PROTECT YOUR SKIN AND HEALTH WITH A BETTER SUNSCREEN

Sunscreen

If you do not use sunscreen this summer, your fun in the sun could rapidly become an unpleasant experience. Excessive sun exposure can cause painful sunburn, premature aging, immune system suppression and skin cancer. In fact, nearly four million Americans are diagnosed with some form of skin cancer annually, and the cases of melanoma – the most serious form of skin cancer – have tripled in the last 40 years.

However, a recent study by the Environmental Working Group discovered that nearly two-thirds of the sunscreens tested were not as effective as they claimed to be and contained ingredients that were potentially detrimental to public health. But, there are many sunscreens that can protect your skin with minimal adverse effects.

CHEMICALS OR MINERALS?

There are two basic types of sunscreens: chemical-based sunscreens and mineral-based sunscreens.

Common chemical-based sunscreens include oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate. Although they are approved by the Food and Drug Administration, chemical-based sunscreens carry potential health concerns. The chemical compounds can penetrate living tissues in the body, cause hormone disruptions, hinder thyroid functions, negatively affect reproductive functions and lead to skin allergies. However, the long-term health effects of these compounds specifically in sunscreens are subjects of debate. Oxybenzone and octinoxate present the most concerns. Homosalate, octisalate and octocrylene present moderate concerns. Avobenzone presents only minimal concerns.

In addition, many chemical-based sunscreens contain anti-inflammatory agents that mask the severity of skin damage caused by sun exposure, and they often contain vitamin A, also known as retinyl palmitate or retinol. Even though it is a vital nutrient, vitamin A can accelerate the development of cancer cells when it is exposed to the sun.

The zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in most mineral-based sunscreens have fewer health concerns. Some studies indicate that their miniscule particles could prove harmful to the body if absorbed, but when they are stabilized in sunscreens, they cannot penetrate the skin to any worrisome degree.

Therefore, the Environmental Working Group considers mineral-based sunscreens to be the healthier option.

THE TRUTH ABOUT SPF

A sunscreen’s Sun Protection Factor, or SPF, measures its ability to deflect the ultraviolet B rays that cause sunburn in terms of length of exposure. Theorectically, an individual who wears a sunscreen with SPF 30 could expose his skin to the sun 30 times longer than an individual who wears no sunscreen before he suffers sunburn.

But, an SPF is no indicator of a sunscreen’s ability to protect from the ultraviolet A rays that penetrate the skin and cause more subtle, but more intense and comprehensive damage. A proper balance of UVB and UVA protection is vital. Sunscreens with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are not only the safest sunscreens, but they are also the most effective sunscreens for impeding both UVB and UVA rays.

Although sunscreens with SPFs of up to 100 are available, the additional protection that they offer from the penetration of UVB and UVA rays is actually negligible. For instance, a sunscreen with SPF 15 deflects 93 percent of UVB rays, while a sunscreen with SPF 100 deflects 99 percent of UVB rays. Sunscreens with high SPFs can lull users into a false sense of security. Individuals who use these sunscreens tend to stay in the sun for longer periods of time or fail to reapply sunscreen as often as needed. Therefore, they suffer more exposure to harmful UV radiation. According to the EWG, high SPF sunscreens are not more effective at reducing skin damage or occurrences of skin cancer. A sunscreen with SPF 30 to SPF 50 is usually sufficient for most individuals as long as it is applied properly.

MORE TIPS FOR PROTECTING YOUR SKIN AND HEALTH …

  • Limit sun exposure, especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Avoid artificial sources of UV rays such as tanning beds and sun lamps.
  • Use long clothing, hats and sunglasses to protect your skin.
  • If you will be in the sun, seek shade whenever and wherever possible. For instance, carry a sand umbrella when you visit the beach.
  • Apply sunscreen properly. Sunscreen users tend to apply only one-fifth to one-half of the recommended amount of sunscreen. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends an initial application of two tablespoons to the entire body at least 30 minutes prior to sun exposure. Regardless of SPF, sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours or after swimming or excessive sweating.
  • Avoid powder and spray sunscreens. They pose inhalation risks, and there are concerns about their effectiveness.
  • Avoid sunscreens that contain insect repellant. The exposure to additional chemicals is unnecessary.
  • Be wary of terms such as waterproof and sweat proof as well as of green labels such as organic or natural. Research the ingredients!

SELECT THE IMAGE FOR A PRINTABLE POSTER!

Healthier Sunscreen

FOR MORE INFORMATION …

EWG Guide to Sunscreens


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