Understanding Damage from Sunlight and Advances in Sun Protection - Episode 9

Barriers to Selecting Sunscreens

Susan Taylor, MD, FAAD, discusses how an individual can select a sunscreen as well as barriers to using them.

Susan Taylor, MD, FAAD: There are multiple sunscreen products on the market, and that can be confusing to many of our patients. They go into a pharmacy or a store, and there’s a huge shelf with 5 different tiers, and it’s all full of sunscreen. It’s very difficult for patients to completely understand what to select. It’s really important for dermatologists to guide those patients. No. 1, you want to look for the SPF [sun protection factor] number, SPF 30 or higher, and all sunscreens are required to be labeled with the SPF. We instruct our patients to select a sunscreen that says broad spectrum, so that they will select a product that’s going to protect their skin from the effects of ultraviolet A light. I tell my patients, particularly those with darker skin tones, to look for a sunscreen that either says tinted on the bottle, or it says it contains antioxidants, such as the 5 AOX Shield. There are also sunscreens our patients can select that say they are for oily skin, or dry skin, or hydrating. Patients can select those depending upon their specific skin type. The fact that there are so many sunscreen products on the market can be good. Our patients have choices and they can always find a sunscreen, but it’s bad in that it can be very confusing.

I also explain to my patients that there are 2 categories of sunscreens. There are sunscreens that are chemical free; those are the physical blockers that contain titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Then there are those that contain a variety of chemicals. For patients with sensitive skin, I will guide them toward the physical blockers. Other patients can feel free to select the chemical-containing sunscreens, and sometimes patients are confused about that. I try to instruct patients that those that are physical blockers might leave a white tint on the skin, for example, and therefore, they might choose a chemical sunscreen. Finally, I try to discuss the sunscreen vehicles. Sunscreens can come in creams, lotions, gels, sprays, and liquids. A lot of that selection depends upon the patient’s aesthetic preference for the particular sunscreen.

There are several barriers in regard to sunscreen. One of the barriers is the fact that we are very limited with our sunscreen filters here in the United States compared to other parts of the world. Another barrier that has come into play recently are the costs of sunscreens. We hear so much on the news every day about inflation and the increases in the prices of all products across the board. My concern is that for some of our patient populations, the cost of sunscreens might prevent them from obtaining and using them in the way they should, which is every day.

Thank you for participating in this Dermatology Times® DermView. We hope that you found it very informative, educational, and that it can help to guide your sunscreen suggestions for your patient populations.

Transcript Edited for Clarity