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How to Safely Get a Tan, Now That You’re Going Outside Again

After a year-plus of feeling shut in, we want to bask in the sun. But all the excitement around unmasked outdoor gatherings and “vaxications” should come with extra attention to sun protection. 

“My patients now want to spend more time outdoors and in the sun, and I’m definitely concerned about what this means for skin health,” says Chicago-based dermatologist Caroline Robinson, founder and CEO of Tone Dermatology. “The reality is that most people are not wearing enough sunscreen.” Despite the surplus of information about sun protection, says Robinson, numerous misconceptions about the right products and proper application remain.

There are two categories of sunscreen—chemical, which sinks into the skin and absorbs UV rays, turning them into heat; and mineral, which often contains zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide and sits atop the skin, creating a physical shield that reflects light away, as well as absorbing and scattering light like chemical sunscreens. “Despite the fact that mineral sunscreens are having a moment right now, there is no data to show that they are more effective than chemical UV blockers,” explains dermatologist and associate professor of dermatology at New York’s Mt. Sinai Hospital Joshua Zeichner. Chemical versions, which often absorb into the skin more smoothly, are preferred by those who want a cosmetic-like finish, while mineral varieties are often recommended for anyone with skin sensitivities and children. Zeichner notes that even a known skin protectant like zinc oxide, which is used in diaper creams, can cause sensitivities in some people. In that case, Zeichner recommends looking for a mineral sunscreen with just titanium dioxide; La Roche-Posay’s Anthelios Mineral Tinted Sunscreen For Face SPF 50 is one example. 


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