It’s summertime, and that means that we’re more likely to spend time outside. Isn’t that a part of the glory of summer? I love being in the sunshine, my husband jokes that both the turtle and I are solar powered. BUT we know that being in the sun too much can damage our skin… so how can we tell if we are using a safe sunscreen?
I did some research and thought I’d share a little summary. When it was just for me, I didn’t care much about which sunscreen I was using, as long as I was using one. But now that I have kids, and they have such thinner skin than me I really wanted to know about how sunblock works, and what those ingredients are for. Knowing is half the battle, so here’s a quick safe sunscreen primer…
So there are two kinds of damaging ultra violet (UV) radiation from the sun: UVA and UVB. Sunblock is best when it prevents damage from both – and most do. I usually flip the bottle to the back and look at the active ingredients. There are only a few chemicals/substances that block UV radiation.
One kind is a chemical that absorbs UV radiation, these degrade with time after application:
(I personally don’t like these)
Oxybenzone – CAUTION has estrogen like properties. Also anti – androgenic properties – blocks male hormones. This chemical is one I try to avoid. It’s also killing our coral reefs – it damages their DNA. I’ll stay away from that, thank you.
Octinoxate (Octylmethoxycinnamate) – Caution moderately dangerous chemical, has estrogen like effects. I try to avoid this one, too.
Other chemicals that are not too-too bad, but not my preferred:
Avobenzone – this is the only chemical sunscreen without much toxicity concern, but like all the other chemicals, it breaks down rather quickly in the sun.
The other kind is a physical barrier that blocks the UV rays:
They are relatively safe:
These two physical barriers do not break down in the sun and do not act like hormones.
Then, look at the other (inactive!) ingredients. Each ingredient is added for a reason. I’ll scan the list and I’m ok with tocopherol (Vitamin E), natural oils (coconut, avocado, etc), and I avoid certain preservatives.
Often it’s hard to find the exact sunblock that’s been recommended to you, but hopefully this quick process will help you to pick the best one available to you if you are stuck with limited choices.
What do you think? Have you checked out your sunblock ingredients lately? I need to go through and throw out some stuff that may be gross. Sometimes these things make their way into the house! Comments? Questions? Please ask them in the comments below.
See you next week…
Dorothy Pang, L.Ac.