Toddler with Sun Hat On

The 411 on Sunscreen

There’s been a lot of talk about sunscreens and there’s so much info on the market. As it turns out, some sunscreens really are better than others and we’re here to tell you all about it!


What to keep on your RAYdar.

There are two main ultraviolet rays to be aware of. UVA, which penetrates deep into the skin causing signs of aging such as wrinkles, and UBV, which penetrates the top layer of skin causing most sun burns and skin cancer. Make sure you have both covered by using sunscreen with either broad-spectrum or multi-spectrum protection.


Sunscreen can be measured by its Sun Protection Factor(SPF.) This scale doesn’t give an amount of protection, but a timeframe for how long your skin takes to redden without the product. This also means your SPF is only talking about UVB ray protection. If someone has on SPF 30, they will take 30 minutes longer to burn than someone who has nothing on. There is currently no rating to let you know how good a sunscreen is at protecting from UVA rays, which is why ingredients are becoming more important.


Types of Sunscreens

Physical – Physical sunscreen quite literally reflects the sun’s rays from your skin. They offer protection against both UVA and UVB rays upon application, which is ah-mazing. One down side to these is they can feel heavy and rub or sweat off easily.


Mineral – Under the physical sunscreen umbrella, mineral sunscreen starts working as soon as its applied. Typically, the two main ingredients include zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Being that this sunscreen is more natural, it’s no surprise that they’re less likely to irritate sensitive skin. These sunscreens are also reef-safe and non-toxic, which is always a plus!


Chemical – Often easiest to find, chemical sunscreens absorb UVA or UVB rays, though often they only contain ingredients absorbing the latter of the two. Over the counter sunscreens containing mexoryl offer protection from both rays but can be difficult to find in the US mass market. Chemical sunscreens take about 20-30 minutes to begin working, which is why your mother might have made you wait before diving in to the pool growing up. These sunscreens can also irritate sensitive skin due to their active ingredients.


Children’s Sunscreen – Children and babies naturally have more sensitive skin, so it’s no surprise that chemicals in adult sunscreens would be a no-go. Children’s sunscreen avoids ingredients such as para-aminobenzoic acid and benzophenones. The FDA states that these ingredients can affect hormone levels and have increased absorption susceptibility in children. Instead, they contain ingredients such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide (hello, mineral sunscreen!) These ingredients protect the skin without being absorbed. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommend babies under 6 months be kept out of the sun altogether. People with skin issues such as allergies and rosacea may also enjoy using these sunscreens.


Different forms of Sunscreen

Though they all do the same thing, there are certain advantages to each. Stick formulas go on dryer than the others and realistically could make overall body application tiresome. The good news? It’s perfect for the face and around the eyes because of its dryness. Many stick sunscreens are wax, or petroleum based, which means they’re less likely to wear off in the water, too. On the other hand, lotion and creams lean towards being more hydrating so if you have dry skin, this could be the golden token for you! Spray sunscreens are UBER easy to apply, especially if your partner has eh, how do we say this, a hairy chest. Just make sure not to inhale it. It’s easy to not use an adequate amount of spray, so just make sure you spray until your skin glistens and make sure to rub it in after use. No matter what form you choose, always reapply sunscreen every two hours according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.


The Problem with US Sunscreens

With all this information, sunscreens may still not be all that they claim. In recent news, the Federal Drug Administration(FDA) is vying to strengthen UVA protection offered by US sunscreen brands. These upgrades have been available in the past; however, chemical manufacturers have not provided the FDA with sufficient data regarding ingredient safety. In Europe, these safety standards are met highly. While the US has two approved ingredients to filter UVA rays, Europe has seven (such as mexoryl.) According to one study, a US sunscreen with SPF 50 allowed an average of 3 times more radiation penetration than a European sunscreen of the same SPF. Luckily, in February of this year, the FDA has released its final draft proposal to strengthen standard for UVA protection in the US. It’s only up from here!

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