The Benefits of Sunscreen

Dr. Dan Siegel NYC Dermatologist Mohs Surgeon

By Daniel Siegel, MD

Smithtown, New York 11787

Physician (MD, DO), Dermatology


Before you slip over to the beach to catch up on your tan this summer, don’t forget to slop on the sunscreen.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) wants to remind people that sunscreen remains a safe and effective form of sun protection. Remember that protecting yourself from sun exposure is the best way to prevent skin cancer and premature aging of the skin, such as unwanted wrinkles and age spots.

Dr. Daniel Siegel, Past President of the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), shared a few helpful suggestions for how to reduce sun exposure.  He recommends “generously applying a water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen— that protects against both types of ultraviolet radiation (UVA and UVB) — with an SPF 30 or higher, in conjunction with other sun-safe practices such as limiting sun exposure, seeking shade, and wearing sun-protective clothing, hats and sunglasses.”

But what about vitamin D? Many people worry that sunscreen will block vitalizing vitamin D from being absorbed. Even though sun exposure stimulates the production of vitamin D in the skin, there are many other, safer ways to get the vitamin without putting yourself in harm’s way. Dr. Siegel recommends that individuals who are concerned about their vitamin D intake “should discuss obtaining sufficient vitamin D from foods and/or vitamin supplements with their doctor.”

Dr. Siegel provided his expert opinion about sunscreen ingredients, particularly those that have received attention in the press.

1) Oxybenzone  is one of the few FDA-approved ingredients that provides effective broad-spectrum protection from UV radiation. Although there has been some concern mentioned in the press about possible long-term side effects from using sunscreens with oxybenzone, Dr. Siegel pointed out that “peer-reviewed scientific literature (available to date) and regulatory assessments from national and international bodies do not support a link between oxybenzone in sunscreen and hormonal alterations, or other significant health issues in humans. He added that “the FDA has approved oxybenzone in sunscreen for use on children older than 6 months.”

2) Retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A (retinol), is used as an ingredient in some sunscreens as an antioxidant to prevent degradation of the product and maintain efficacy. There has been recent attention about possible side effects from retinyl as a result of in vitro (test tube) studies and one unpublished report using mice. However, Dr. Siegel stated that“there is no published evidence to suggest either increase the risk of skin cancer in these patients. In fact, oral retinoids are used to prevent skin cancers in high-risk patients.”

3) Nanotechnology is being explored as a means to give sunscreen greater broad spectrum protection from UVA and UVB rays. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide tend to leave a white residue on the skin when used in a regular formulation that contains large particles. When these ingredients are converted into  smaller molecules, nanoparticles, they appear to vanish on the skin, do not leave a residue, and retain and enhance their ability to block UVA and UVB light. “Considerable research on the use of nanoparticles on healthy, undamaged skin has shown that the stratum corneum — the outermost layer of the skin — is an effective barrier to preventing the entry of nanoparticles into the deeper layers of the skin.  Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide have a long history of safe use in sunscreens and offer good options for broad-spectrum UV protection.”

Everyone wants to have a fun and safe summer. By adding sunscreen to your daily routine, like brushing your teeth and washing your hands, the small step can have a big payoff and add years to your life down the line.