There are currently 17 active substances approved for use in sunscreens by the FDA. Sunscreens fall into two broad categories, chemical and physical, although most sunscreens on the market are a mix of both.
How does each type of sunscreen work?
Chemical sunscreen absorbs the UV radiation to prevent damage to the skin. The physical sunscreens form a layer on the skin that actually reflect UV radiation. Many sunscreens contain a mixture of both chemical and physical active ingredients.
Which type of sunscreen do I recommend?
Most importantly, I would recommend a sunscreen type that protects against both UVA and UVB radiations. In regards to chemical vs. physical sunscreen, I recommend a physical sunscreen. Some studies show that chemical sunscreen may get into the blood stream when used. Those types of sunscreens I are not my favorite. The two main ingredients in physical blocking sunscreens are zinc and titanium. I prefer both of these sunscreen products, but I would not use titanium on children as it may not be good for them. In short, to be the safest, I would choose a zinc based medical-grade sunscreen.
What does SPF mean?
SPF is the sun protection factor. It is a measure of how long it will take your skin to sunburn in comparison to not wearing sunscreen at all. SPF 30 means it takes 30 times the amount of sun exposure to get a sunburn compared to a person who was not wearing sunscreen.
My name is Jonathan Kulbersh, and I am a facial plastic surgeon in Charlotte, North Carolina. I also have an office in Columbia, South Carolina. I have the best medical grade sunscreens available at my offices.