Sunscreen: Do Benefits Outweigh Risks?

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Scott: Doctor, when many people think about their skin, they think about what goes on their skin. There's so many topical things that we can put on there, but a lot of that gets absorbed as well. I don't think many people think about that. How important is that to think that way when you're putting things on your skin?

Dr. Jeanette Jacknin: Well, it is hard to know as a consumer how much actually gets absorbed, either of the things you want to be absorbed, like the topical Vitamin A, or the topical vitamins, that we want the good absorption, and the things we don't want absorbed, like the preservatives that are needed to actually keep the product fresh. So I think what becomes more important is for consumers to read the labels and become more educated and read different places online, because you have to know the chemistry, and most people are not cosmetic chemists, and to see how much is absorbed.

So I guess the safe thing is to avoid things with parabens and phthalates, that's become those key words you want to avoid now, and try to maximize things like the topical vitamin A, or the topical vitamin C, B, things like that that hopefully have good chemistry together, absorbed.

Scott: Mm-hmm. One of the most common topical things that almost everyone puts on is suncreen.

Dr. Jeanette Jacknin: Right.

Scott: Is it generally good to use, what's the risk-reward versus using sunscreen and not?

Dr. Jeanette Jacknin: Well, I favor sunscreen. I mean, I like the zinc oxide and the other pastes that are more of a physical barrier. A lot of the cosmetic companies also have powders that have sunscreen in them, and they're more of a physical barrier. There are many good chemical sunscreens out, I personally don't like them as much because of possible sensitivities and allergies, but they do a good job. It's just I prefer the ones that have natural vitamins, a lot of antioxidants are natural sunscreens. If you put that in with a physical barrier, like the zinc oxide, and use both the natural sunscreen ability, all these antioxidants and vitamins that we know about, and the zinc oxide paste, I think even though people don't always like the cosmetic look of it-

Scott: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Jeanette Jacknin: -I just think it's safer.

Scott: What about getting your Vitamin D through sunlight, too? Many doctors say that that's the best way to do that, if we're blocking it, is there a concern there?

Dr. Jeanette Jacknin: Well, I think it may minimize it a little bit, but there was a recent study that said that vitamin D from age 20-70, you lose 75% of your vitamin D that your body can absorb and metabolize. So, you're going to need vitamin D supplements anyway; the body can't make vitamin D on its own.

So, I think it's more important to use the sunscreen, and then get a blood level of vitamin D which is easy to do now, and just supplement your diet with a very tiny little gel pill once a day, and get the right level, whether you need 1,000 IU of vitamin D, or 5,000. And protect yourself against getting much more, very dangerous melanoma, which is much more life threatening than not using the sunscreen.

Scott: Mm-hmm.
Many people don't understand that what you put on your skin gets absorbed into the body to some degree. Dr. Jeanette Jacknin discusses what to look out for when it comes to topical cosmetics and in particular, sunscreen. She discusses the pros and cons of sunscreens and mentions which type would might be best.

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