Showing posts with label choosing sunscreen. Show all posts
Showing posts with label choosing sunscreen. Show all posts

Thursday, July 2, 2015

How Well Do You Know Your Sunscreen?

There are two big considerations when choosing your sunscreen: The sunscreen’s ingredients and the sunscreen’s purpose. These matters are more important than ever, given the stats:
  • The Journal of the American Medical Association says that one in five of us will get skin cancer in our lifetime.
  • Skin cancer kills more than 12,000 people a year, according to the American Cancer Society.

The right sunscreen for the right circumstance

When shopping for a sunscreen lotion, consider how you plan to use it. For example:
  • Heavy activities, such as swimming or running, can cause most sunscreens to quickly wash or sweat away.  Look for a water resistant or high performance sunscreen lotion that is designed to stay effective under intense conditions.
  • If you're looking for a child-friendly sunscreen, keep in mind that some sun blocking lotions designed for kids go on in a color that becomes clear as it dries. This feature that makes it easier to ensure that you don’t miss any spots. Another kid-friendly factor to look for is the absence of any potential hormone disruptors, oils, fragrances, or dyes.
  • The Sun Protection Factor (SPF) is a rating that indicates the degree of protection you can expect from the sun. A higher number generally means more or longer protection. The more sensitive your skin is, and the longer you plan to be out in the sun, the higher the SPF number you should seek.

Screening from the sun – cover up!

One of the best sunscreens is even more basic than using lotion – it’s screening yourself from exposure to the most dangerous sun rays. For example:
  • Use sunglasses to protect your eyes from UV rays.
  • Wear clothing designed for sun protection.
  • Wear a wide–brimmed hat.
  • When swimming, wear a bathing cap and/or a wetsuit.
  • Avoid the hottest sunrays. Two hours in the sun between 6-8 a.m. is much safer than two hours of sun around noon.  
When your activity puts you unavoidably in the sun, sunscreen lotion becomes an important shield against damaging sun rays.

How sunscreen lotions work

Most sunscreen ingredients work in one of two ways:
  • Physically blocking the sun’s rays from your skin.
  • Chemically blocking or changing the way your skin reacts to sunlight.
Examples of the “blockers” include ingredients like zinc or titanium, which stay on top of your skin, between you and the sun. With chemical blockers, the primary ingredient often interacts with your skin on a cellular level.

Sunscreen ingredients to avoid

Research shows that some of the more common sunscreen ingredients may be harmful to your health. Even if it’s debatable whether or not these ingredients are more harmful than being unprotected from sunrays, consider choosing suns lotions that do not use these: 
  • Nanoparticles: If your sunscreen lotion contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, it often also has tiny nanoparticles.  Some recent studies suggest that some kinds of nanoparticles may be unsafe.
  • Retinyl palmitate:  retinyl palmitate is a type of vitamin A that may accelerate the development of skin tumors and lesions when applied in sunlight, according to this recent study.
  • Petroleum-based scents: You might like that sunscreen smell, but beware: many people are allergic to these often petroleum-based fragrances. In addition, studies show that these ingredients may introduce skin tumor risks.
  • Oxybenzone: A common sunscreen ingredient, oxybenzone can disrupt hormones.

Healthy alternatives to sunscreen lotions

Beyond the cover-up recommendations noted above, you can also protect yourself from the sun’s rays by eating a diet with lots of colorful veggies, fruits, and other superfoods, which are high in bioflavonoids and antioxidants

Antioxidants can help protect your skin in two ways: by helping your skin more quickly recover from sun damage and by helping your body to fight the cell-damaging effects of free radicals.  
For more on sunscreen safety, check out the 2014 Teen Sunscreen Guide.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer