Sunscreen: It is never too late to start a good habit!

Sometimes it is hard to think about what messages I want to convey. So I pictured myself in the patient room with you sitting there… and decided to talk about what I seem to discuss with patients day in and day out.

For example, today I look out the window and it is raining. I realize my facial tinted sunscreen is on ‘rain or shine’. We all really do get ultraviolet exposure (and therefore damage) all day long, through the windows as we are driving or while we’re walking the dog after work.

Wearing sunscreen every day is a habit that I developed in my 20’s and have practiced since. Some people only put sunscreen on when they are at the beach or before playing tennis, etc., but so much of the harmful UV exposure is during the little times when you aren’t even realizing it.

So find a sunscreen that you really like … one that you look forward to putting on, whether it is tinted or not. Even the mineral powders have sunscreens in them. So if you are using a powder, be sure to find out if it does have sunscreen protection in it and how much.

Some patients I talk to use a drugstore product (such as Neutrogena), others use something more high-end (such as Laura Mercier). In the office, we have some sunscreen products by Elta MD that I love! A while back I was interviewed on TV about sunscreens; I talked about how I actually visited stores like Earthsavers and found some sunscreens that I liked.

The key is, like your favorite shampoo, you may have to try some different sunscreen products before you find one that fits all your criteria. It is helpful if the place you are shopping lets you actually try some on or gives you samples to make sure you love it before you buy.

So what do you look for? I personally like ones with the micronized zinc oxide that disappears into my face quickly but also gives me at least a 30 SPF. The American Academy of Dermatology used to recommend a 15 SPF but increased it to a 30 when they realized that few of us put on the amount that we really need for that protection, so it kind of equals a 15!

Also, be careful in that the one you like in the winter may be too moisturizing for you in the summer; you don’t want to break out, do you? It’s OK to have different ones for different climates.
Lastly, the advantages of doing this from an early age are multifold. Your face will be a more even color with less splotchiness from the sun. If you have a problem like melasma, it is really mandatory for you to be diligent about sunscreen. Medically, you should have less of a chance of skin cancers.

Do you feel it is too late to start this now? It is never too late, but this should also be a wake up call to teach your children the basics of skin care.

Many of you know I have a 19-year-old daughter. She loves the fact that she gets certain perks from me ( i.e. laser hair removal, Clarisonic, great cleansers), but my plan is too sit her down soon and talk with her again about sunscreens, as well as start her on a retinoid ( i.e. a variation of Retin A) so that, even though she doesn’t even have acne, she can preserve her beautiful skin!