Sun and Sunscreen: Everything You Need to Know for Summer
Now that we are officially into summer, it’s more important than ever to be mindful of the effects of exposure to the sun.
About the Sun
The sun’s light contains rays of invisible ultraviolet rays which can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes. There are 3 types of UV light. UVC is the most damaging but it does not reach us because it cannot get through the atmosphere. UVB is responsible for delayed tanning and burning; however, it cannot penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin. Most of UVB is filtered by the clouds in the atmosphere and causes the most impact between 10am and 4pm. Most of the UV radiation that reaches us is UVA. It can reach the deeper layers of the skin and causes immediate tanning. It is also the type that causes skin aging and wrinkling and potentially skin cancer. Increased exposure to UV rays can cause sunburn, speed up skin aging and increase the risk of skin cancer.
How to Protect Yourself
- WEAR CLOTHES that protect your skin from the sun’s UV rays. All fabrics decrease UV radiation to some extent. Some outdoor clothes have a UPF rating, ultraviolet protection factor, which describes how effectively the clothing shields from both UVA and UVB light. UPF 40-50+ will block 97.5-98% of UV radiation. Not everyone needs clothing with a UPF rating. Clothes with tightly woven fabric will offer better protection and a wet t-shirt will have much less. T-shirts generally have an SPF of 5.
- FIND SHADE!
- SUNGLASSES protect your eyes and the skin around the eyes from UV radiation. They can also reduce the risk of cataracts.
- SUNSCREEN should be your LAST resort! Avoid high SPF sunscreen. Studies are showing that people are misled when using high SPF sunscreen as they are more likely to apply the lotion incorrectly and infrequently thinking they will have longer protection while in the sun. Properly applied SPF 50 blocks 98% of the sun rays and SPF 100 blocks 99%. Sunscreen with SPF 30-50 gives enough sunburn protection for all people. The chemicals creating the SPF are geared toward blocking UVB rays and has little to do with UVA. REMEMBER, UVA rays reach deeper into the skin and can suppress the immune causing free radicals to form. High SPF sunscreens will have higher concentrations of the chemicals that will filter the sun. Some of these have been linked to tissue damage and hormone disruption or allergic reactions.
Choosing a Good Sunscreen
AVOID: Sprays (These products pose an inhalation risk and may not completely coat the skin.), Powders, SPF>50, Oxybenzone, Retinyl palmitate and added insect repellant!
LOOK FOR: Zinc oxide, Avobenzone, Mexoryl SX, cream, broad-spectrum, water resistant, SPF 15-50
Mineral-based sunscreen containing zinc oxide and titanium oxide are stable in sunlight and offer a balance between UVA and UVB protection while generally not containing harmful additives. Zinc oxide is the first choice for sun protection! Nanoparticles like zinc oxide and titanium cannot penetrate the skin.
COMMON INGREDIENTS TO AVOID AND DETAILS
- Oxybenzone – a hormone disruptor/developmental/reproductive toxicity, enhanced skin absorption, biochemical/cellular level changes, persistence and bioaccumulation
- Function – sunscreen agent, UV light filter/absorber
- Absorbs through the skin in significant amounts. Contaminates the bodies of 97% of Americans according to the CDC.
- Retinyl palmitate – biochemical or cellular changes
- Function – skin conditioning ingredient
- In the presence of sunlight may speed development of skin tumors or lesions.
- Styrene – cancer, developmental/reproductive toxicity, endocrine disruption, allergies/immunotoxicity, irritation to skin, eyes or lungs, organ system toxicity
- Function – perfuming
- Fragrance – allergies/immunotoxicity, irritation to skin, eyes and lungs, organ system toxicity
- Function – deodorant, masking
- Propylparaben – developmental/reproductive toxicity, endocrine disruption, allergies/immunotoxicity
- Function – fragrance ingredient, preservative
- The paraben family of preservatives is used by the food, pharmaceutical and personal care industries. It mimics estrogen and can act as a potential hormone/endocrine disruptor.
- Methylparaben – biochemical or cellular level changes, endocrine disruption, allergies/immunotoxicity
- Function – fragrance ingredient, preservative
- Possible impurity in grapefruit seed extract
- BHT – irritation to skin, eyes or lungs, organ system toxicity.
- Function – a toluene-based ingredient used as a preservative in food and personal care products. Antioxidant, fragrance ingredient, masking
- Homosalate – enhanced skin absorption, endocrine disruption, contamination concerns
- Function – fragrance ingredient, sunscreen agent, UV filter/absorber, skin conditioning
- Homosalate is a common sunscreen ingredient. Research indicates it is a weak hormone disruptor and sunlight breaks down the chemical into harmful byproducts.
- Benzyl alcohol – allergies/immunotoxicity, organ system toxicity, occupational hazards
- Function – external analgesic, fragrance ingredient, preservative, solvent, viscosity decreasing agent, used as a solvent and preservative, associated with contact allergy.
Many other ingredients not listed above cause irritation to skin, eyes or lungs.