Sunscreen: How UV-Blocking Lotions Protect Skin From Cancer; What Ingredients To Look For

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This question originally appeared on Quora. Answer by Tatiana Aynbinder. 

Sunscreen absolutely helps your skin!

To break it down, I will provide the latest active ingredients that should be in an effective sunscreen. That said, every individual’s skin type is unique from oily to dry and sensitive. The best sunscreen brands address these different skin types with ideal sunscreens that will match your skin concerns while maintaining the right active ingredients to work as an effective full broad physical sunscreen.

It is important to note that there are different types of harmful UV rays and the best sunscreens protect your skin from them. The sun produces different wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation. As the wavelength increases (meaning it is longer), the energy of the radiation weakens, however, the longer the wavelength, the deeper into the skin it penetrates. A good sunscreen protects against both shorter UVB rays that have more energy that gets absorbed into the skin, whereas, longer UVA rays although having less energy are longer wavelengths and can penetrate deeper into the skin. Therefore this is a reason why wearing a trusted full broad spectrum daily sunscreen is important, to help protect our skin from the different variety of harmful UV wavelengths that penetrate our skin and cause different types of harm to our skin.

There is now also more discussion and studies bringing to light the negative impact of infrared ray, or IR, and making sure that your sunscreen also protects from IR. The more recent acknowledgment of this new set of rays has been building evidence-based research into the damaging effects of harmful IR waves. Like the other harmful UV rays these rays can also cause melasma, blotchiness, uneven skin tone, and promotes the breakdown of collagen/elastin, while also leading to possible skin cancer.

In conclusion, these are the essential ingredients to look for in a good sunscreen. It is important to wear physical blockers like zinc, iron oxide, and titanium, as well as antioxidants.

Some sunscreens are now specially formulated with IR protection in mind and that include physical blockers as well as antioxidants. The addition of antioxidants with physical blockers prevents extensive UV spectrum damage to protect the skin better from harmful UV rays and their effects on your skin. Some dermatologist prefers mineral physical protectors over antioxidants for IR protection, because they protect against a much broader wavelength. However, as long as you are wearing a sunscreen with physical blockers that also reflect IR and help block their penetration into the skin is an excellent first method of protection. Adding antioxidants before applying your sunscreen further, contributes to increasing the prevention of free environmental radicals. In conclusion, wearing a full broad spectrum physical sunscreen SPF 30 and above that includes zinc and titanium dioxide is the ideal type of sunscreen to apply daily rain or shine.

I hope that this answer helps to answer your question

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