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Health Team

Sunscreen critical to avoid skin damage

Posted July 24, 2015

The right sunscreen, used in the right way, can help reduce the chances of skin cancer. However, some people find they are allergic to the ingredients.

WRAL Health Team’s Dr. Allen Mask says there’s still hope for people with sensitive skin.

There are hundreds of different brands of sunscreens designed to protect the skin from harmful UV rays. Some are called physical blockers, because zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in the lotion creates a shield on the skin.

“It would be quite unusual for someone to be either irritated, or have an allergic reaction to either one of those physical sunscreen ingredients,” dermatologist Dr. Allison Divers said.

Divers said a second type of sunscreen may cause an allergic skin reaction for some people. They’re called chemical absorbers; they contain elements that absorb UVA and UVB rays.

“There's a lot of them,” Divers said. “There's oxibenzone, octocrylene ... I mean, the list if very long.”

Divers said he has seen patients with allergic skin reactions to chemical sunscreens, but he’s never had anybody who can’t use a physical sunscreen.

There are many risks associated with not using sunscreen, including sunburn, premature aging, sun spots and skin cancer.

Mask said the best advice is to find a sunscreen that works best for you, one that doesn't cause an allergic contact reaction.

“Even if I don't think it's the number one out there, if that's the only one I can get you to put on your face and put on elsewhere, then fine, use it,” Divers said. “Because if it means that you aren't going to otherwise wear it then anything is better than nothing.”

Mask said another option to protect yourself from the sun’s rays is to avoid being out in the sun during peak hours—between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

If you must be outdoors for extended periods of time, wear UV protective clothing, broad brimmed hats and UV protective sunglasses, he said.

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