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Your Guide to Sunscreen : Medical Grade vs. OTC

June 2, 2016

Medical grade products are made up of proven ingredients that are purchased with a medical license and only available through physicians. These products are developed through clinical research and the amounts of active ingredients (what’s actually going to make changes in your skin) are much higher than what over-the-counter products are legally able to contain. Medical grade products penetrate the skin better and deliver a higher concentration of active ingredients. Higher amounts of active ingredients = better skin! They are also cosmetically more elegant leading to better compliance of use on a daily basis.

Radiation from the sun is classified as UVA, UVB and UVC rays. UVA and UVB are of greatest concern since our skin is exposed to these rays throughout the years; UVC is mostly filtered by the earth’s ozone with very little reaching the surface. UV rays are present year round with greater intensity in higher altitudes and near the equator, resulting in higher rates of skin damage and cancer in places like Denver and Australia. UVA has the ability to penetrate through clouds and windows deeply into the skin and is present regardless of weather conditions. These are the same rays emitted by tanning booths and responsible for melanomas. Many people refer to this ray as the “aging” ray since it breaks down our dermis layer of skin which is responsible for much of our skin volume and elasticity. UVB, or the burning ray, is more intense on sunny days and during the summer months; SPF refers to UVB blockade. Damage from both of these rays contributes to loose, sagging skin with rough texture, uneven skin tone and more visible red vessels. Ultimately, they can result in skin cancer, especially melanoma.

Protection from the sun’s rays is possible through many means – reduce exposure during times when the sun is most intense, wear protective clothing and glasses, be aware of reflective rays from water and/or sand, and use topical sun protection products. Sun protection products are available in many formulations, each with its pros and cons. It’s crucial that one finds a product to use on a daily basis during dry winter months and during humid summer months. If a product does not “feel good” on the skin, most likely it will not be used. Products that block UVB are easily found over the counter and tout SPF as high as 100. SPF 30-35 will protect 98% of individuals and is adequate protection from UVB, however, consulting your skin care specialist for adequate UVA protection is crucial. From an aging standpoint, UVA blockage is most important and products that do this well are available through your plastic surgeon or dermatologist. Over-the-counter sunscreens that state ‘Broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection’ may provide some UVA blockade.

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Doctor Olson is board certified and is fellowship trained as an oculofacial plastic surgeon.
Jane Olson, MD
8440 Bluebonnet Blvd, Ste B
Baton Rouge, LA 70810
Phone: 225.766.0005
The information available on this web site is provided for informational purposes only. This information is not intended to replace a medical consultation where a physician’s judgment may advise you about specific disorders, conditions and or treatment options. We hope the information will be useful for you to become more educated about your health care decisions.
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