Safety of sunscreens explained by Dr. Baumann

May 28th, 2010

I have received many phone calls and emails about the recent sunscreen report from the EWG (Environmental Working Group) that can be found at this link.  Are sunscreens safe? Here are a few summary points to explain my views until I can sit down and write an entire newsletter with details:

Issue 1-  EWG states that Vitamin A containing sunscreens should be avoided.

Facts: Vitamin A derivatives (also known as retinoids) include retinol, retinoic acid (Retin- A) and esters such as retinyl palmitate. Most retinoids break down and degrade upon sun exposure so they should not be used in the daytime.  They should be applied at night.  One form of retinoid called retinyl palmitate  (RP) is found in many cosmetic products and sunscreens.  I am not a fan of RP because it is not as effective at treating wrinkles as retinol is.  I believe this is because it does not penetrate into the skin as well as retinol does.  In 2005, a study suggested that RP could- upon sun exposure- be broken down into a compound that could lead to cell DNA damage.  This is the study that EWG is referring to.  Retinol does not degrade into this harmful compound upon sun exposure, nor does retinoic acid.

Bottom line- Avoid sunscreens with Retinyl palmitate.  Those with retinol are safe but a waste of money because the retinol is rapidly broken down upon sun exposure.  Use products with retinol at night instead.

Issue 2- EWG states that oxybenzone is, “a hormone-disrupting compound that penetrates the skin and enters the bloodstream. Biomonitoring surveys conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have detected oxybenzone in the bodies of 97 percent of Americans tested.” 

Facts:  Oxybenzone and several other chemicals in sunscreen have been found in urine which means they are absorbed thru the skin into the blood stream.  This has been known for years but there are no scientifically valid reports or studies that have shown that this is dangerous. Oxybenzone has been vilified because it may have estrogenic activity.  Chemicals with estrogenic activity are thought to play a role in breast cancer development.  Oxybenzone is thought to cause skin allergies in some people, but not all studies support this.

Bottom Line: If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, have an increased risk of breast cancer, or want to be extra cautious about chemicals, avoid sunscreens with oxybenzone.  An alternative that will not be absorbed into the body are sunscreens with zinc oxide such as Blue Lizard for sensitive skin.

Issue 3: Sunscreens do not protect as well as we think.

Facts: No sunscreen covers 100% of the sun’s rays.  Most people apply ¼ the amount of necessary sunscreen to achieve the SPF on the label.

Bottom Line: Wear at least 2 different types of sunscreen and sun protective clothing if possible.  Stand in the shade and under an umbrella if you can.

Please come to the forum section under “general topics” and discuss your thoughts.

Leslie Baumann MD

Do you want to submit a video to be considered for inclusion in our PBS special?

May 21st, 2010

Get ready to start shooting your videos.  In July we will film the PBS special that will discuss the 16 skin types and the skin typing system.  We will be accepting videos for inclusion in the special.  I am waiting for PBS to tell me what the requirements are but I know that the video must be HD.  We will be accepting 3 types of videos:

  1. Videos that show you with your masses of skin care products
  2. Videos with your skin type story( what skin issues you have and how the typing system helped you solve them)
  3. Any creative videos you have that would be appropriate for PBS

Stay tuned for the rules.   I do know that brands must be hidden on products so film the videos with the back side of the products or cover the brand with tape.  Please wait for further instructions.

Leslie Baumann MD

Changes to the Skin Type Web siteand Skin Product Recommendations by Skin Type

May 21st, 2010

Welcome to the updated and improved Skin Type Solutions web site.  We have spent the last 4 years testing the skin type questionnaire to ensure it’s accuracy. Many of you wrote to me and your input has really helped me get the kinks out of the questionnaire.  I believe it is perfect now.  If you do not feel your skin type is accurate, please email me at to share the problem with me.  For those of you who did email me, THANK YOU!  Your help is greatly appreciated.  I have had so many emails that it is impossible for me to email you all back but your changes have been incorporated when applicable.  I have now updated all of the recommended skin care products and they should be accurate for your skin type.  Notice that once you ahve taken the questionnaire, only products correct for your skin type will be displayed. More will be added in the near future and new features that identify acne and rosacea will be added over the next few months.  Please share your favorite skin care products with me with links to the product and tell me your skin type and I will try and add them if I agree that they are appropriate for a certain skin type.  We have programmed the site where it will be very easy for me to add new recommended products as they hit the market.  Dermatologists from around the world have agreed to help me keep the content up to date.  The official launch for the web site will be in November/December to coincide with our PBS special.  More features will be slowly added between now and then.  Please let me know how you like the new kaleidoscope logo.

Have a great weekend!

Leslie Baumann MD

Sunscreen Tips for Memorial Day coming soon to Yahoo blog

May 21st, 2010

Memorial Day weekend is coming up.  Are you prepared?  Watch my blog at on Wednesday March 26th for sun protection advice and tips on staying safe in the sun.  Get your comments and advice ready for me.  I am particularly interested in which sunscreens you have found that do not worsen your acne.  I have heard good things about the Vivite facial sunscreen with glycolic acid, but it is not for those who are actively getting sun exposure.  It is better for those with acne who have minimal exposure.   What do you sun seekers with acne prefer to use as a sunscreen? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Leslie Baumann MD