IS MY SUNSCREEN SAFE?

How do you pick the right sunscreen? If SPF30 is good, is SPF100 better? Why do I feel like I'm wearing butter?

All Good Questions. As your Consigliere, we're here to help.

First, let's talk about the Sun.  The Sun is a great thing- that superbright star enables us to have sunlight, food, air, happiness. All good things. The Sun also can cause some serious harm, especially when it comes to us. Prolonged exposure causes sunburn, premature aging, and skin cancer.  The sun's rays hit the earth with radiation in the form of electromagnetic waves- UVA, UVB, and UVC- all measured by different wavelength- UVA is the longest and UVC is the shortest. UVC rays are absorbed by the Ozone layer, so don't reach us. UVA rays are long and will penetrate the skin on contact- these rays cause Wrinkles and contribute to Skin Cancer. UVB rays are a bit shorter and mostly stay at the surface of the skin, causing Sunburn and contribute to Skin Cancer. Long story short- they are both bad for you.

That's why Sunscreen exists.

What kinds are there and what do they do? We'll get to that. But first, here's what SPF means. Sun Protection Factor (SPF) is how long it takes for skin to redden from UVB rays with sunscreen vs without. SPF 15 means it takes 15 times longer to redden with Sunscreen (and blocks 95% of UVA rays), vs without. SPF 30 means 30x (97% blockage), SPF 50 means 50x (98% blockage), and so on.  Does that mean SPF 100 is better? Yes and no. It blocks 99% of UVB rays, but it doesn't make you invincible. 

So there are 2 types of Sunscreen- Chemical and Physical. Chemical sunscreens create a protective layer on the skin (that you can usually feel) and absorb the sun's rays so that they don't reach the surface and sublayers of the skin. Physical sunscreens also sit on the skin, but they reflect away the sun's rays.  Which is better? Both- you are better off with a Sunscreen that uses both Chemical and Physical properties- these are called Broad Spectrum Sunscreens. 

Chemical Absorbers:

 

Aminobenzoic acid (PABA)

UVB

Avobenzone

UVA1

Cinoxate

UVB

Dioxybenzone

UVB, UVA2

Ecamsule (Mexoryl SX)

UVA2

Ensulizole (Phenylbenzimiazole Sulfonic Acid)

UVB

Homosalate

UVB

Meradimate (Menthyl Anthranilate)

UVA2

Octocrylene

UVB

Octinoxate (Octyl Methoxycinnamate)

UVB

Octisalate ( Octyl Salicylate)

UVB

Oxybenzone

UVB, UVA2

Padimate O

UVB

Sulisobenzone

UVB, UVA2

Trolamine Salicylate

UVB

Physical Filters:

 

Titanium Dioxide

UVB, UVA2

Zinc Oxide

UVB,UVA2, UVA1

Chart Source- Skincancer.org

How much and how often?  More is better. You should be applying a shot-glass full of sunscreen to your face every 2 hours. Any less frequent than that and you will lose the amount of protection stated on the bottle. For the rest of your body, apply liberally. A hat is also an effective protector when used in conjunction with sunscreen.

What about the Sunscreen ban that I heard about?  That State of Hawaii and Key West, Florida have banned sunscreens containing chemical filters Oxybenzone and Octinoxate. This ban was enacted due to the potential damage to Coral Reefs and the marine ecosystem caused by these chemicals being absorbed into the Ocean. While this isn't an indication of the safety of these sunscreens on your body, it does show that Mineral-based sunscreens are better for the environment. There are many Sunscreens on the market that do not contain these chemical UV filters, so alternatives are readily available. 

Last question, and maybe the most important- When Should I Wear Sunscreen? The answer is simple- everyday that you go outside. Even on cloudy, overcast days, the sun's rays are reaching the earth and your skin. You need to protect yourself daily with something that works for your skintype.

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