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Sunscreen Benefits: 5 Reasons You Should Always Wear It

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I'm always preaching to my family, friends and co-workers the benefits of wearing sunscreen. I've learned so much about sun protection as a beauty editor, but there are an alarming amount of people who brave the UV rays without applying sunblock. (Isn't skin cancer scary enough?)

On my campaign for sunscreen, I've heard just about every excuse as to why it's "okay" to skip it. So I reached out to Dr. Wendy Roberts, a board certified dermatopathologist, to take on the anti-sunscreen argument. Read on for Dr. Roberts' top five reasons why we should all amp up on SPF products, as well as her take on spray-on sunscreens and medications that increase risk of sun burns.

What straight-up advice (or words of caution) can you offer people who never wear sunscreen?

You will regret not having worn sunscreen when you look at your skin compared to friends and family who have worn daily sunscreen 20 years from now.

What are the top five reasons you believe everyone should wear sunscreen?

1. The ozone layer is depleting and your body needs shielding from harmful rays.

2. Skin cancer rates are on the rise and sunscreen has been proven to decrease the development of skin cancer.

3. It helps to prevent facial brown spots and skin discolorations.

4. It also helps to reduce the appearance of facial red veins and blotchiness.

5. It slows down the development of wrinkled, premature aging skin.

What about the need for obtaining vitamin D via the sun?

Most people can fulfill their vitamin D requirements of 600 IU or 15mcg per day with normal daily outdoor activities amounting to five to 30 minutes twice per week. Equally, a healthy vitamin D rich diet of fish, milk, dairy, liver, eggs and vitamin D supplementation provides daily requirements. Prolonged sun exposure gives no extra production of necessary vitamin D, and it exposes the skin to the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation which includes development of skin cancers and photodamage.

There are medications that increase risks of sun burns and damage. How is this?

There are many medications which may make the skin extra susceptible to sun. These include anti-inflammatory, cardiovascular and acne medications. Oral medications Doxycycline and Minocycline used in the treatment of acne may cause skin problems when exposed to direct and prolonged UV. Isotretinoin, popularly called Accutane, is a vitamin A derived medication which may make your skin burn easily. Topical acne products, such as vitamin A derived tretinoin and benzoyl peroxide, may make certain skin types burn easier through photosensitization and irritation, respectively.

Are there any natural sunscreen alternatives that don't leave behind a garish white film from the zinc oxide?

Yes, the newest kids on the sunscreen block are tinted mineralized zinc and titanium oxide formulations which bronze the skin or can be matched to skin color. (Ed. note: MDSolarSciences and EltaMD are two brands that have tinted natural sunscreens.)

What is your expert take on spray-on sunscreens?

Love them! Spray-on sunscreen has an important role in the sun defense arsenal. I specifically like it for the outdoor enthusiast, who needs to reapply every two hours daytime sunlight, and also for people who don't like the feel of lotion on their hands. I counsel these two groups of patients to use a lotion to exposed sites, then in two hours, reapply with sunscreen spray.

Is there harm in using expired sunscreen?

Expired sunscreen has literally fallen apart, so the formulation no longer works as a sun protectant. You get zero sun protection. In addition, you may experience changes in the color and consistency of the product. Skin irritation may occur from an expired product.

Does this convince you to always wear sunscreen?

Protect your hair, feet and everything in between from the UV rays:

Sunscreen Shopping Guide
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