In honor of my recent trip to Palm Springs (hence my mini blogcation…my apologies for being a bad blogger again!), I’ve been doing a lot of thinking…about sunscreen. We all know that we should put it on on a daily basis if we want to avoid wrinkles/skin cancer, but I get the sense that there is still a lot of misinformation out there about what you should actually be using and what to look out for. The FDA, which is admittedly not my favorite organization, came out with some new guidelines that are worth paying attention to. Unfortunately, sunscreen companies have until December 2013 to meet these new guidelines, so I think we should all study our sunscreen labels a little more carefully, especially with spring around the corner. Now what to look for can be incredibly confusing, but these are some findings that I believe are worth emphasizing:
Sky-high SPF ratings are basically pointless. When the bottle’s label has SPF 100 written in the huge, bolded font it does NOT mean it provides 4x the amount of protection as SPF 25. In fact, these labels can be so misleading that the FDA is forcing skincare companies to instead label if their sunscreen has broad-spectrum protection from both UVA and UVB rays, which is much more important. Those numbers only tell you how much protection you get from UVB rays, which cause you to burn. However, UVA rays are what causes long-term skin damage and aging. As long as you are wearing at least SPF 30, you are probably fine (unless you have a skin condition or burn very easily), but you absolutely need to be wearing sunscreen that protects you from both types of rays.
Vitamin A is not an ingredient you want to slather on before sun exposure. Some studies have shown that Vitamin A ingredients (such as retinyl palmitate) may actually encourage the growth of skin tumors and lesions when your skin is exposed to sunlight. Watch out for this!
Look for non-nano zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as your primary active ingredient. Nanoparticles, which are often used to make sunscreens more transparent on your skin, have not been tested for safety and may be absorbed into your skin. On a related note, you may also want to consider avoiding sunscreen sprays as they have not been researched thoroughly either, so nobody knows if the particles they emit into the air are safe to inhale.
Some other odds and ends: As a friendly reminder, it is extremely important to avoid chemical sunscreens that actually absorb rays instead of blocking them, such as oxybenzone and octinoxate. Not sure what to try? On the top of my sunscreen bucket list (yep, I have one) are Honest Company’s SPF 30 Sunscreen and Suntegrity Skincare’s offerings. Oh, and sunscreen mixed with foundation (or moisturizer or whatever) doesn’t really count. I’d just consider it a fun add-on to be extra safe. You are definitely not using enough foundation (or other product) to actually get the protective benefits of sunscreen!
Since many of my readers are far more educated than me, please share – what other sunscreen tips do you have?
[Image Credit: Harper’s Bazaar]