Ask Savvy Derm Diva – May 2023

Dear Savvy Derm Diva,
I wear an SPF 100 and continue to get a sunburn! What am I doing wrong?
Sunscreen Help Needed, Tom S.

Dear Sunscreen Help Needed,
I am so happy you asked this question, as it is Skin Cancer Awareness Month and a great time to remind people how to prevent sunburns, as it can increase your chance of getting skin cancer. Anytime you use sunscreen, please make sure it is a broad spectrum to protect you from UVB and UVA rays. When choosing one, it is best to use an SPF of 30 or higher, but the critical part is to reapply the sunscreen every 1-2 hours or after sweating or swimming; many people fail and get sunburned. If it is difficult for you to reapply, I suggest you get UPF protective clothing. My favorite and best-quality brand is Coolibar!

Diva Tip: Make sure you always get your annual skin exams with a Board Certified Dermatologist or their Dermatology PA or NP as getting at least 5 sunburns can double your risk of developing a melanoma. More information about sunburns can be found at The Skin Cancer Foundation.

Dear Savvy Derm Diva,
Please tell me the difference between a Chemical and Physical Sunscreen.
Seeking Clarification, Anna M.

Dear Seeking Clarification,
There is much confusion about these two types of sunscreens on the market and I always tell my patients either is amazing as long as you use it every day and reapply every 1-2 hours or after swimming or sweating.

Chemical Sunscreen: These specialized formulations will absorb or scatter UV rays to prevent you from getting a sunburn or other damage caused by UV radiation. Look for Avobenzone, Octinoxate, Oxybenzone to name a few. Typically they are more cosmetically friendly as they do not leave a white cast like many physical sunscreens can (see below). However, there has been much controversy about the use of these being absorbed into the body and causing hormonal disruptions along with not being friendly to the environment by affecting coral reefs across the world. Several states have banned some chemical ingredients altogether. Stay tuned for a deeper dive regarding the safety of these in next months “Ask Savvy Derm Diva” Column!

Physical Sunscreen: These, honestly, are my personal favorite as they reflect the UV rays and prevent them from penetrating into the skin in the first place. They are, however, not transparent, meaning they can leave a white cast which is not conducive to darker skin tones. There are newer formulations with microspheres to allow a more cosmetically friendly use for all skin tones. Look for Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide as ingredients.

 Diva Tip:  If you have sensitive skin opt for a physical sunscreen as the ingredients in chemical sunscreens have been known to cause irritation, exacerbate eczema or cause allergic reactions to the skin. Check out the Savvy Derm Diva Amazon Page for some of my FAVES!

Renata Block, MMS, PA-C, is the creator of Savvy Derm Diva, an online resource for proper skincare. Ask Savvy Derm Diva is a monthly column answering your skincare-related concerns! Make sure you follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter! You can make an appointment with her via TeleMedicine or in person at Advanced Dermatology & Aesthetic Medicine, LLC, or TEXT to 847-802-9667.