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Dermatologists recommend 50+ SPF, warn against aloe vera as sunburn treatment

Doctors say you should wear the highest number of SPF possible even up to 100. They also urge people to use mineral sunscreens in the wake of chemical concerns.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — When grabbing sunscreen at the store, you might be overwhelmed by all the choices, especially as concerns have grown surrounding chemical-based sunscreens.

Katherine McCrady is a Physician's Assistant with Arkansas Dermatology. She said chemical-based sunscreens must be absorbed into the skin to absorb UV light or exposure, which means you can get absorption in your bloodstream.

"They haven't deemed it unsafe, but there are questions surrounding if we want to use something that has to be absorbed into the skin and bloodstream," she said.

She said more dermatologists are recommending mineral-based sunscreens this summer.

"Once they are applied, they immediately deflect those rays, which means as soon as you put it on, it's effective, and you don't have to wait for it to absorb," said McCrady. "There's no 30-minute waiting period and you're not absorbing those chemicals because they don't have them."

She said there are two active ingredients to look for when choosing mineral sunscreens: titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. She cautions to avoid the chemical-based products whose top active ingredients often include oxybenzone or avobenzone.

McCrady also said new studies are shedding a light on what SPF is best.

"We're seeing in studies high that high SPF sunscreens are more effective than lower ones, even up to 50 SPF," she said. "We recommend as high as you can."

While prevention of burns is top priority, healing burns if you get them, is also crucial. McCrady said most people believe aloe vera is the best way to heal a burn, but that's not necessarily true.

"Sometimes alcohol is an active ingredient and while that can cool the skin, it causes drying, which doesn't help in restoring the skin barrier to what it was," she said. "Many store-bought aloe vera products often have preservatives, which can irritate skin."

She recommends looking for products that are moisturizing and have ceramides in the ingredient list.

"Ceramides restore the fatty lipid layer in the skin and build molecules back up to create a protective barrier for you," she said.

Whatever you do, McCrady said to pay attention to ingredients for all summer skin care and do your research. Whether you're buying online or in the store, examine those labels to keep yourself protected.

"If you don't recognize a lot of the listed names [on the active ingredient list], it's probably not something you want on your skin," she said.

For more info on sun protection, click here.