When I was a kid, it was easy to see why summer was my favorite time of year. No school, no job…just fun in the sun all day long!
As much as I loved playing outside, I was a fair skinned, freckle faced redhead so the sun was not always my friend. I cannot even begin to tell you how many nasty sunburns I had and my poor nose – it was literally in some stage of peeling all summer long!
Back then, there wasn’t a lot of information about the dangers of getting too much sun and there wasn’t much in the way of prevention either. In fact, do you remember when it was all the rage to slather yourself with baby oil and lay out in the sun holding an album cover lined with foil? Crazy, right?
Now that I’m older (and a little wiser) I know how important it is to be diligent about wearing sunscreen. Not only can it help protect your skin from UV rays but it will also help prevent premature aging, brown spots and skin cancer.
If you’ve been wearing your sunscreen and staying safe in the sun, that’s great! But what if the sunscreen you are so diligently wearing is more dangerous than the sun’s rays?
Unfortunately, this just happens to be true. Roughly 75 percent of sunscreens contain toxic ingredients and/or they don’t protect you from the harmful UV rays.
Now that I’ve dropped that bombshell on you, you’re probably wondering “how do I know which sunscreen is safe to use?” That’s a great question!
Let’s start with the basics. Commercial sunscreens come in two forms: chemical and mineral. Most sunscreens on the market are formulated using chemical ingredients like avobenzone, oxybenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octimoxate. Studies have shown that these chemicals, which are known to cause cancer, are readily absorbed through the skin into the bloodstream and can circulate in the body for up to three weeks. That’s a scary thought so you definitely want to avoid the chemical sunscreens!
Mineral based sunscreens, on the other hand, are going to be your best option. They contain zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide, both of which are non toxic ingredients and they protect you from UVA and UVB rays. Most chemical sunscreens only offer protection from UVB radiation which is about 3-5% of the sun’s rays. UVB rays will burn the skin and cause some DNA damage whereas UVA radiation penetrates much deeper creating free radicals and promoting skin aging and skin cancer.
Zinc oxide is a strong UVA filter and titanium dioxide offers moderate protection. When the label says “broad spectrum” that means the sunscreen offers UVA and UVB protection. This is what you want.
Something else to consider is the SPF of your sunscreen. You may have noticed that the SPF’s keep getting higher and higher. In theory, this may sound like a good idea but there is little evidence that anything over 50 provides any added protection. In fact, a high SPF may offer a false sense of security causing people to stay in the sun longer than they should.
If you’ve gone shopping for sunscreen lately, you know there is no shortage of options to choose from. When I’m stocking up and I want to be sure I have the most up to date information on the safest sunscreen to buy, I head straight to the Environmental Working Group’s website. Every year they put out their list of the best and worst sunscreens on the market. It is without a doubt the best resource so be sure to check it out. Right now I’m loving the Badger Baby Mineral Sunscreen with chamomile and calendula.
Summer is finally here and I know you’re ready to get out there and have some fun. I also know you don’t want to end up looking like a lobster at your next barbecue, so go get yourself a tube of the safest sunscreen you can find and slather it on. Your skin will thank you!
Have fun and stay safe 😉