Your skin is your largest organ, exposed to the world day in and day out. It is what you see every morning when you look in the mirror. It’s what comes into direct contact with the environment around you. Skin is the outer layer of who you are, what others around you are able to see. And it is open to the chemicals that roam the world, including those in skincare and sunscreen, which affect not only your appearance, but your health as well.
Summer calls for time in the sun, which in turn brings up an important topic: Sunscreen. This area of skin care is something that many people put on the back burner, buying whatever sunblock is cheapest and available. It is vital to protect this giant aspect of health and to spend some time learning about the skin that you live in. Here are a few quick tips that can help you purchase the sun screen of your skin’s dreams.
Avoid the O’s: Chemicals that are common in most sunscreens on the shelf include Oxybenzone, Octinoxate, Octisalate, and Octocrylene. These ingredients have various effects on your skin, allowing chemicals to absorb into this vital organ with ease, changing your hormones, accelerating aging, and damaging your skin cells. Not only do the “O’s” harm you, but they are not the best for the environment. Avoid these overly used chemicals when walking down the sunscreen aisle. Do look for lower-risk ingredients, such as Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide.
Aging Gimmicks: One ingredient found in about a third of sun blocking products is Retinyl Pamlitate. This is an added chemical that is stated to prevent the signs of aging, although it does not actually fight off the broad spectrum of sun rays. The “anti-aging” element has been argued by many doctors and academics to be correlated with skin cancer. While Retinyl Pamlitate is not in most products, it is definitely something to look out for when on the sunscreen hunt.
What even is SPF?: The SPF number, in a nut shell, determines the rate at which you get a sunburn. With a higher SPF, it takes longer for your skin to become red. With this in mind, any sunblock, even with the highest SPF number, isn’t qualified to protect you for hours on end in the sun. UVB rays, which cause sun burn and skin cancer, can still penetrate any level of protection at a low rate. Don’t forget to reapply every couple of hours and to take a break in some shade. The Skin Cancer Foundation suggests that you wear a sunscreen of at least 30 SPF, depending on your genetics and likelihood of skin cancer (which could cause you to seek a higher SPF number, such as 50 or above, to play it safe).
Here are a few recommendations of sunscreen that contain lower-risk chemicals to protect you from broad spectrum rays:
For your body:
Banana Boat KIDS Tear-Free Sunscreen Lotion (Amazon.com, Walmart, Walgreens)
Goddess Garden Organics Natural Mineral Sunscreen (Walmart, www.goddessgarden.com)
For your face:
Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Dry-Touch Suncreen (Target, Ulta, Walmart)
Pacifica Mineral Face Shade (Amazon.com, Target, Ulta)
Remember: Look for broad spectrum sunscreen to protect you from every kind of the sun’s rays. Apply your sunblock every two hours or right after a dip in the pool, 30 minutes before you plan to go outdoors for a long period of time. To find out if a skincare product has lower-risk chemicals, like Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide, check out www.ewg.org/skindeep to explore their database for beauty and sun products. This handy resource includes ratings and information on the safety of over 75,000 products.
Summer is for swimming, soaking in the heat, and sunny activities, so don’t forget to save your skin.