This Summer, Get to Know Your Sun Protection

 

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With the upcoming July 4th weekend and the hot, sunny days of late, we're sure to get our share of summer sun exposure. For most of us, that means applying sunscreen head to toe whenever we spend time outdoors.

Question is: do we know how to choose a safe sunscreen?

Sunscreen safety is not as simple as picking a formula with the highest SPF or even choosing the package with the most seals, endorsements or beauty claims. When it comes to sunscreen, it's essential to be our own advocates and do our homework on safety and effectiveness.

That said, there appears to be no 100% perfect option! Mineral sunscreens often contain nanoparticles that may penetrate the skin, while chemical sunscreens are unstable and may disrupt hormones.

For now, the best natural protection on the market comes from zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These are physical, mineral sunscreens, meaning they are likely to leave a whitish cast on your skin when you apply. Not the most attractive. But both titanium dioxide and zinc oxide block broad spectrum UVA and UVB rays, which many other sunscreens fail to do in the absence of FDA regulation.

The Environmental Working Group also backs Mexoryl SX and avobenzone, of which very little penetrates into the body, according to the EWG's sunscreen information guide. These are alternatives for those who absolutely won't use mineral formulas.

Do your very best to avoid sunscreen with oxybenxzone (careful, this ingredient is in a TON of products!), a synthetic estrogen that does penetrate the skin and can disrupt hormone function.

One tip that I love: stay away from spray or powder sunscreen (however convenient), because it is so much easier to inhale these formulas. You don't want, or need, to inhale sunscreen!

While wearing sunscreen this weekend (and beyond), keep these tips in mind:

  • Reapply sunscreen frequently. Wearing an SPF 100 product doesn't give permission (or protection) to apply once and forget about your sun exposure. In fact, FDA regulations drafted in 2007 (but not put into law) say “there is no assurance that the specific values themselves are in fact truthful…” where SPF 50+ is concerned.
  • Use a protective beach umbrella, a long sleeve shirt or some other form of physical protection in addition to sunscreen.
  • Wear eye protection that is approved to block UV rays.
  • Ladies, get your boyfriend/husband/brother/son to cover up too! According to the EWG, only 34% of men wear sunscreen, compared to 78% of women.

To choose a safe sunscreen this summer, use this Environmental Working Group guide, or take a look at some of my favorites:

Soleo Organics All Natural Sunscreen, SPF 30+ (zinc oxide)

Badger Sunscreen for Face & Body, Unscented, SPF 30 (zinc oxide)

Goddess Garden Natural Sunscreen, SPF 30 (zinc oxide, titanium dioxide)

MyChelle Dermaceuticals Sun Shield SPF 28 Coconut (zinc oxide, titanium dioxide)- AND the most delicious natural coconut fragrance!

Specifically for face:

100% Pure Organic Pomegranate Antioxidant Hydration SPF 20 (zinc oxide, titanium dioxide)

Kimberly Sayer Ultra Light Facial Moisturizer SPF 25 (titanium dioxide, zinc oxide)

To note, it's considered safe (even healthy!) to get 15 minutes or so of unprotected sun exposure a few times a week (2-4 times) to give your body the opportunity to naturally produce Vitamin D.  Do this when you're not in strong, direct sun and always avoid sunburns!