Sunscreen 101

I know that there is a lot of conflicting information about sunscreen out there like how high spf should I use, what are the best ingredients, and what is the difference between UVA and UVB rays? etc..

Here are the answers that I give my clients to some of these types of questions….

What sunscreen should I use?

I have struggled with this myself. I am still on the search for a favorite sunscreen.  There are 2 types of sunscreen: chemical and mineral. I prefer a mineral over a chemical because they tend to be safer. The difference is a mineral uses titanium dioxide and zinc oxide which are minerals from nature, and they bounce the sun’s rays away from the skin. A chemical sunscreen absorbs the UV rays and converts it to heat that is dispersed throughout the skin. The ingredients are built from carbon molecules.

What is SPF?

SPF stands for sun protection factor and refers to the amount of time you can stay in the sun without getting sunburned. For example, an SPF of 20 would allow you to stay in the sun 20 times longer than you could without protection. So, if your skin starts to redden in 20 minutes without sun block, applying a product with SPF 20 increases that time by a factor of 20, meaning you could stay in the sun for 400 minutes (6.5 hours). HOWEVER KEEP IN MIND; that there are several factors that come into play when applying this formula; like cloud cover, time of day, refection of water or sand, is the sunscreen waterproof / sweatproof; etc. For this reason; that is why I recommended that you apply every 2 hrs.

What SPF do you recommend?

I do recommend at least a 15 but usually I go no higher than a 30 or 50.  There is very little difference between a 50 and a 30 as far as protection goes and anything higher has no benefit just more active ingredients. Anything with a very high SPF can also cause a false sense of security and people may become less likely re reapply.

What is the difference between UVA and UVB rays?

UVA rays are your deep penetrating rays that cause premature skin aging and photoaging(age spots). UVB rays are your burning rays that are on the superficial layer. These rays play a role in skin cancer.

What ingredients should I look for and stay away from?

 Look for a sunscreen where the main ingredients are zinc and titanium or a combo of both. The one ingredient that has the most controversy is oxybenzone. It is found in most all chemical sunscreens. Research shows that this ingredient mimics hormones and can cause skin allergies and reactions. Other ingredients that have shown allergic reactions have been octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, and octinoxate.

Spray vs a lotion?

As long as it is a mineral sunscreen the spray bottles are no different than a lotion.  However, I am not a fan of the spray. I know that it is less messy but I feel it is more difficult to get an even coat with the spray.  One last thing to consider when using a spray is the chemicals placed in the products could potentially be inhaled which could cause irritation to those with lung sensitivities.

A good website for resources and product reviews is the environmental working group at http://www.ewg.org . They break down the ingredients in products and let you know how safe or harmful an ingredient is. Two sunscreen companies we like are Garden Goddess and the Honest Company.

Happy summer!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *