How to Treat and Prevent Sun Damage With Dr. Marina Peredo

We can't wait for summer to finally make its appearance.

Late nights, cold drinks, dips in the pool and tanning sessions are calling our names. However, if you plan on being in the sun, it's important to remember that the sun is not your friend when it comes to tanning. Sure, it's good to get vitamin D, but if you're outside without some form of sun protection, you're actually harming your body.

Over-exposure to the sun can lead to sunburns and other forms of sun damage, which can have long-lasting effects. We don't know about you, but we do not plan on getting sunburned this year. It'super uncomfortable, hurts and leaves you with awkward tan lines—no thank you!

We were curious about the best ways to prevent sunburns and sun damage, so we reached out to Dr. Marina Peredo, a dermatologist with all sorts of expertise on the matter. Below, you'll find our full interview with her, where she gives us all the tricks and tricks when it comes to treating and preventing sun damage.

Sweety High: What are the most important skincare/suncare rules everyone should follow?

Dr. Marina Peredo: If you are going to use only one product it should always be sunblock! When it comes to skincare and suncare, the most important rule to follow is that you should always have sunscreen on that is between SPF 15 and SPF 50. Even when you aren't laying out at the beach, you should always put on sunscreen before you leave the house when the sun is strong. I also feel that every decade brings out different challenges and if you start with good quality and correct skincare early on, you will age better.

woman sunscreen sunburn

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SH: When it comes to sunscreen, how do you differentiate the good from the bad? 

DMP: I prefer to use physical/mineral sunblock instead of chemical sunblock. The most common active ingredients in chemical sunblocks are avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, homosalate, octisalate and octinoxate. The six chemicals listed above do not yet have enough information to determine if they are safe or not—however, until more data is available, I still advise avoiding these chemicals in your sunscreen. The bottom line is that absorption does not equal risk in production, and the FDA advises the continued use of sunscreens.

In 2019, the FDA proposed a rule that recognized zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, two minerals, as safe and effective. These are ingredients you should look for in your sunscreen. Mineral sunscreens have a physical UV filter which creates a broad-spectrum coverage. PABA and trolamine salicylate are two chemicals that were withheld from the FDA's proposed rule. These chemicals are now rarely, if ever, used in sunscreens.

woman sunscreen sunburn

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SH: What ingredients are safe in sunscreen? Not safe?

DMP: Safe ingredients to look for in a sunscreen are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Both are safe for the environment. Specifically, zinc oxide acts as a barrier on the skin's surface and is oftentimes gentler for those that have sensitive skin. You should avoid PABA and trolamine salicylate, two chemicals that are now rarely used in sunblock.


SH: What sunscreens would you recommend for girls?

DMP: For girls, I recommend Alastin's Broad Spectrum SPF 30+ Sunscreen ($40) or for a drug store brand, Neutrogena's UltraSheer SPF 100 Broad Spectrum Sunscreen ($14.99). Alastin's sunscreen is light and moisturizing but also provides broad-spectrum protection. Cucumber and aloe leaf extract calm the skin and it's water-resistant, gluten-free, paraben-free and cruelty-free. I recommend applying every two hours, unless you are swimming or playing sports, then you need to increase the frequency of applications.

woman sunscreen sunburn

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For the face I like Alastin's HydraTint Pro Mineral Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 36 ($55). It evens and brightens the skin with a universal tint. It's lightweight, provides broad-spectrum protection, and is oil-free and fragrance-free, so it won't break you out.


SH: If you get a sunburn, what's the best way to treat it? Any product recommendations?

DMP: It's important to cool the skin down after a sunburn. A cool bath or shower will help cool down the skin. I also recommend a cold milk compress because the lactic acid in the milk is very soothing. It is important not to scrub the skin, but to pat yourself dry to prevent irritation. A cold compress, such as an ice pack wrapped in a towel, can be applied to reduce heat, pain and swelling.

I recommend using a moisturizer that contains aloe vera or soy to relieve discomfort. Witch hazel is also great to help itchiness and minimize pain. If a particular area feels especially uncomfortable, you may want to apply an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream.

woman sunscreen sunburn

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I recommend using PrimaSkin Nano-Formulated Skin Solution ($58.46) when caring for a sunburn. It's great for both the face and body post-sunburn. Nano molecular glutathione is the active ingredient in the mist, which is an antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory properties. Additionally, it's important to stay hydrated and drink plenty of liquids to prevent dehydration, which can be caused by a sunburn. Consider taking aspirin or ibuprofen to help reduce any swelling, redness and discomfort.


SH: What steps would you recommend taking before you know you're about to be exposed to the sun?

DMP: I recommend applying sunscreen a minimum of 20 minutes before any sun exposure. Apply it to any area of skin that will be exposed to allow time for the sunscreen to absorb into the skin. For the first exposure at the beginning of the summer season, try to minimize your exposure to 20 minutes and subsequently increase it by 10 minutes as you are in the sun more frequently.

woman sunscreen sunburn

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SH: What are sunspots? How do you treat them?

DMP: Sunspots are dark or discolored spots on the skin that are caused by years of sun exposure. They are typically flat, brown spots and are generally harmless, but unsightly. However, if the sunspot has changed and became irregular looking (larger than a pencil eraser, irregular color and borders) have it checked for melanoma.

If you're interested in treating sunspots, make sure it's done under dermatologist supervision. Some treatments that can be done include intense pulse light (IPL), laser resurfacing, microdermabrasion or microneedling.


SH: What level SPF should we use on both our face and body? Does skin tone matter?

DMP: I recommend using at least SPF 30 on the face and body. You can go as high as SPF 50, but higher than that won't really make a difference. Skin tone does matter when choosing an SPF. If you're very pale, you shouldn't go lower than SPF 30 because you will burn more quickly. If you have a darker skin tone, you can go lower than SPF 30, but I don't recommend going any lower than SPF 15, as it won't provide as much protection.

woman sunscreen sunburn

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SH: How often should we be reapplying sunscreen?

DMP: Sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours. If you've been swimming or sweating, then it's a must to reapply after you dry off, because the sunscreen will have worn off quicker. I also recommend using sun-protective clothing, wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses!


Excited for the summer? Look HERE to see what affordable sunglasses we plan on wearing this season.