Summer is coming and this hopefully means fun in the sun! Now, I’m someone that has learned to embrace my pasty white skin, as a tan has never been in my cards, which means sunscreen has been my best friend. Sun exposure brings a mixture of good and bad. The good is that during the middle part of the day, when you expose your bare skin to sunlight, specifically UVB rays, you are also exposing yourself to large amounts of Vitamin D. Read this post as to why you want adequate Vitamin D. It is estimated that you can produce 10,000-25,000 IU of Vitamin D in a little under the time it can take for your skin to burn. What this means is that someone that is fair skinned and burns easier will produce that amount of Vitamin D faster than someone that has a darker complexion and takes longer to burn.
When I was practicing I always made sure to talk to patients about the importance of knowing your body to watch for changes in moles. The ABCDE system works well and I always encouraged patients to do body mapping where you can take pictures of moles to help track changes.
Since there is good and bad that come with sun exposure there is a balance that needs to happen with sun protection. If you are going to be outside pay attention to what time of day it is going to be. A few minutes of sun exposure will allow you to expose your skin to some natural Vitamin D and then you can cover up or apply your sunscreen.
There are some great articles of clothing that provide sun protection, but if this isn’t an option you will want to lather yourself up in sunscreen. Not all sunscreens are created equal so I will fill you in on what you want to look for.
First, you will want to stick to mineral sunscreens and stay away from chemical sunscreens. Mineral sunscreens include the ingredient zinc oxide and titanium dioxide where chemical sunscreens include the ingredient(s) oxybenzone, avobenzone, and really anything ending in –benzone. These chemical sunscreens soak through skin, trigger allergic skin reactions, and are a hormone disruptor. They also damage coral reefs (1). Oxybenzone leeches the reefs of nutrients and it’s color. It doesn’t take much of this ingredient to have a negative impact. I love the ocean and have enjoyed scuba diving so hearing that something that many of us use on a regular basis when in or around the ocean is harming something so beautiful makes me sad.
Another negative aspect of chemical sunscreens is that they break down in sunlight so many times companies will add an ingredient to help it penetrate the skin in order to help them stick. With the increased penetration of these chemical sunscreens, it is also driving the hormone disrupting properties into the skin as well.
Since chemical sunscreens work by absorbing the sun’s rays, whereas mineral sunscreens block them, there is dramatic variability in their ability to protect the skin from UVA (wrinkle- and melanoma-causing rays, as opposed to the sunburn- and non-melanoma-cancer-causing UVB). “The National Cancer Institute reports that the rate of new melanoma cases has tripled since the 1970s; sunscreen use has increased dramatically over those years, so the rates should have gone down, not up. SPF numbers relate to UVB protection, not UVA.” (2)
So, as warm weather approaches, be sure to choose a mineral sunscreen that ideally uses zinc oxide over titanium dioxide as it has shown to be more effective. One issue that I want to address is non-nano vs. nano, which addresses the particle size of the zinc oxide. There is currently some controversy on how the particle size of zinc oxide affects us and if we are inhaling/absorbing the particles. Currently there isn’t enough research to know for sure, so Beautycounter will use non nano-particles to reduce any chances of inhalation/absorption concerns. Read more on nanoparticles here.
I would also recommend avoiding any spray sunscreens as they put the particles into the air where we can inhale them. This holds true for safe and not so safe sunscreens.
Lastly, when choosing an SPF, higher is not always better. SPF refers to the ability to block UVB rays, which cause sunburns. At an SPF of 15 blocks 94% of UVB rays, where an SPF of 30 blocks 97%. And, an SPF of 45 blocks 98%. You can see that after 30 there really isn’t much benefit and beyond 45 the increase in protection is so negligible that it’s not beneficial. Also, with the higher SPF’s people may have a false sense of protection and while it’s preventing sunburn, they are still receiving damage from the UVA rays. The key to any SPF is frequent reapplication and make sure you are applying enough (shot glass amount is recommended). Beautycounter’s sunscreens are labeled with how often reapplication should happen, but they should be applied more often if sweating a lot or swimming.
There are many great safer zinc oxide based sunscreens available, but to be honest Beautycounter’s is my favorite for the blendability of the lotion and the sticks are incredible for stashing in your bag, ease of applying, and the tootsie roll like smell. Every time I use the stick I just want to eat a tootsie roll.
For Sunscreen options we have the Protect All Over Lotion spf 30, the Protect Stick Suncreen for Face and body, Protect Lip Balm spf 15, and Dew Skin Tinted Moisturizer spf 20. I love the Dew Skin for all that it does, a little bit of moisture, a little bit of coverage and sun coverage. It’s my go to in the summer and can be layered under the Tint Skin if you want more coverage.
For other safer options, I’ve also found Babo Botanicals, Suntegrity, and Blue Lizard to be good choices.