In this day and age sun protection is no joking matter and not all sunscreens are created equally. Lamentably, there are a lot of misconceptions regarding proper prevention of UV damage which is why it is still the leading cause of skin cancer and premature aging today. Studies show that if our skin never saw the sun we would look the same at age 50 as we did at age 25, albeit quite pale and with a serious vitamin D deficiency.
The effects of UV damage or both instant and insidiously cumulative as it can take years for the true damage to manifest itself. Most sun damage can be broken down into 2 categories; UVB rays cause sunburn which leads to redness, peeling and irritation that will fade after a few days, UVA rays are 40 times more intensive than UVB rays and are strong enough to penetrate heavy cloud cover without losing their intensity. That means for every 1 UVB ray that hits your skin you are getting 40 UVA rays which are doing far more damage without necessarily causing sunburn but they are damaging your cells ability to efficiently and accurately replicate themselves.
The same rule applies to both these forms of environmental damage and that is that it is far easier to prevent them than it is to repair them. Now I’m a huge fan of Elta MD’s line of sunscreens and daily moisturizers. Granted their formulations are a bit more clinical than I’d usually prefer but their formulations are ultra-gentle which is a major plus if you have sensitive skin like me. I recently found myself trying to decide which sunscreens to take with me on my annual trip to the Las Vegas Star Trek Convention and decided to take several different kinds to see which Elta MD Sunscreen worked best for certain activities.
I arrived a day early for the convention at The Rio All-Suites Hotel and decided to give the Elta MD UV Sport Broad-Spectrum SPF 50 for an afternoon spent by the pool. The formulation is a combination of both physical and chemical sunscreens utilizing mineral-based zinc oxide to deflect a wider range of harmful UV rays away from the skin while chemical-based octinoxate and octisalate act as an ablative buffer against a narrower and more intensive band of the UV spectrum. After about 3 hours with one dip in the pool and immediate reapplication afterward I left the pool area with only some light redness on my chest and stomach which was gone by the next day.
I returned a couple days later to try out the Elta MD UV Pure Broad-Spectrum SPF 47 which features pure mineral zinc and titanium dioxides in a higher concentration. Micronized zinc in higher concentrations tends to leave behind a white cast to your skin because that is it’s natural color. The description indicates that the texture is lightweight and water-resistant but I would daresay that this particular formulation is water-defiant. One coat left a visible white sheen on my medium-toned skin thought 3 hours of sunbathing and two dips in the pool with no reapplications. In fact I had to take soap and some Carol’s Daughter Sugar Scrub to my skin to get all of it off and was left with a really decent tan with no sunburn whatsoever.
So if you are going to be lounging by the pool, gardening or running errands I would recommend the hybrid protection of the UV Sport Broad-Spectrum SPF 50 with regular reapplication. If you are more concerned with UV damage or engaging in physically intensive outdoor activities like hiking, sports or volleyball I would recommend the much more resilient UV Pure Broad-Spectrum SPF 47 as it provides the most powerful and lasting protection.