After winter everyone is excited to get outside and enjoy the warm weather. Maybe you have a beach trip planned or a refreshing walk at the park [gosh doesn’t that sound nice?]. While getting out in the sun is good for your vitamin D levels and boosting your mood, too much sun exposure can be damaging to your skin.
Did you know skin cancer is the most common cancer in the US, with Melanoma being the deadliest form? In 2018, the number of new cases of melanoma are estimated to be around 3,040 in the state of Georgia!
If you’re from the peach state you know how blazing hot our summers can be! In Georgia, July is usually the hottest month of the year with an average low of 71° and high of 89°F (which if you live here, you know it feels MUCH hotter… thanks to humidity).
Remember it does not need to be hot or sunny to be exposed to invisible UV rays. One of the best things you can do for your skin is invest in a good sunscreen, and use it [EVERY DAY].
Lets Break it Down
What exactly is SPF?
SPF is the acronym you see on the outside of sunscreen bottles that stands for sun protection factor. This number tells you the degree of protection the sunscreen will provide you from UVB sun rays (NOT UVA). For example, SPF 15 protects you from 93% of UVB sun’s rays while SPF 50 protects you from about 98%. The higher the SPF the more protection; however as you can see there is not as big of a difference in protection between SPF 15 and SPF 50 as you would think.
Keep in mind no sunscreen will protect you 100%, but what SPF level is the best? The American Cancer Society suggests you use sunscreens with an SPF of 30 or above. Any sunscreen that you see on the shelf with an SPF below 15 will NOT protect your skin from cancer.
What is the difference between UVA and UVB Rays?
UV stands for ultraviolet rays. There are two harmful types: long wave UVA and short wave UVB. UVA rays are always present regardless of the season and are the main cause for sun spots and aging skin because they penetrate much deeper into the skin. UVB rays are the main cause for sunburns and skin cancers that is why SPF measures the protection against UVB rays. However, we are learning that both these types of UV rays play a role in skin cancer formation. That is why protecting yourself from both is important.
In order to protect yourself from both UVA and UVB rays, look for a sunscreen labeled “Broad Spectrum” or “UVA/UVB Coverage“. These sunscreens will often use minerals such as zinc oxide which has both UVA and UVB protection.
Toxins in sunscreen
There are lots of blogs, magazines and news articles that talk about the chemicals and toxins in sunscreen. .Many advise people to avoid two chemicals:
- Retinyl palmitate a form of vitamin A that fights skin aging (EWG health concerns here)
- The National Toxicology Program under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services conducted a study with results showing mice given creams with retinyl palmitate developed skin tumors and acquired them sooner than the mice given the control cream. This study is worrisome but more research needs to be conducted.
- Oxybenzone a chemical that protects the skin from harmful UV rays (EWG health concerns here)
- Some studies suggest that sunscreens containing oxybenzone have a negative effect on reproductive hormones, but again more studies need to be done for clarification.
Although these studies support abstaining from buying sunscreens with these two chemicals, a survey conducted with 540 practicing U.S. dermatologists says otherwise. 86% and 85% of the dermatologists believed that oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate (respectively) were safe in sunscreen. It’s the 14% and 15% who disagree that worries people the most. So if you want to be safer instead of sorry later, look for sunscreen containing the mineral zinc oxide which typically have less harmful ingredients.
While more research is needed, one thing I always recommend is to stay away from aerosol sunscreens. I know they are easier to apply but not only do they penetrate the skin they add an inhalation risk of certain chemicals such as:
For more information check out Environmental Working Group (EWG).
What to look at on labels
Now if you’re like me, when I walk down an aisle in a store looking for one product and I see 20 variations of it, I automatically get overwhelmed. Should I buy the cheapest one? Should I get the one in the coolest looking bottle? Or should I just decide with a quick eeny, meeny, miny, moe and call it a day? Well to make choosing the BEST sunscreen a bit easier, here’s what we recommend you look for on the label:
- SPF 30 or higher.
- Zinc oxide
- Broad spectrum protection to protect against both UVA and UVB
- Sunscreen for those with sensitive skin or allergies
Examples of clean brands
Need some examples of good, clean[er] brands? Here are some that we love!
- Matter Company Unscented Natural Sun Care Cream SPF 30
- Sunology Natural Sunscreen, Face, SPF 50
- Bare Republic Organics Sunscreen, SPF 30
- Honest Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50+
And for those little ones
- Aveeno Baby Continuous Protection Sensitive Skin Lotion Sunscreen, SPF 50
- Babyganics Mineral-Based Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 50
- Thinkbaby Safe Sunscreen SPF 50
- Tom’s of Maine Baby Sunscreen Lotion Broad Spectrum, SPF 30
Have a skin safe summer 🙂