With summer right around the corner it is time to step up our sunscreen game. We all know that the sun’s rays cause of wrinkles, sunspots and skin cancer, so wearing a good clean sunscreen everyday is extremely important.
Even though summer is a great time to look into sunscreens, and which ones are the best for you, it’s important to wear sunscreen in the winter and on cloudy days, too.
You want to make sure that your sunscreen protects against UVA and UVB rays. UVA refers to Ultra Violet A rays, which penetrate deep through the epidermis into the lower layers of skin known as the dermis. UVB refers to Ultra Violet B, which penetrate the upper layers of the skin and cause the skin to burn.
Both UVA and UVB ray cause damage, so you’ll want protection from both.
We are just going to focus on the active ingredients, the ingredients that give a product its sun protection factor, SPF. As always you will want to check the other ingredients, too.
Here is a link to our list of other ingredients to avoid in cosmetics.
What To Avoid in Your Sunscreen
There are some nasty ingredients in some sunscreens. Here is how you’ll find them listed and what the issue is with them.
• Oxybenzone – An Endocrine system disruptor. Endocrine disruptors can interfere with the hormone systems of the body. These disruptions can cause cancerous tumors, birth defects, and other developmental disorders. Oxybenzone can cause an allergic reaction that looks similar to eczema. To make it even worse, it poses an environmental concern as it can bleach and kill coral reefs, which is extremely detrimental to the oceans.
• Octinoxate –This is a known endocrine disruptor, too. Oxtinoxate absorbs quickly into the body and has been found in urine and breast milk, which means it circulates through many different systems of the body.
• Octisalate – Considered safe for use in cosmetics as long as it makes up less than 5% of the product, but there are some immune and allergic reaction concerns. It would be best to avoid until there is more sufficient data.
• Avobenzone – This has been recognized as safe in the past, but more recently it has been found that as it degrades on the skin it releases free radicals. Avobenzone is only considered safe as long as it makes up 3% or less of the product. Once again, I would pass.
• Homosalate – Like Oxtinoxate, Homosalate is a possible endocrine disruptor. The human body isn’t able to efficiently rid itself of Homosalate, resulting in accumulation within the body long after you’ve used the product.
• Octocrylene – Octocrylene produces free radicals when exposed to UV light. Like Homosalate it also accumulates in the body.
The above ingredients are sometimes referred to as “natural” because they are carbon based, but they are anything but natural.
What To Look For in Your Sunscreen
You want to use a mineral sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays with a SPF of 15 or higher. Here is how you’ll find them listed.
• Non-Nano Zinc Oxide and Non-Nano Titanium Dioxide (see below for non-nano info) – These are both mineral sunscreens that form a physical barrier causing the UV waves to scatter and reflect. Zinc Oxide also has the ability to absorb UV and dispose of it as heat.
Non-nano refers to the particle size of the zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are white, think diaper rash cream. To avoid the white hue manufacturers make the zinc or titanium particles smaller to lessen or eliminate the white color. Of course when the particles are made smaller it becomes a concern that it is easier for them to be absorbed into the body.
There are a few studies, a very recent one from the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration, that examined this. The study concluded that zinc oxide and titanium dioxide minimally penetrate the skin, thus lessening the chance of absorption by the body. We have included a link to this study below if you’d like to read more.
Currently in the US the FDA does not require manufacturers to disclose the qualities of the particles used in their sunscreens, so it is unknown how big these particles truly are. These particles are also difficult to measure, as they are not a uniform size, so I don’t see them weighing in on it anytime soon. Regardless, the whole point of using clean products is to eliminate toxicity concerns so this seems like a moot point.
• Natural Oils – Red Raspberry Seed Oil, Carrot Seed Oil and Sea Buckthorn Oil, just to name a few, all have natural SPF properties plus contain a multitude of vitamins and antioxidants that are beneficial to skin.
Red Raspberry Seed Oil can have a SPF value of 28-50 for UVB rays and a SPF value of 8 for UVA rays, pretty impressive.
Most oils only block UVB rays not UVA, so you’ll want to make sure that you thoroughly research any oil before you use it.
You always want to make sure you are buying organic, cold pressed or CO2 extracted oils. Sometimes chemicals like hexane, heptane or ethanol are used to extract the oils and these chemicals can linger in the final product, making what was once natural, not natural. They also are oils so you can end up a little greasy.
I love to mix an oil with a mineral based sunscreen. The oil helps cut the any white residue and you are getting extra protection, too.
Sunscreen in makeup is another love of mine. BB Creams, Primers and foundations that contain SPF are an excellent way to get your protection. If you have oily skin you can use a primer, foundation or BB cream with SPF to cover you in the moisturizer department, too. Don’t forget to protect your lips, too.
Sunglasses and a hat are always a good idea. They offer additional protection and look so chic.
What’s your favorite sunscreen or tips for protecting your skin from the sun? We’d love to hear from you!