How to Make Sure Your Sunscreen is Healthy

How to Make Sure Your Sunscreen is Healthy

In small doses, sunlight can be very beneficial. It’s what our bodies need to make vitamin D, a nutrient crucial for healthy bones and teeth, good immunity, and much more. It also just feels good on the skin and may increase the production of “feel good” hormones.

However, too much sun is harmful. It can lead to burns, wrinkles, leathery skin, and (worst of all) increases your risk of skin cancer. That’s why experts recommend wearing sunscreen if we’re going to be outside during the day—especially in summer months when the sun is strongest and we’re outdoors the most.

This brings up an additional concern: unhealthy versus healthy sunscreen. Read on for Nature’s Ideal’s guide to choosing healthy, non-toxic sunscreen.

5 Things to Know About Healthy Sunscreen Choices

There are many misconceptions about what makes a sunscreen “healthy,” from the ingredients to the SPF it contains. Here’s what you need to know when choosing a sunscreen that will actually help protect your skin and not potentially do more harm.

1. Regulation of Safe Sunscreen Ingredients Has Happened Slowly

Your skin is your largest organ, and it absorbs whatever you put on it. Sunscreen ingredients have been detected in urine, blood, and even breast milk samples after they have soaked through the skin [1]. In addition, it’s easy to inhale ingredients from sunscreen sprays.

Since sunscreens are created for thick application on most of your body—and several times a day—it’s important to monitor the ingredients they contain. This is harder than it sounds because the FDA did not review evidence of some ingredients’ potential harm when they grandfathered in active sunscreen ingredients in the 1970s.

The FDA did finally propose a rule in 2019 to increase regulation of products like sunscreens. However, many sunscreen companies are trying to weaken the proposal and prevent sunscreen regulation from changing much. Unfortunately, this means health-conscious consumers are still left to do their own research when picking a healthy sunscreen option.

2. Common Sunscreen Ingredients May Mess With Hormones

The active ingredients in sunscreen (meaning the ingredients that help protect your skin from the sun) either function as chemical or mineral filters of UV rays.

Many common sunscreens use chemical filters and will usually contain a combination of these six active ingredients:

  1. Avobenzone
  2. Homosalate
  3. Octinoxate
  4. Octisalate
  5. Octocrylene
  6. Oxybenzone

Some chemical filters, such as oxybenzone, have been shown in lab studies to potentially mimic hormones, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG). In other people, skin allergies related to sunscreens have been reported.

That FDA has proposed only two active ingredients have enough information on them to determine whether they’re effective and safe for use:

  1. Zinc oxide
  2. Titanium dioxide

These are the mineral UV filter ingredients. Some sunscreen products may use a combination of zinc oxide and chemical ingredients. Mineral sunscreens are typically rated by the EWG as safer for use. However, they also may contain nanoparticles that haven’t yet been studied for how they affect humans over the long-term.

Other skin care ingredients to be wary of that are also common in sunscreens include:

  • Parabens
  • Sulfates
  • SLS
  • Artificial colors and fragrances

You can read more about parabens and artificial ingredients in this article.

3. Sunscreens are Weaker in the United States

Besides concern over the safety of sunscreen ingredients, there is evidence that sunscreens themselves may not provide enough protection in the U.S. Sunscreens in America have been shown to transfer through the skin much more and provide weaker UVA protection than sunscreens in European countries.

Most sunscreens do prevent sunburns when applied correctly, but they may not fully protect us from UVA radiation. Versus UVB rays, UVA rays are lower energy and don’t lead to burns—but they may play a part in development of the skin cancer melanoma as well as skin aging.

The FDA has recently shown concern about UVA rays in skin cancer development and the need for stronger UVA protection. The problem is that manufacturers of chemical UV filters haven’t given the FDA enough data to approve new active ingredients that may further reduce UVA ray exposure.

4. You Don’t Need an SPF Higher Than 30

SPF stands for “sun protection factor,” which is supposed to measure how long a product will protect from UVB rays. For example, if someone’s skin usually burns after 10 minutes in the sun (without protection), an SPF 20 sunscreen should keep you from burning for about 20 times longer—totaling 200 minutes.

However, this amount of time varies greatly depending on skin type and other conditions. Plus, SPF is meant to measure UVB protection and not length of protection.

Many consumers see a higher SPF number and assume it means better protection. However, this isn’t necessarily true for a couple reasons:

  • Anything above 30 SPF does not actually provide much more protection.
  • SPF doesn’t measure how well the sunscreen will protect from UVB rays.
  • In fact, higher SPF sunscreens may have a much lower UVA exposure versus UVB, which doesn’t give you full protection from all harmful rays.

For this reason, dermatologists typically recommend sunscreens between SPF 15 and 30.

5. You Can’t Rely on Sunscreens Alone for Protection

It should also be noted that no sunscreen is going to provide perfect protection. It’s best to choose a product with healthier ingredients and re-apply a thick layer often—every time you get out of the water. Then, you should use other measures to protect yourself from the sun like hats and utilizing shade often.

Top Healthy Sunscreen Brands at Nature’s Ideal

While no sunscreen is perfect, there are brands that choose their ingredients carefully with your health in mind. At Nature’s Ideal, we offer a variety of all-natural sunscreens for you and your family, including:

For naturally soothing sunburns and bug bites, George’s Aloe Vera is a good option.

To view all of our healthy sunscreen options, see our Sun Care section here.

Jun 4th 2019 Nature's Ideal

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