SUNSCREEN SMARTS>>It Goes Way Beyond SPF…
As beach season is upon us, it’s time to revisit the best ways to protect your skin from
the harmful rays of the sun. Of course, it’s important to reduce your risk of skin cancer and so you don’t get an uncomfortable sunburn. But did you know that it’s also important to safeguard your health by selecting the right kind of sunscreen for the job?
In 2015, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) reviewed 1,700 sunscreens and found that 80% of the sunscreens either provided inferior sun protection or contained toxic chemicals that can increase your risk of cancer and other health problems! If you want to find a brand that is safe, refer to the EWG’s list here.
In general, here are the top 5 things to look for in a safe sunscreen:
1. Broad-spectrum protection
Ultraviolet wavelengths are classified as UVA, UVB, and UVC. Even though exposure to both UVA and UVB contributes to the development of melanoma (the deadliest form of skin cancer), SPF measures only UVB. Broad-spectrum sunscreens protect against both.
2. Offers SPF 30 protection
Choosing a broad spectrum sunscreen will ensure adequate UVA coverage, but a higher SPF doesn’t equate to better UVB protection. Research indicates that an SPF higher than 30 is mostly a marketing gimmick and that high ratings can give you a false sense of security, leading to inadequate use and increased sun exposure.
3. Not a spray or powder
Mineral-based sunscreens probably contain nanoparticles. Research shows that titanium dioxide and zinc oxide do not migrate through skin, but inhaled toxic nanoparticles enter the blood stream through the lungs.1 Instead, choose mineral-based creams—you may prefer transparent options, but larger white particles provide better UVA protection.
4. No dangerous ingredients
The most important sunscreen ingredient to avoid is oxybenzone, a hormone disruptor that can also trigger allergic reactions. On a scale of 1–10, with 1 being the safest, EWG rates it an 8!
- Oxybenzone is added to stabilize avobenzone, a UVA-blocker (the combination is marketed as Helioplex). Find safer UVA protection in mineral-based sunscreens containing titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.
- Retinyl palminate, a form of vitamin A, has been linked to skin tumors and lesions on sun-exposed skin.
- Also avoid sunscreens containing parabens, phthalates, PEG’s (polyethylene glycols), propylene glycol, phenoxyethanol, or sodium laurel sulphates.
5. Not a Combination Sunscreen + Bug Repellent
Bugs aren’t normally an issue during peak hours of UV exposure. Also, you may need to reapply sunscreen more frequently than repellent, or vice versa. Repellents can also be problematic on your face. Studies suggest that combining these can lead to increased skin absorption of the repellent ingredients.
While getting the proper sunblock in place is one piece of the puzzle, there are other ways you can avoid the sun’s harmful rays without applying any kind of chemical to your skin. Time your outdoor activities so you avoid being outside during the strongest sun hours of 11 a.m. –2 p.m., set up an umbrella or make sure there’s a tree or shade structure you can retreat to when the sun gets too hot, and wear wide-brim hats, sunglasses, and UPF clothing.
Vitamin D, which is actually a hormone that your body creates via sunshine hitting your skin, is absolutely vital to your wellness, so you don’t want to avoid the sun completely. The trick is to be wise about exposure.
Here’s to a healthy summer!