There are more sunscreens on the market today than there have ever been before. If you don’t know just what you are looking for, or not looking for, the task of choosing the best sunscreen may be daunting.

About sun protection

First of all, realize that it is now widely accepted that sunscreen alone cannot afford adequate sun protection in order to prevent skin cancer or the aging-related effects of the sun. In fact, research shows that sunscreen may give a false confidence to users, especially those sunscreens with high SPFs, leading users to stay in the sun longer than they would otherwise without reapplying. SPF refers to a sunscreen’s ability to block out UVB rays, which cause sunburn. While UVA rays do not cause sunburn, they do promote skin aging and skin cancer, including melanoma. Most sunscreens in America today do not offer adequate UVA protection. The best way to protect your skin is a combination of appropriate sunscreen application and covering up.

Choose the best sunscreen

  • Chemical sunscreen or mineral sunscreen?

Chemical sunscreen goes on so easily and just the way you want it to – like a lotion. Chemicals in chemical sunscreens though (as opposed to mineral sunscreens) are unstable in sunlight, are known to contribute to skin damage and cancer, are hormone disruptors, have a shelf-life, and require strict adherence to application instructions for safety – and even then usually don’t provide the broad spectrum of protection users think they are getting (Note: Sunscreens claiming “broad spectrum protection” is misleading. Very few protect adequately from UVA rays). Chemical sunscreens are harmful to oceanic and freshwater life as well.

Mineral sunscreens offer more stable broad spectrum (UVA & UVB) protection, but historically have been much more difficult to apply and leave a chalky or white appearance on the skin and are difficult to wash off. Tinted mineral sunscreens rub off on light colored clothing and bathing suits and can leave stains. With the advent of nano-particle mineral sunscreens, some of this has changed. These sunscreens go on much more easily and don’t leave the same white layer….but lost is some of the UVA protection. (NOTE: Zinc oxide – think lifegaurds with white noses – provides the best UVA protection in sunscreen).

  • Spray or rub on application?

Spray applications, while extremely convenient, are problematic. Research shows that they do not provide adequate or even coverage – leading to further misplaced confidence in the sunscreen application. Additionally, it is inevitable that some of the sprayed sunscreen gets inhaled into the lungs becoming a respiratory irritant and increasing the risk for lung disease over time.

Rub-on application has improved some over time. Many kids (& adults!) dislike having cream applied. It can be hard to rub on evenly without making a huge mess as well. Enter the handy stick applicator. This allows dabbing and then rubbing, or with some more recent stick applicators on the market, can afford a smooth glide-on application. Then a little spreading with hands and done. These are compact and fit in a pocket,  purse, or backpack; are easy for kids at camp to independently reapply; and are far less likely to make a mess. This year, our household favorite is the MyChelle SunShield Stick SPF50. (I have no affiliation)

Wash it off!

Soap and water tend not to work so well at washing mineral sunscreen residue off. What does work though is oil. Most any oil will do: olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil all work effectively. Before bathing, apply oil all over and rub it in. Bathe as usual. BONUS: Not only will the sunscreen be washed away, but your skin will be moisturized.

Summary

Use a combination of rub-on mineral sunscreen, hats, and clothing to adequately protect yourself and your littles from the sun. For more information on sunscreen safety, visit the EWG 2018 Sunscreen Guide. Additionally, get your vitamin D checked! To learn more about vitamin D and how to strategically expose your skin to sun in order to produce more vitamin D, visit my previous blog post: Vitamin D and Sun Exposure.

Here’s to a summer of sun!

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