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Recommending Sun Protection for Sensitive Skin

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With the month of May representing Skin Cancer Awareness Month, this can serve as a reminder for you to inform your clients, even those with sensitive skin, on staying safe in the sun.

Sensitive skin should not keep your clients from wearing sunscreen, especially during the summer months when more time is spent outside. Dermatology experts at Baylor College of Medicine say individuals with sensitive skin can use sunscreens and avoid irritation or allergic reactions.

“An allergy may occur to either the [sunscreen] chemicals themselves, or to fragrances or preservatives in the product,” said Rajani Katta, M.D., professor of dermatology at Baylor. “Rather than not wear sunscreen, [have your clients] look for brands that are fragrance-free and that contain physical, instead of chemical, [sunscreen] ingredients.”

Physical sunscreen ingredients include only zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in comparison to an array of active ingredients in chemical sunscreen. Sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide is thicker and goes on white, although newer formulations are designed to be less noticeable.

“It’s important to read the labels; there can be a lot of ingredients and additives,” said Katta. “I prefer patients with sensitive skin use physical [sunscreen] because there are fewer ingredients in general, which means there is less likely to be irritation or an allergic reaction.”

Irritation, usually stinging, typically occurs right after application and an allergy may not show until two to three days after use. Allergic reactions tend to be a red, itchy rash in areas where sunscreen was applied.

In addition to using the best sunscreen for your clients' skin type, noted Katta, the importance to using broad spectrum sunscreen protects against both types of ultraviolet radiation.

“Always look for the broad spectrum [sunscreen], especially since the SPF number only refers to blocking one kind of UV ray,” she added.

For additional sun care facts, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the American Academy of Dermatology can be referenced for information.

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