Soak up the sun – Your guide to finding the perfect sunscreen

by | Aug 6, 2017 | Environment, Health

If you’re like me, choosing the right sunscreen can be a serious headache. In fact, when choosing ANY type of cream from the pharmacy shelf, we are faced with way too much to chose from leaving us confused and indecisive ; more precisely what I like to call the paradox of choice. First, we must choose a brand, then we need to decide between the different options available. Should we choose Broad spectrum? Waterproof or Sport sunscreen? FPS 30 or 70?  Is natural better? Talk about ways to confuse the consumer! While doing my research, I found out that most people including myself, are not informed properly on this matter which is why I decided to share with you tips on how to choose the right sunscreen, hoping it will simplify your decision process.

Why do I need to protect my skin?

Now I know no one wants to hear this but as much as the warmth of the sun on our skin is one of the best feelings ever, it comes with serious consequences like skin cancer. In fact, “skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. One in every three cancers diagnosed worldwide is a skin cancer, 80-90% of which are caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation” emitted mainly by the sun and tanning beds. The good new is that it is also one of the most preventable type of cancer and this is where your sunscreen’s superpowers come in.

Look for Broad spectrum and water-resistant

There are two types of harmful rays emitted by the sun :  UVAs and UVBs. UVAs are responsible for premature skin aging and wrinkling, whereas UVBs are the cause of sunburns which can eventually lead to skin cancer. You need to look for a sunscreen that protects you from both of these rays by looking for the term broad spectrum on the bottle. You also want to get a waterproof sunscreen if you want it to counter sweat and water from the pool or the beach. 

PS : sun rays are capable to reach us even if we are in the shade. Thus, the importance to wear sunscreen at all times if you are spending the day outside.

Sun protection factor AKA SPF

SPF’s are classified under numbers, generally between 8 and 100. This number determines the amount of time the cream can block UVBs before getting a sunburn. More precisely, if it takes 10 minutes for your skin get burned, with an SPF 15 it would take 15 times longer before your skin gets damaged – In this case around 2.5 hours.

Here is where it gets interesting  :

If you’ve noticed, the difference between an SPF 30 and an SPF 50 is insignificant. An SPF 30 is more than enough coverage – anything higher is called marketing. What you need to focus on is : the time of exposure and the amount of sunscreen recommended per application.

SPF 15 – for a short exposition

SPF 30 – for a long exposition

30 ML = 1 serving for the average person

Don’t be scared to apply generously and make sure to reapply every 2 hours.

Active VS inactive ingredients

The active ingredients are what will offer you protection against the sun and they come in either chemical or mineral forms. Depending on the country you live in, some of these ingredients are legislated and some aren’t. “These products typically include a combination of two to six of the following active ingredients: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate. Mineral sunscreens use zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide.”

Currently, the ingredient oxybenzone used in the majority of non-mineral sunscreens, has been under the radar because recent studies have shown it to be a possible endocrine disruptor – which means that it interferes with the body’s hormonal system. The safest active ingredients you should be looking for are zinc oxide or titanium dioxide which are proven to be part of the best active sun protectors out there.

Inactive ingredients are part of everything else that is added to give texture, odor, color, preservation proprieties etc. First, avoid sunscreens that contain perfume as they can trigger allergies or skin rashes. Second, just like any other cream, if you can’t pronounce an ingredient don’t trust it. Once you’ve checked your list of the criterias above, I highly recommend you look for a sunscreen that has organic and natural ingredients.   

If you still have doubts, visit www.ewg.org for more information on product security. Big chances are that reviews of your sunscreen are available in their database. Otherwise, you can search by ingredient and evaluate the safety of you sunscreen by your own.

Here’s a recap of keywords to remember next time you purchase a new sunscreen:  

-Broad spectrum

-Waterproof

-Mineral sunscreen

-Zinc oxide or titanium dioxide

-SPF 30 or 50

-Hypoallergenic – no perfume

Disclaimer : this article is not intended to be a medical reference but all information is based on valuable resources
www.ewg.org
www.canadianskincancerfoundation.com
www.skincancer.org
lepharmachien.com