What to Look for in a Sunscreen for Dry Skin

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Updated: 05/25/2021

Summary:

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, 1 in 5 Americans will develop a skin cancer in their lifetime1. Intermittent sun exposure in childhood and during adolescence may increase risk of skin cancer 1. Even one blistering sunburn during childhood can nearly double a person’s chance of developing a melanoma later in life1. These are all reasons as to why daily sunscreen use and diligent sun protection is essential to prevent skin cancer and early skin aging.

Sunscreen may also serve an additional purpose: Skin Hydration. Moisturizers containing SPF (sun protection factor) provide the added benefit of moisturizing dry skin while at the same time providing sun protection.

What To Look For In A Sunscreen For Dry Skin

Appropriate Sun Protection

  • Look for sunscreens that provide “broad-spectrum” coverage protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Mineral sunscreens also referred to as physical sunscreens contain ingre-dients such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide which are essential for protection from both UVA and UVB sun rays.
  • SPF, also known as sun protective factor, is important to pay close attention to. SPF measures how much UV light a sunscreen can filter out. An SPF of at least 30 is to date the recommendation of dermatologists. An SPF of 30 blocks 97 percent of the sun’s UVB rays. Having a high-number SPF does not protect you for a longer period of time, but instead has slightly more coverage (98%+ coverage from the sun’s UVB rays). With that being said, no sunscreen in reality can block 100 percent of the sun’s UVB rays.

It’s All About the Ingredients

For those experiencing dry skin, finding a sunscreen that not only protects the skin, but also pro-vides the added benefit of skin hydration may be a daunting task. Sunscreens containing the fol-lowing ingredients provide that extra boost of skin hydration, improving the elasticity and cohesion of the skin barrier.

  • Hyaluronic acid: Hyaluronic acid is a key molecule in skin aging and skin hydration2. This molecule helps to retain moisture in the skin.
  • Glycerin: Glycerin is a specific type of moisturizing ingredient called a humectant meaning it helps draw water back into the skin and prevents further water loss3.
  • Ceramide: Ceramide is a key ingredient for protecting the skin barrier and preventing skin water loss3. Ceramides are skin lipids that are found in the top layer of the skin, also re-ferred to as the epidermis3.
  • Niacinamide: Niacinamide is an effective moisturizing ingredient that works by increasing the production of essential skin proteins (filaggrin) and lipids (ceramide) 3. These proteins and lipids are key as they are frequently impaired in individuals with dry skin and eczema.
  • Shea butter: Shea butter derived from the Shea tree fruit (Butyrospermum parkii) has soothing and hydrating effectsa3.

Avoid Common Skin Irritants

Exposure to the following ingredients that may trigger skin rashes or redness may worsen skin dryness:

  • Fragrance: Fragrance may be appealing when purchasing a sunscreen, but fragrance is a fre-quent skin allergen and may worsen dry skin.
  • Botanical or “plant-derived”: Despite the term “all-natural”, some botanical ingredients may further worsen and irritate dry skin as well as causing skin rashes and redness.

Look for a lightweight formula

  • Sunscreens for dry skin should be hydrating, but at the same time not heavy or occlusive. Look for a sunscreen with a lightweight, buildable texture to provide skin hydration while not leaving behind a greasy or oily residue.

Tips for Using a Sunscreen when you have Dry Skin:

  • Cleanse then protect: A general recommendation is to apply sunscreen after gentle cleansing, facial serums and toners and moisturizing. If you are using a SPF-containing moisturizer, it is recommended to apply to the skin before makeup application.

  • Don’t skimp on the amount: In general, it is recommended to apply a nickel-sized amount of sunscreen to the entire face. If you are at the beach or pool, it is recommended to apply 1 shot glass amount of sun-screen to the entire exposed skin. Wearing SPF during cloudy or overcast days is just as important as wearing it on sunny days. In general, the sun’s rays are strongest typically around 10am to 2pm and so it is recommended to be be diligent about SPF and sun protec-tion during this time of day.

  • Reapplication is key: Many individuals purchase a higher SPF in hopes that they don’t have to reapply. In reali-ty, a high-number SPF does not mean that you can spend additional time outdoors unpro-tected. Reapplication is essential, especially when after being in the water or after a vigor-ous work-out (sweating). Reapplication also provides that added benefit of frequent skin moisturization.

  • Don’t forget the back of the hands: A common area of skin dryness is the back of the hands as are hands are frequently ex-posed to common drying skin irritants including soap, hot water, antibacterial sanitizing products, among others. A common location for non-melanoma skin cancers are the back of the hands as it is frequently exposed to UVA/UVB rays on a daily basis either when driving, walking, biking, etc. Be aware that frequent hand washing may also remove the sunscreen and reapplication is key.

Reference
  1. Lim, Tessa Li Chyin. "Sunscreen:“Do-It-Yourself”(DIY) does not mean enough protec-tion." Our Dermatology Online 11.3 (2020): 273-274.
  2. Shanbhag, Shreya, et al. "Anti-aging and sunscreens: paradigm shift in cosmetics." Advanced pharmaceutical bulletin 9.3 (2019): 348.
  3. Draelos, Zoe D. "The science behind skin care: moisturizers." Journal of cosmetic dermatolo-gy 17.2 (2018): 138-144

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