We are all constantly bombarded by messages telling us to wear sunscreen to protect ourselves against the harmful rays of the sun. Some of this advice even contains the assertion that we should wear protection every time we step out of our front doors. After all we wouldn’t want to get skin cancer or prematurely aged skin would we? What we are not told is which sunscreen we should wear or that some products are potentially dangerous in themselves.
There are really only two kinds of sunscreen. Chemical screens that work by absorbing the sun’s rays and mineral screens that reflect the sun’s rays. But which should we be using?
Chemical based products have come under the spotlight in recent times with many researchers finding them to be potentially hazardous to our health. These screens often contain oxybenzone to absorb the damaging rays. Unfortunately it is becoming clear that this chemical can also be absorbed into the skin. This can lead to hormonal imbalance, cell damage (which can become cancerous) and allergic reactions.
Many products also contain retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A which, when tested on animals, has been shown to react with sunlight to produce cancerous tumours. This chemical does not even improve the sun protection offered by the sunscreen it is added because it is an antioxidant which helps prevent premature ageing. Overall Chemical sunscreens probably prevent more damage than they cause but are not a good option and certainly should not be used every day.
It is not all good news here either. It sounds obvious but sunscreens need to contain a constituent that blocks the sun’s rays. There is no one totally natural product that can do this effectively, therefore, you will have to put something on your skin which is not meant to be there!
Mineral sunscreens contain nanoscale zinc and titanium oxide which research has shown can promote the release of free radicals which damage DNA and skin cells and can cause premature ageing. Most mineral based products include anti-oxidants to combat the free radicals but these are often not natural extracts themselves. Again overall mineral sunscreens should offer more protection than they do harm and are a better choice than chemical based products.
Probably the best available option is to choose a mineral based product with at least some natural ingredients included. Try The Oraganic Pharmacy SPF30, Block Island Organics SPF30 or This Works Perfect Skin Defense SPF30.
One more note of caution. Be aware that the protection factors stated on sunscreens are deceptive. You would think that SPF50 would offer a lot more protection that SPF30 but you would be wrong. There is actually a difference of only 1% in the amount of the suns ray’s that are blocked. SPF30 is as strong as you need. The SPF also only refers to UVB protection when 95% of solar radiation is in the form of UVA rays. You should always choose a product which also blocks UVA.
Your best protection from the sun is to wear clothes that cover your skin and stay in the shade as much as possible. Also remember that you do need to absorb vital vitamin D from the sun and so some exposure is essential. The best way forward is to moderate your exposure, only wear sunscreen when you actually need it and choose a mineral based product with natural additions.