Just when you thought it was safe to go out in the sun….. All summer you tried to be the sun protection poster girl. You applied sunscreen (SPF 30) half an hour before going out to let it sink in. You made sure you got the tops of your hands and the tips of your ears. You used a golf ball-sized application and reapplied every two hours. What more could you have done in the name of avoiding skin damage? How about not done any of it? Recent studies show that sunscreens contain a number of chemicals that can actually increase the risk of skin cancer. Read onto find out what some new evidence is revealing about the safety of certain sunscreens and why you might want to think twice about your sun protection.
Physical and Chemical Sunscreens
Sunscreens usually fall into one of two categories: physical and chemical. Chemical sunscreens are made in laboratories and contain chemicals such as PABA, oxybenzone, and cinnamates. They work by absorbing UV rays to reduce sun damage to the skin.
Physical sunscreens, such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, are made of natural elements from the earth. These work by scattering or blocking UV rays, preventing them from entering the skin at all. Physical sunscreens are considered safer than chemical sunscreens because they offer more broad spectrum protection. Chemical sunscreens, on the other hand, have been linked to hormone disruption. Research has shown that chemical sunscreens can mimic estrogen in the body, and throw natural hormones off balance and that the chemicals in the sunscreen can be absorbed into the body, leading to allergic reactions.
SPF is sun protection factor, which is a measurement of protection from UVB rays. UVA rays are considered to be more dangerous, because of their ability to penetrate more deeply into the skin, but SPF does not take sunscreen’s protection against UVA rays into account.
Another problem with SPF is that the numbers are misleading. An SPF number is the number you can multiply the time you can spend in the sun without burning unprotected, by to get the amount of time you can spend in the sun without burning with the protection of sunscreen. In other words, if a person normally burns in ten minutes without sunscreen, an SPF of 15 will multiply that number by 15, which means that individual can remain in the sun for 150 minutes without burning with sunscreen.
By this reasoning, it would seem that an SPF of 30 would allow individuals to remain in the sun for twice as long as they could by wearing an SPF of 15. In truth, the difference between the two is minimal. An SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB rays, while SPF 30 blocks about 97% and an SPF of 50 blocks about 98%. So in essence, the increase in SPF stops making a difference after a certain point.
Zinc Oxide offers broad spectrum protection which can shield from both UVA and UVB rays. Additionally, zinc is an essential mineral that we need in our bodies and the only active ingredient in sunscreen approved by the FDA for infants under the age of six months.
The Best Formula
If you are considering investing in a physical sunscreen, here are some of the natural ingredients you may want to look for on the label:
Zinc Oxide: This is the safest option for sunscreens. It’s the only one the FDA has recommended for infants and offers protection from both UVA and UVB rays.
Antioxidants: These protect skin from oxidative stress, to give skin extra defense against sun damage.
Natural Ingredients: Natural soothing ingredients like hemp seed oil and lavender naturally sooth skin keeping it cool and calm. Moisturizers can be effective against flaking and dryness caused by the sun.
Tell us what you think about chemical vs. physical moisturizers. Which do you prefer? Let us know!