually it can't absorb anymore. Is that kind of like the same thing?
Dr. Doug Grossman: Yeah.
Interviewer: Interesting. So if I don't know what kind of sunscreen I have, likely I have the chemical kind.
Dr. Doug Grossman: Yeah, most products in stores are the chemical base. There are a few products that contain the minerals that I recommend. My favorite product is Blue Lizard, it contain 15% zinc and titanium dioxide. I think that has the highest concentration of any product that I've found. It's made in Australia where they have the highest rates of skin cancer and it goes on a little white, but then it turns clear and I find that to be the most effective. There are several other products, Vanicream that has these sun blockers as well. And I know this from personal experience, these are the products that I use and I don't have any financial interests in these products?
Interviewer: You don't have stock, huh?
Dr. Doug Grossman: Correct.
Interviewer: I find that fascinating that the Blue Lizard that you talked about is from Australia where they have the highest incidences of skin cancer, so obviously they know what they're doing I guess.
Dr. Doug Grossman: I think so.
Interviewer: Yeah, so the other advantage to this from what I understand is you don't have to apply it as much either. It's like once on and you're good.
Dr. Doug Grossman: Right. Unless you're perspiring a lot and the skins getting wet and you're toweling it off, it stays on the skin and so you don't have to apply it nearly as often as the chemical based products.
Interviewer: So at the end of the day, these mineral based products may be a little bit more expensive, but you think they're well worth it.
Dr. Doug Grossman: Right, they definitely are more expensive, but you get what you pay for.
Interviewer: We're your daily dose of science, conversation, medicine. This is The Scope. University of Utah Health Sciences Radio.