With summer’s unofficial start on Monday, Memorial Day and National Sunscreen Day tomorrow, I’m beginning my annual search for the latest, natural and safe sunscreen brands for myself and family. Especially more recently, I’ve been really trying to get a better grasp of what sunscreen ingredients are safe and what to steer clear of. I’m obviously a big proponent of natural skincare –if the routine is easy and the ingredients are clean, then sign me up. I don’t have time to fuss with a busy skin regime anymore and I’m sick of the idea of putting chemicals on my skin. So, I’m here to break down sunscreen terms for the layman, and if you’re already well-versed on them, then more so for me to understand them better!
Sun protection factor (SPF) is a measure of protection from ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation, which is the chief cause of sunburn and a contributor to skin cancer. Ultraviolet rays (UVA) tan and age the skin that can also cause skin cancer.
SPK only covers the UVB rays so that’s why you need a broad-spectrum sunblock. Broad-spectrum covers both UVB and UVA rays. But remember that no sunscreen blocks 100% of UVB and UVA. I do try to keep my kids covered as much as possible when they’re out in the sun with protective clothing and I make sure their exposure to the harmful rays are limited. Something to note is the sun is at its strongest between 10am-4pm.
Ingredients we should try to stay clear of are octinoxate and oxybenzone. These ingredients have been found to cause hormonal changes and are particularly bad for young ones whose systems are rapidly developing.
What you want to look for are mineral sunscreens that have zinc and/or titanium dioxide only. If you come across a sunscreen that says “mineral-based,” it can sometimes mean that zinc and/or titanium dioxide have been mixed with chemical sunscreens. It’s always important to read the labels and to get familiar with ingredient names that could be toxic. The “bad words” to look out for are parabens, phthalates, sodium laureth sulfate and fragrance.
Did you know that skin cancer is the most common cancer in the US? So sometimes the benefit of any sunscreen, with our without “bad” ingredients still outweighs the potential risk of exposure. That said, there are some great natural products on the market these days that are worth a shot.