May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and it’s definitely summer here in Florida! No mattter where you are, it’s time to get ready for all of the outdoor fun you’re going to have this summer. If you’re not sure how to choose a sunscreen, here are some basic tips to help you before you shop.
- Much like the unicorn, a “sun block” product is a mythical beast. There’s no such thing. No product, no matter how good or how high the SPF, blocks out 100% of UVA. While some ingredients and formulas are far better than others, none is a complete block.
- SPF ratings only indicate the UVB protection level or the time it will take to produce minimal redness in the skin. These ratings say nothing of UVA protection, which is left to the manufacturer to tell you – or not.
- Very high SPF numbers are misleading and give a false sense of protection. We’ve seen some bad burns with clients who thought high numbers meant they were protected and did not need to reapply or thought the product was broad-spectrum because of the high SPF number.
Look for this:
- Formulas that rely mostly on zinc and/or titanium. These minerals work to reflect UV radiation off of the skin and stay intact much more effectively than “chemical” UV filters or absorbing ingredients.
- An SPF rating of 30 – 50. No higher.
- A formula that you like the look and feel of (see below). Seems like a no-brainer, but often times when we have a product we don’t like, the thinking is, “I’ll use this up and get something different”, but because we don’t like it, we don’t actually use it.
- Formulas that use nanoparticles, which are so small, they can easily enter the blood stream. “Micronized” particles are still small enough to make the formula cosmetically elegant and are a safer option.
- SPF products that contain forms of Vitamin A. Make no mistake, this is one of our favorite skin care ingredients, but there is evidence that when combined with sunscreen products, it may actually increase your chances of developing skin cancer.
- Formulas that use questionable “chemical” UV filters. We know, everything is technically a chemical, even water. What we are talking about here are ingredients like oxybenzone, octocrylene, ensulizole and homosalate.
- Sprays. Despite their increase in popularity, there are still some concerns about inhalation risks, as well as thin and uneven coverage.
For more information, sunscreen reviews and sun safety tips, check out EWG’s Skin Deep’s 11th annual sunscreen guide. If getting enough Vitamin D is a concern for you, stay tuned for some important information on finding the balance between sun protection and sun exposure.