Under the Sun

Help your patients find the right sun protection products for their unique skin needs.
Under the Sun

Broad-spectrum su protection products are one of the most effective tools available for patients who want to maintain the youthful health of their skin and ward off the signs of aging. “I always recommend daily sunscreen use for everyone. It’s as important as brushing your teeth or wearing a seatbelt,” says Brian Matthys, DO, medical director of Sunflower Dermatology and Medical Spa in Riverside, Missouri.

He finds that the key to increasing compliance with daily sun protection use is helping patients find products that they love and will be comfortable wearing daily. “My big thing is the aesthetics of the products,” says Dr. Matthys. “I want my patients to find a product that they love to wear. If it feels good aesthetically on the skin, doesn’t sting the eyes or have a strong scent, they will wear it routinely.”

In the past 10 years, sun protection formulations have become both more effective and more elegant thanks to new ingredients. “Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are the single two best ingredients for a broad-spectrum sunblock,” says S. Manjula Jegasothy, MD, CEO and founder of the Miami Skin Institute in Coral Gables, Florida, and associate professor of dermatology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. “It’s not new science, but it still applies, and the better formulations now have the micronized zinc and titanium, which means they are split into microscopic particles so they don’t leave that weird, white residue on the skin.”

To help his patients find the right sun protection products, Dr. Matthys asks a series of questions. “I ask if they prefer a tinted or non-tinted product—a lot of women prefer tinted because they can use it as a BB or CC cream,” he says. “I ask how much time they spend outdoors, if they prefer a spray-on or cream formulation and then it depends on their skin condition. If a patient has melasma, rosacea or acne, we want to use a lighter product that has zinc oxide or titanium dioxide rather than an organic, chemical absorbing agent.”

Protecting Compromised Skin

Patients struggling with acne and rosacea often have difficulty finding a sun block that will protect rather than irritate their sensitive skin. “For acne, the best product I’ve found is actually an over-the-counter one called Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch—it doesn’t have any drying agents, but it is less greasy than most formulations; some people also like the lightweight EltaMD UV Clear,” says Dr. Jegasothy. “It is very difficult to find a sunscreen that doesn’t break out acne-prone patients. This is an unmet need.”

Rosacea patients have more options. “All of the physician-dispensed products that are indicated for sensitive skin and contain sunscreen are appropriate for rosacea patients, but every single rosacea patient is highly individual, so it becomes a trial-and-error process,” says Dr. Jegasothy. “I tell all my rosacea patients, ‘You’re probably going to spend a good deal of money before you find the one that really suits your skin and doesn’t make you irritated.’”

To reduce the cost, both Dr. Jegasothy and Dr. Matthys provide samples of the brands they carry. “I sell skincare products and I provide sampling, especially for my sensitive skin patients so they can try before they buy, and I advocate that,” says Dr. Jegasothy. “But it’s impossible to carry samples of every single brand that’s out there, so in some cases, patients will have to buy before they try.”

Special Care for Aging Skin

While daily sun protection helps patients maintain their skin health and prolong the outcomes of your aesthetic procedures, those who enter your office with existing photodamage benefit from products that both protect against damage and treat existing concerns. Dr. Matthys looks for products with antioxidant ingredients, such as niacinamide, vitamin C, vitamin E, phloretin and green tea. But he cautions that, due to a lack of labeling regulations, it is often difficult to ascertain whether the percentage of antioxidants in sunscreen formulations is high enough to be effective. “This is why I often recommend people use an antioxidant product in addition to their sun protection. It’s not uncommon for women to use multiple products in the morning—a moisturizer, a sun protection product and their makeup,” he says. “It’s not as easy to get men to use multiple products. For my male patients who cite photodamage as a concern based on questionnaires, I will recommend using a vitamin C/vitamin E product in the morning under their sunscreen, or an antioxidant product at night and then sun protection in the morning.”

Photography by Armando Sanchez.