SUNSCREEN - Everything you didn't know you needed to know

What's the first thing that comes to your mind when you see #sundayfunday? Do you think of rose all day, ridiculously loud music and everyone in bikini tops and shorts eating drunk nachos at 3pm? Brunch and mimosas? Lounging by the pool? Beach day with the kiddos?  Ice cream in the park with your besties?

Well, for this elderly millennial mama, I think of sunscreen. I realize it's the not usually the FIRST thing that crosses your mind, but is it the 3rd? 4th? No? Not at all? I get it, it's not exactly sexy or glamorous or "fun". Still, whenever I know I'm going to be spending any time outdoors doing any sort of activity, the first thing I think about is packing my sunscreen.

Let  me school you on a little sunscreen 101. There are two types of sunscreen: organic and inorganic (organic and inorganic references the chemical makeup of the product, not how it was produced).

Organic sunscreen is a chemical sunscreen, which means a chemical is absorbed into your skin in order for a reaction to occur to protect your skin against the sun's rays. These include:

  • Oxybenzone
  • Avobenzone
  • Octinoxate
  • Octisalate
  • Homosalate
  • PABA

Inorganic sunscreens are physical sunscreens, which means they're made of mineral compounds that do not directly absorb into your skin. Instead, mineral sunscreens work by sitting on the top layer of your skin and deflecting the sun's ray.

These include:

  • Zinc oxide
  • Titanium dioxide

Both organic and inorganic sunscreen offer sun protection, the difference is in HOW they do it. It's important to understand the difference because these products can have short and long-term effects on your body.

When buying sunscreen, here are a few things I recommend you pay the most attention to:

1) Spectrum - Always purchase broad spectrum SPF. Broad spectrum SPF protects you from both UVA and UVB. UVB is responsible for sunburns, inflammation, hyperpigmentation of skin and skin cancer. UVA contributes mostly to aging skin, wrinkles, age spots and skin cancer.

2) SPF value - SPF measures the amount of protection from UVA and UVB. The catch is that after SPF 30, the difference in SPF protection is pretty minimal.  For instance the UVA and UVA protection between SPF 30, SPF 50 and SPF 75 is 93%, 97% and 98% respectively. So buy one that works for you but make sure it's at least SPF 30!

3) Water and sweat resistant - The water-resistant label indicates the sunscreen's ability to retain SPF protection for a certain period of time after immersion in water or getting sweaty.  If you think you don't need to worry about your sunscreen losing effectiveness if you don't go in the water, think of how sweaty you get laying in the sun. That counts!

4) Ingredients and quality -This topic alone requires an ENTIRE blog post, but for the sake of this post, I'll keep it short and simple. Here are some quick facts you need to know:

  • Oxybenzone - the MOST COMMON ingredient in sunscreen to cause allergic   skin reactions in both children and adults. It also bleaches and damages coral reefs structures. Did you know it's BANNED in Hawaii?!?
  • Other top allergens in sunscreen are fragrances. They irritate skin causing itching and redness. Make sure to avoid them.
  • Avoid skin products, including lip care, lotions and toners that contain vitamin   A (retinyl palmitate). There's evidence that retinyl palmitate may speed the development of skin tumors and lesions when applied to the skin in the presence of sunlight.
  • Sunscreen sprays pose an inhalation risk, especially around young children  whose lungs are not fully developed.
  • Many FDA-approved sunscreens contain toxic ingredients that may disrupt your hormones. Oxybenzone, Octinoxate and Homosalate are the biggest offenders. Will discuss more of this!

Now that you know all about sunscreen, you can make the best decisions about what type to buy. Download the EWG'S Healthy Living app and scan your products while you're in the store to make sure it passes their strict guidelines! 

I'll be sure to give you my top sunscreen recommendations in the next post. Stay tuned!

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