For those with sensitive skin and eczema, choosing a sunscreen can be a daunting process. You know you need it, but what if it makes your skin worse! As we start to prepare for summer, we thought it was a good time to share some tips on choosing a sunscreen.
Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States. We’ve all heard the best way to prevent skin cancer and sun damage is to use sunscreen daily. But let’s be honest if you have eczema it can be challenging to find something that won't cause your eczema to flare. When my son was very young, it was tough to find something that did not irritate his skin. I didn’t know what irritated his skin specifically, so I chose to use sunscreens with fewer ingredients and fragrance. The baby sunscreen in stick form from Neutrogena seemed to work well. But then I learned more about toxic chemicals in sunscreens. I started looking for and testing out mineral-based formulas.
There are two types of sunscreens; chemical based and mineral based. Minerals such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, act as a physical sunblock. They reflect UV rays so they can’t penetrate the skin. We tried many of these mineral-based sunscreens over the years and weren’t happy with how they left us looking pasty white! No one wants to look like a ghost. But the formulations have improved as they’ve reduced the particle sizes of the minerals. Meaning less of a white mess on your skin. There are some great options on the market now.
If a sunscreen is chemical based, you’ll see ingredients such as avobenzone or oxybenzone. These chemicals absorb the UV radiation and break them down instead of physically deflecting UV light as mineral-based sunscreens do. These formulations are what most of us are used to. They rub in well and don’t leave a white sheen. But you may have read these formulations can be more toxic to our systems than using a mineral based sunscreen.
If you are careful about avoiding toxic ingredients in your products check out the approved sunscreen list at the Environmental Working Group website. This website will list each ingredient in the product and its level of toxicity. One sunscreen that rates highly, and has a low toxicity number is the sunscreen from Vanicream Sunscreen. At AD RescueWear we're familiar with Vanicream and Vaniply emollient products for eczema so we may test this one out. When you or your child suffers from eczema, even the lowest risk chemicals may cause a reaction. Even if a product is labeled as mineral based, natural, organic or non-toxic, check the ingredients carefully for any allergens. And always test a small amount on the skin before slathering it all over in case of a reaction. 24 hours is usually the recommended amount of time to see if there is a reaction. My son is allergic to sesame seeds so we make sure sesame seed oil is not in the ingredient list.
Top Tips for Choosing and Using Sunscreen when you have Eczema:
A good place to start is to look for products that carry the National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance®.
Eligible sunscreens must meet the following:
- Mineral based sunscreen ingredients: Titanium Dioxide (TiO2) and Zinc Oxide (ZnO)
- SPF 30 or greater
- “Broad-spectrum” protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays
Other top tips for choosing and using sunscreen:
- Start the day with your usual skincare routine and include your usual emollient.
- Look out for products with fragrance as they may be irritating.
- Check all ingredients to identify any potential allergens.
- Test product for 24 hours before using it all over your skin.
- Wear loose clothing and clothing and hats with UV protection.
- Soothe a sunburn with damp wet wraps.
Most cases of skin cancer are preventable so do your research and don’t forget sunscreen!
This information is not meant to replace a visit to a physician or a physician’s advice. Always consult your doctor about your medical conditions. AD RescueWear does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any condition.