Become a sunscreen expert

While I realize parts of the country are still experiencing a full blown winter, some of use feel like Spring is here and have not only begun airing out the house, but spending time outside. So while it may seem a bit early to be discussing sunscreen, not only are some people already spending more time outdoors, it really is a subject to be concerned about year round. Our skin is the biggest organ we have and serves so many functions. Let’s keep it looking beautiful for many years by learning the truth about sunscreen.

WHICH TYPE SHOULD YOU CHOOSE

Years ago it was an easy decision to just pick up a bottle of sunscreen. But now once summer is in full swing, the shelves are full of choices and that can be very confusing, here are some tips so you know what the labels are really saying.

Sunscreen is a lotion that easily rubs into the skin. Look for a main ingredient of Parsol 1798 to get the best protection. It will provide a thin layer over the skin to block harmful rays.

Sunblock is thicker, visible when applied to the skin and doesn’t wash off easily. It’s main ingredients are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, both of which are less irritating to the skin. It also provides a broad spectrum of protection against UVB and UVA. PABAs only protect against UVA. Oil free and water based lotions are best for sensitive skin.

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Gels tend to sweat off easily. Sprays can miss spots so be sure to use one you can see before rubbing it in. They also tend to be under applied (more on that later).

For year round use, choose a lotion with an SPF of 15. When spending a significant amount of time outside is when it is time to increase your SPF.

Lips can burn as well so look for a balm with 15 SPF.

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To be labeled Water Resistent, lotions must maintain their SPF after it has had up to 40 minutes water of exposure. Water Proof requires that it maintains it’s SPF when it has had up to 80 minutes of water exposure. If you towel yourself off, you are rubbing off the sunscreen and both would need to be reapplied.

When choosing a lotion to apply to your face every day, it is best to choose one created to be worn under makeup. It is designed for more sensitive skin like our face and won’t clog your pores when used in combination with your other products. Choose makeup which also has an SPF. Mineral makeup such as Bare Minerals and Younique naturally provide SPF while others have it added to the product and will say on the label what it’s SPF rating is.

DANGERS

Getting a tan or sunburn means we have cooked our skin. When I was little I burnt my face so badly that the entire thing became one giant blister. I wouldn’t leave the house for nearly two weeks it looked so bad. I also burnt my coller area so badly about 10 years ago that every time I take a hot shower that area still turns a bright red in the exact shape of the sunburn. Every burn increases my chance of skin cancer so I must carefully check myself on a regular basis.

A truck driver whose left side was constantly exposed to sunlight shows how much it causes premature aging.
A truck driver whose left side was constantly exposed to sunlight shows how much it causes premature aging.

There are many variations of lotions available on the market. Here are a few things to look for. If you are concerned about the ingredients, you must do your own research. Look up the name and the he mail composition to learn what it really is and if you are concerned about it being in your sunscreen. I will not go into all ingredients here as there are far too many. The exception is DEET which is used as a mosquito replellent. Some sunscreens claim they serve a dual purpose (sunscreen and mosquito repellent) but deet reduces the SPF thus increasing your exposure to UV rays. Avoid lotions which contain Vitamin A, Retinol and Retinyl Palmitate as they may actually increase the amount of cancer causing rays your skin is exposed to. While these ingredients are used in many products that are good for your skin, those products should be applied at night when your face is clean and not exposed to sunlight. For example, Younique’s eye serum Uplift is naturally based and helps reduce those wrinkle around the eye, I only apply it before going to bed. For more information on specific ingredients, check out the database from the Environmental Working Group available online.

If you are someone who needs extra vitamin D for various reasons, keep in mind that sunscreen is also blocking the natural vitamin D we receive from the sun.

UVB are the rays that cause cancer and sunburns. UVA causes premature aging and wrinkles.

UV rays are strongest between 10-4 so either limit your sun exposure at those hours or be extra careful to use enough sunscreen. Sunlight and UV rays will reflect off sand to the tune of 17%, snow and water 80% and does filter through clouds. Being aware of how much sunlight and thereby exposure to harmful rays will ensure you use proper protection to keep your skin safe and looking pretty.

FDA LABELS

in 2013 the FDA began requiring claims be backed up by companies selling sunscreens and sunblocks. For example, sweatproof and waterproof lotions must submit proof to the FDA supporting the claim, who will then perform their own tests before it can be printed on the container. The same applies to any claims of “all day sun protection” or being water resistant. This provides a consistency between brands so you know you can trust what you are buying does what you need.

SPF

There is a common misconception that SPF refers to the amount of protection against UV rays a lotion provides. The truth is that it refers to the length of time it will last. Simply take the SPF and add a zero and you have the length of time you can be out in the sun. For example and SPF of 30 means you have 300 minutes. But wait, I know you have applied sunscreen and got a burn long before the time was up, so what happened? There are a few factors that typically impact how long sunscreen lasts.

The typical person only uses 25% of the amount they should be applying. When applying sunscreen to your entire body, we need to use a palmful. When first learned this I was shocked! I wasn’t even close to applying that much. For little ones, 1/2tsp to the face and 1tsp to each body part is what they need. If only a fraction of that amount is being applied you will receive only a fraction of the SPF the lotion could provide.

You can see how good sunscreen protects the skin from harmful rays.
You can see how good sunscreen protects the skin from harmful rays.

So if higher is better, why does the American academy of Dermatology only reccomend and SPF of 30? Here is the breakdown of how much UVB is blocked per SPF. You can see that increasing from 30 to 100 makes hardly any difference yet the price can be nearly twice as much,

SPF 2-50%

SPF 4-75%

SPF 8-87%

SPF 15-93%

SPF 30-97%

SPF 50-98%

SPF 100-99%

STORAGE

All sunscreens and sunblocks begin to lose effectiveness after only 1 year. This doesn’t mean that it is not safe to use, just that it won’t provide the effectiveness that it used to. Some like to keep a bottle in the ice chest so it feels cool when applied to the skin on a hot day. This won’t hurt the lotion and could actually help. Heat is not a friend of sunscreen so keeping it in a hot car is a no no. If you want to have it available to use any time, keep a small bottle in your purse, enough for one application. (Which is a palmful, right?)

Sunscreen should be applied 30 minutes before going outside, otherwise you have again reduced how effective it will be in protecting your skin.

OTHER OPTIONS

in rent years clothing manufacturers have been using fabric that provides some UV protection, this can be especially useful for those who have had skin cancer or little ones with very sensitive skin. Keep in mind that any fabric helps but these are designed to provide even more. Thin fabric still allows harmful rays to get through so be sure to apply the sunscreen over your entire body if you will be in the sun for awhile.  Investing in a fun hat and sunglasses not only shade your face but keep you styling.

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So love the skin you are in and protect it. Teach your kids from a young age to protect theirs and you will create habits that last a lifetime. Now go out and enjoy the sun my Beauties!

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