There’s a lot of confusion and misinformation about sunscreen. It’s understandable because there are a lot of options and a lot of claims about their effectiveness. I’m going to help you discover what you need, what you don’t need and what you must avoid to protect your skin and your health.
Years ago we would simply put on sun tan lotion (or even oil!) before we went out in the sun with the purpose of amplifying the suns effect on our skin. With the depletion of the ozone layer and the increase in the incidence of skin cancer those days are long gone. A professionally blended sunscreen with an adequate SPF is now mandatory every day to protect your skin.
What is SPF & What SPF Number is Right for You?
Professional grade sunscreens with a SPF of 30 are best. Most people know that SPF is the measurement of how well a sunscreen will protect your skin from UVB rays. These are the rays, actually the radiation, that’s responsible for sunburns and deep skin damage. The problem is, most sunscreens only protect your from UVB rays while the UVA rays are the ones that have been proven to cause most skin cancers. Therefore, your average store bough SPF sun protection is only protecting from half of the sun’s damaging rays.
The big question everyone wants answered is what level of SPF do I need? You can find sunscreens with SPF’s ranging from 20 to 100 plus and we’re lead to believe that the higher the SPF the better, right? Not necessarily. In fact, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, regulators are cracking down on the exorbitant SPF levels because they can be extremely misleading.
When sunscreen products are labeled with a SPF factor of 100 plus consumers think that they can spend more time outdoors without reapplying the sunscreen after it has worn off. That simply isn’t the case. There is little difference between SPF 30 and anything above. Don’t be fooled by false claims or pay more for a product with a higher SPF. Typically a SPF level of 30 is sufficient for everyday use and SPF 50 for more intense sun exposure.
Can Your Sunscreen Contain Poison?
You also have to be careful about potentially harmful ingredients in your sunscreen. It’s critical that you avoid:
- Oxybenzone, which is linked to hormone disruption, endocrine fluctuations & cell damage that may actually lead to skin cancer.
- Octinoxate. This ingredient has lead to allergic reactions and adverse effects on estrogen levels of both humans and wildlife once the chemical is introduced to the water. It also produces free radicals that damage your skin.
- Parabens. Studies have shown that this chemical, which prolongs the shelf life of many personal care products, is linked to breast cancer, metabolic developmental and neurological disorders.
What Is Safe to Use?
As you can see, typical sunscreens have some pretty scary ingredients but that doesn’t mean you have to stay indoors. You do have some safe alternatives that will protect you from the sun while keeping your body chemical free.
The first thing you want to look for is a sunscreen that protects you from both UVA and UVB rays and contains none of the chemicals I mentioned above. Next, it’s vital to use a product that contains zinc oxide. This mineral acts as a true barrier between the sun and your skin. It actually absorbs the cancer causing UVA rays as opposed to scattering or reflecting it to other parts of your body. You’re also going to want a product with antioxidants which will protect you from free-radical damage to your skin. A product containing plant-derived stem cells will not only protect you from the sun but delay the aging effects the sun often produces on your skin. Those four simple, chemical free ingredients are all your face and body needs for complete sun protection. It really can be that easy!
You can safely enjoy the outdoors but you have to be more aware of the sunscreens you’re using. You very well could be doing more harm than good and not adequately protecting yourself from toxic chemicals and skin damage.