08 Jul Sun’s Out, Protect Your Skin – Choosing Safe Sunscreens
Summer is upon us and we feel great! With summer comes sun, fun outdoor sports and for some, sunbathing.
Now more than ever, people are reaching for the sunscreen.
It’s not surprising. Since NASA first announced visible changes in the Ozone Layer in the 1980s, we’ve become savvier to the harmful effects the sun rays can cause. The Ozone Layer is a protective layer above the earth which filters the suns rays and protects us Earthlings from too much exposure.
Sunscreens, also called sunblock, do just that. They screen or block UV rays from affecting your skin. In the short term, it prevents sunburns, which we all know to be painful and annoying. Long term, sunscreens can prevent melanoma, a type of skin cancer.
UV rays come in a few different forms:
- UVA (about 95%) cause wrinkles, “sun spots” and other types of premature aging. UVA rays are strongly linked to skin cancer.
- UVB rays affect the skin’s top layer and can cause skin cancer also. UVB rays are also responsible for most sunburns.
- UVC rays are the most dangerous type of UV radiation but is not considered to reach the earth’s surface. Most of the exposure applies to welders.
Sunscreens have become more popular in the news recently. Most of the hype has been regarding the effects of toxic chemicals in sunscreens decreasing fish populations and damaging oceanic ecosystems. This world we live on is beautiful and it’s important to preserve the diverse nature it provides us with. But, we also need to think about what kind of chemicals we are exposing ourselves and our children to. If your sunscreen is considered “toxic” to fish and coral, consider it could be small doses of “toxic” to you as well.
We’re at the point where sunscreens containing harmful chemicals are being banned in an effort to protect these fragile ecosystems: Hawaii in May 2018, Island nation of Palau Nov 2018, Key West Jan 2021 (bill passed Feb 2019),and Australia is rumored to follow suit for the sake of the Great Barrier Reef.
So what do you do to protect yourself and your children from too much UV radiation?
- Choose “mineral-based” sunscreens that contain zinc oxide or titanium oxide as the main active ingredients. Avobenzone and Mexoryl SX are also non-toxic ingredients
- Choose “broad spectrum” sunscreens to filter UVA and UVB rays
- Choose a minimum protective level of SPF 15
- Wear clothing that contains SPF to reduce the use of sunscreens
- Wear large brimmed hats or hang out in the shade as much as possible
- Buy sunscreens that don’t contain harmful chemicals like: oxybenzone, octinoxate, para-aminobenzoic acid, or trolamine salicylate
- Buy sunscreens with Vitamin A (retinyl palmitate) in the ingredient list. Vitamin A applied topically in the presence of sunlight can be harmful.
- Buy sunscreens with added insect repellent
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a wonderful resource to evaluate SAFE products for you and your family. I highly encourage you to check out their 2019 Guide to Sunscreens @ https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/. The EWG reads the research and tests the products so you don’t have to.