Now that summer is in full swing; sunscreen is becoming part of our daily routines. Adding a new skincare product comes with particular scrutiny of the product and its ingredients.
Every year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) puts out their guide to safe and clean sunscreens. We’ve compiled some of their best advice with a bit of our own to help you pick a sunscreen that is both safe and healthy.
Why Do You Need Sunscreen
Sunscreen is vital to your skincare routine, especially during the summer months. Use sunscreen throughout the day to avoid dangerous exposure to various health conditions such as melanoma or aging skin.
So often people equate a “good” sunscreen with a high SPF rating. But does a higher SPF mean better protection? First, we need to understand SPF and what it means.
Understanding SPF Ratings
Sun protection factor (SPF) measures how much protection each sunscreen has against UV radiation. SPF relates to the amount of UV radiation exposure.
According to the FDA, a common misconception is that SPF refers to time versus amount. SPF protects against a certain amount of UV radiation exposure; however, a variety of factors can affect the effectiveness of the sunscreen:
- Time of day (if UV radiation is at its highest)
- Skin type
- Amount of sunscreen applied
- Reapplication frequency
But UV rays aren’t all created equal. There are two types: UVB and UVA. UVB has a shorter wavelength and is what causes your skin to burn. UVA are longer wavelengths and causes the long-term damage, like skin aging.
The SPF value only reflects protection from UVB rays and not UVA rays.
This is misleading as many believe the larger the SPF value the more protection they will receive against the sun. Using higher SPF valued sunscreens can put you at more harm as many tend to misuse these products as they believe they are “safer” from harmful rays.
When considering products with an SPF of 50 or more, consider the following:
- As SPF increases, the ratio of UVA protection decreases.
- Many misuse high SPF products by staying in the sun longer and risking overexposure, and not reapplying their sunscreen properly.
- Sunburn protection is only marginally better with higher SPF sunscreens.
- Higher SPF products contain more concentrations of sun-filtering chemicals than lower SPF sunscreens do. This may pose health risks to users.
The Dangers of Aerosol Spray Sunscreens
While aerosol sunscreens may seem like an easy way to give your family full coverage from the sun, many spray sunscreens contain harmful chemicals, such as benzene.
Benzene is a well-known chemical recognized as a carcinogenic which is known to cause cancer and other serious health effects with no safe level of exposure.
What makes spray sunscreens so concerning is they can be both inhaled and absorbed through the skin. When selecting a sunscreen, keep these tips in mind:
- Choose a lotion instead of an aerosol sunscreen.
- If using a pump or aerosol sunscreen, spray your hands and apply evenly to ensure complete protection.
- Avoid SPF values of 50+ as they can lead to over-exposure to high concentrations of chemicals.
What to Look For in Sunscreen
Four important factors to remember when purchasing sunscreen:
- Choose a cream-based lotion instead of an aerosol spray; the coverage is more consistent, and you and your family are not inhaling harsh chemicals.
- Find sunscreens that say “broad-spectrum protection,” as this protects users from UVB and UVA radiation.
- Look for water-resistant sunscreens, as sweat and water can wash away your protection when you are outside. This, however, does not mean you do not need to reapply your sunscreen!
- Choose a sunscreen with an SPF that suits your needs (anywhere from 15-50)
And, you’ll want to watch out for and avoid sunscreens with:
- Vitamin A (Retinyl Palmitate)
- Added Insect Repellent
Environmental Working Group (EWG) is an organization working to change industry standards through advocacy and awareness. For more information about their sunscreen guide, visit their website.