When the summer months approach, many of us stock up on sunscreen and other products to protect our skin from the sun. While we tend to associate sun exposure with the warmer seasons, we need to protect our skin from the sun throughout the entire year.
There are many things to consider with sunscreen use – application technique and frequency, SPF, sunscreen storage, and more. Additional information about sunscreen use can be found on the FDA website at this link. Another issue that has come to light recently is the ingredients in sunscreen. The implications of absorbing sunscreen through the skin continue to be studied (see this link for a study published in 2020). In 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed updates to safety and effectiveness regulations for sunscreen. According to the FDA:
“Two ingredients (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) are proposed to be safe and effective for sunscreen use and two (aminobenzoic acid (PABA) and trolamine salicylate) are proposed as not safe and effective for sunscreen use. FDA proposes that it needs more safety information for the remaining 12 sunscreen ingredients (cinoxate, dioxybenzone, ensulizole, homosalate, meradimate, octinoxate, octisalate, octocrylene, padimate O, sulisobenzone, oxybenzone, avobenzone).”
A list of sunscreens that contain the ingredients that the FDA recognizes as safe can be found in the article at this link.
Is there anything unique about sunscreen use for people with Down syndrome?
The most important reason for using sunscreen is to prevent skin cancer. As our experience and the medical literature show, people with Down syndrome can and do get skin cancer. We have seen individuals with Down syndrome with malignant melanoma (the most serious type of skin cancer) as well as other types of skin cancer. While studies (such as the one at this link) have shown that the risk of getting skin cancer (and some other forms of cancer) is lower in people with Down syndrome than in people without Down syndrome, it is still possible for people with Down syndrome to get skin cancer. The recommendations regarding sunscreen use are the same for people with and without Down syndrome. The article at this link shares tips for using sunscreen appropriately.
From occupational therapist Katie Frank, PhD, OTR/L: Finding a sunscreen that works for you or a loved one may involve some trial and error. If someone has trouble tolerating regular lotion application, they may prefer the spray sunscreen instead. However, people who are sensitive to temperature may not prefer the spray because it is often cold upon application. Many sunscreens also have a scent so, if someone is sensitive to scents, look for sunscreens with labels that say "fragrance free" such as some Neutrogena and Aveeno products.