Sunscreen – yes, we all need it and that means everyone. Regardless of your age, gender, skin color or where you live, you need sunscreen. The good thing is; now that everyone is becoming aware of the dangers of bare skin, there are a lot of really good options for sunscreen. It comes in many different types; creams, lotions, primers, foundation, tinted moisturizers. So, where to start? How do you know what is right for you and your family?
Some of the most important variables are: age, geographical location, activities, season, and skin type. For example, a one year old living in the South Western part of the United States would use a very different type of sunscreen than a 30 year old living in Northern New England. You personally need a different type of sunscreen in the winter than the summer. If you’re active outside, you would use something different for those days you’re working inside. And finally, you need to purchase a sunscreen that you will actually use. If you’re at the store and you see a sunscreen on sale with an SPF of 50 that has a rose fragrance, is tinted and scary chemicals, look beyond the fact that it has a SPF of 50 and cheap price and understand that you won’t like something with a rose fragrance, shouldn’t use scary chemicals and that tint isn’t really for you. Get something you will actually use.
Speaking of scary chemicals, there are two chemicals you should pay particular attention to and please make sure these are NOT in your sunscreen. The first one is oxybenzone. Ozybenzone is commonly used in many sunscreens. This chemical penetrates the skin, gets into the bloodstream and acts like estrogen in the body. It can trigger allergic reactions. Data is preliminary, but studies have found a link between higher concentrations of oxybenzone and health harms. One study has linked oxybenzone to endometriosis in older women; another found that women with higher levels of oxybenzone during pregnancy had lower birth weight daughters.
The second chemical to avoid is retinyl palmitate. When used in a night cream, this form of vitamin A is supposed to have anti-aging effects. But on sun-exposed skin, retinyl palmitate may speed development of skin tumors and lesions, according to government studies. Why is this “inactive ingredient” allowed in sunscreens intended for use in the sun? Good question.
The FDA has yet to rule on the safety of retinyl palmitate in skin care products, but EWG recommends that consumers avoid sunscreens containing this chemical.
Spray sunscreen should also be avoided. It is easy to use which makes it appealing but they may pose serious inhalation risks, especially in young children.
What should a person look for when choosing a sunscreen? I always thought the higher the SPF the better but this is not always the case. SPF stands for “sun protection factor,” and refers only to protection against UVB radiation, which burns the skin. It has little to do with protection from sun’s UVA rays, which penetrate deep into the skin, suppress the immune system, accelerate skin aging and may cause skin cancer. If you’re an individual who does not burn easily, you may not need a higher SPF, but you still need the UVB protection.
For children, Alba Botanica Very Emollient for Kids is a good choice, but keep away from the eye area. Trukid Sunny Days Sport Sunscreen is another good choice. It comes with an SPF of 30+, has excellent UVA protection and does not come with a lot of chemicals. It is mineral based and is not overly pricy. Thinkbaby Sunscreen is another good option for kids with a SPF of 50 and excellent UVA protection.
For adults, thinksport, Livestrong Sunscreen (both Thinkbaby and thinksport, Livestrong are made by think Operations, LLC) is my choice with a SPF factor of 50 and excellent UVA protection.
Badger Sport Sunscreen SPF 30 is another very good option for adults. Aside from zinc oxide, it has only five other ingredients and it is water-resistant.
Please keep in mind, mineral sunscreens, unlike chemical ones, do not absorb into your skin. They act as a physical barrier to the sun’s damaging rays. This is in marked contrast to chemical sunscreens that rely on chemicals to disperse the sun’s damaging rays. Check out EWG.org, for a a list of each ingredient in the sunscreen you select and the potential damage (allergy, hormone disruption, cancer, etc.).
Mineral sunscreens rely on Zinc or Titanium minerals as their primary ingredient. Because of this, you are going to have to deal with a white residue from mineral sunscreens (thus, their name). In my research, this is the most common complaint.
Long story short, you’re going to have the famous white strip (think surfer dude) and it will be difficult to blend the mineral sunscreens in. This is why I use other sunscreens on my face. I have dry skin so I use Skinceuticals Daily Sun Defense SPF 20 under my primer. For combination or oily skin try Paula’s Choice Resist Super-Light Wrinkle Defense SPF 30, this is a mineral based facial sunscreen that is slightly tinted so you won’t see the typical white cast with this. I recommend using a mineral sunscreen on the body, but apply at least five minutes before putting clothing on to protect your clothes.
One last note about all of this sunscreen talk, like anything else, you should use it during the day while you’re out and about, then make sure you wash it all off before bedtime to give your skin a chance to breath while you’re sleeping. Your skin will thank you for the extra care you give it by glowing during the day and assisting you in looking your best.