Robin Laub, a Life Stylist

Sunscreen 101 with Dr. Andrew Menkes, MD

With summer around the corner, it’s time to get serious about sunscreen! So, I turned to an expert. 

Dr. Menkes is a renown dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon in Silicon Valley at the Menkes Clinic and he knows all about sunscreen and skin protection. 


This is what he has to say to the following questions:


Robin: Why is it a good idea to use sunscreen? 

Dr. Andrew Menkes: Blocking Ultraviolet light as a general concept is important to minimize the risk of skin cancer and to slow down the aging effects of sunlight on the skin (wrinkles/dryness/blackheads/brown spots/sagging skin due to damage to elastic tissue).


R: Is it really important to wear sunscreen every day? 

Dr: I do not think you need to wear sunscreen every day (contrary to what some doctors say). Unless you wear makeup with excellent sunscreens this is unrealistic. But for outdoor activities like jogging, tennis, golf, swimming etc., it is important. There is an issue of vitamin D deficiency with less sun exposure but D3 supplementation can address this quite well in my experience.


R: What should we look for when shopping for a sunscreen? What brands do you recommend? 

Dr: There a lot of good brands of sunscreens and I prefer sunscreens with primarily zinc oxide at least 14% and titanium dioxide 6-8%. The brands that can micronize these elements into small particles and add a tinter are the ones I prefer so they are cosmetically acceptable and not messy and greasy. My favorite at the moment is SENTÉ  Pollution Shield SPF 46. I don’t see the need for a uvb number higher than 50 for most people. 


R: Which is better — spray sunscreens or cream sunscreens?

Dr: I do like spray sunscreens for the body because of their ease of application to large areas. However, I prefer creams for the face.


R: How do you know if your sunscreen is safe?

Dr: Sunscreen ingredients are safe and evidence for carcinogenicity is poor. But if you avoid chemicals and use just zinc and titanium then you can feel safe.


R: What’s the biggest misconception about sunscreen? 

Dr: I think the biggest misconception here is that sunscreens are waterproof for hours. If you are sweating or swimming, I suggest reapplying every 90 minutes or so although many people do not do this. 


R: Other than sunscreen, are there other ways to protect your skin from sun damage? 

Dr: Other than sunscreens I suggest hats with a brim and sunglasses with high quality lenses for other modes of protection. There of course are entire lines of clothing labelled as sunprotective and they are fine, but i am unconvinced they are necessary compared to other clothing.


R: What treatments can help diminish brown spots on the face, neck and body? 

Dr: Brown spots due to chronic sun exposure (freckles, not moles, which are not from sun exposure) can be eliminated with modern day lasers. Especially the newer picosecond lasers.


About Dr. Andrew Menkes 

Since 1984, Dr. Menkes continues to offer the superb, personalized care that has established him as a highly respected and trusted dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon. His peers have recognized him as one of the top physicians in the San Francisco Bay Area in multiple publications, including Consumer Checkbook, San Francisco Focus Magazine, and San Jose Magazine.