It’s summertime! Many schools are finished (or nearly there), vacations to the beach or mountains are starting. Many of us love the longer days, spending time on the water, and the chance to be outside for hours, however, all this fun does come with some risk.
In order to prolong our time outside, we search for the most effective sunscreens to protect our skin from damage. There are so many brands available, it’s challenging to know which one is going to meet our needs. Advertising promotes one brand as anti-aging and moisturizing, while another touts its “natural” ingredients and safety for children. Help!
First, let’s clear up a few misunderstandings about sunscreen.
- There is little proof that sunscreen prevents most skin cancer. Melanoma is on the rise and public health agencies haven’t found evidence that sunscreen helps in any significant way.
- High SPF does not mean more protection. Often, a higher number gives a false sense of security that one can safely stay in the sun longer.
- Many sunscreens contain a vitamin A additive that actually speeds skin cancer formation.
- European sunscreens provide better UVA protection than most manufactured in the United States.
- Sunscreen doesn’t prevent all types of skin damage. SPF protects against sunburn, not necessarily free radicals, aging, or deep sun damage.
- Some sunscreens disrupt hormones and/or cause skin allergies.
Here are some tips for finding an effective and safe sunscreen.
- Choose one that uses titanium dioxide or zinc oxide (labeled mineral).
- Avoid ingredients like oxybenzone (hormone disruptor) and retinyl palmitate (a form of vitamin A).
- Look for a sunscreen that has a balance between UVA and UVB protection.
- Choose an SPF factor based on your skin characteristics, UV intensity, and time outside, but not less than 15.
The Environmental Working Group (www.ewg.org) is an excellent resource for finding effective and safe sunscreens. You can even type the name of what you’re currently using in the site search to find out how it rates.
Have fun in the sun but use common sense. Invest in UPF (UV Protection Factor) clothing, a big-brimmed hat, and a beach umbrella. Spend some time in the shade. And don’t forget to reapply, reapply, reapply!.
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