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

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Sunscreen or Sun Exposure–Which is Worse?

Is Sunscreen Bad for You?

We all know that too much sun is certainly bad for us, if not from the pain of sunburn then from the long-term consequences of sun exposure, such as the risk of deadly melanoma skin cancer.

Recently however, new studies and data indicate that our reliance on sunscreen lotions or sprays for protection could potentially be a big mistake.  Some reports indicate that certain ingredients in modern sunscreens present health risks.  As well,the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has identified two major problems regarding sunscreen usage, both related to human error: improper application and over-reliance on sunscreen.

Sunscreen danger #1: Improper application

Even when we take the precaution of applying sunscreen before going out, FDA research indicates that, too often, we do not properly apply sunscreen. Common errors in sunscreen application include:
  • Not applying enough sunscreen: According to research, the amount of sunscreen we apply is often insufficient for adequate protection.
  • Not applying sunscreen evenly:  Most often, people apply sun screen lotion on themselves. But it is very difficult to apply sunscreen evenly and thoroughly even on someone else – nearly impossible to do so on ourselves, especially on the back. Missing a single spot exposes the sunbather to harmful sunrays and potential burn.
  • Inhaling sunscreen spray vapor: Many of the chemical ingredients of sunscreen are only considered safe for external use. However, the increasing popularity of sunscreen sprays increases the need for caution when applying them, avoiding contact with the mouth or nose.
  • Not reapplying sunscreen often enough:  Most sunscreens recommend reapplying after a certain amount of time. The FDA warns that there is no such thing as a truly waterproof or sweat-proof sunscreen.  Water resistant, yes. Waterproof: no. This is why the FDA recommends re-applying sunscreen every two hours, or even more often if the sunscreen labeling recommends it and if you are going in and out of the water or are perspiring significantly.  New labeling standards from the FDA require manufacturers to identify the water resistance timeframe.

Sunscreen danger #2: Over-reliance on sunscreen

In the days before there was any such thing as sunscreen lotion, people still protected themselves from sunburn by using certain common sense practices, such as covering exposed skin with clothing, limiting the amount of time spent in the sun, or avoiding sun exposure during the hottest part of the day.
Too often these days, common sense practices have been replaced by a strong reliance on the protective properties of sunscreen lotions and sunscreen sprays. But, as noted above, all it takes is one missed area of skin exposure when applying sunscreen to leave you or your child vulnerable to sunburn and its potentially long-lasting dangers.

Sunscreen danger #3: dangerous sunscreen ingredients

Some of the ingredients found in certain sunscreen formulas may be best avoided:
  • Vitamin A.  While vitamin A is generally assumed to be good for us, a recent study showed that the form of vitamin A often used in lotions, retinyl palmitate, can actually accelerate the development of skin tumors and lesions if applied to your skin in sunlight.
  • Petroleum-based fragrances. Those tropical scents that you enjoy when applying sunscreen can be problematic. For some, allergic reactions are common. For all, the petroleum-based fragrances commonly used in sunscreen have been linked to skin tumors.
  • Nanoparticles. Many sunscreen lotions with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide as ingredients contain nanoparticles – microscopic particles about the same width as a human hair.  Some research indicates that nanoparticles can present health risks, depending on their size and shape – something completely unregulated today.
  • Oxybenzone. - One of the most popular ingredients in modern sunscreens, oxybenzone is a chemical known to disrupt hormones, with the risk being highest for children.

Solutions for safe sun exposure

There are many ways you can safely enjoy your time in the sun.  Recommendations from the FDA and other sources include the following:
  • Follow the recommendations in the Environmental Working Group’s Sunscreen Guide to avoid potentially harmful sunscreen ingredients.
  • Use sunscreens with broad spectrum SPF values of 15 or higher regularly and as directed.
  • Limit your time in the sun, especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. This is when sunrays are most dangerous.
  • Cover skin exposed to the sun with clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts and pants, and broad-brimmed hats. And protect the eyes with sunglasses.
  • Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours, and even more often if you’re sweating or jumping in and out of the water.
  • When using spray sunscreens, avoid spraying anywhere near the mouth or nose. The safer solution: use the spray on your hands, and then use your hands to transfer the lotion carefully to the face.
Beyond the steps to protect yourself, the FDA continues to take steps to protect the public. The measures they have recently taken or are in the process of taking include the following:
  • Finalizing regulations to establish standards for testing the effectiveness of sunscreen products and require labeling that accurately reflects test results
  • Proposing a regulation to limit the maximum SPF value on sunscreen labeling to “SPF 50+” (According to FDA research, there is no advantage to going higher than SPF 50)
  • Performing a data request to have identified the relative safety and effectiveness for different kinds of sunscreen products (e.g., sprays vs. lotions, etc.)
  • Creating guidance for sunscreen manufacturers on how to test and label their products in light of these new with
  • Requiring sunscreen manufacturers to meet certain minimum standards in order to use the labeling "broad-spectrum"
Following these guidelines, you should still be able to enjoy your time in the sun.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer