Sun Care 101: my guide to safer sunscreen
Hi friends! I’ve been so excited to share this post, with summertime officially here! As many of you know, sun (and skin) care is very important to me, as I have health conditions which cause my skin to be very sensitive to the sun. However, everyone - even the healthiest human out there - should be concerned about protecting their skin from the powerful UVA and UVB rays that we’re exposed to every day! I hope this post can serve as a safe sunscreen guide or ‘cheat sheet’ for all of you looking to become smarter about the chemicals you expose yourself (and our environment to) on the daily.
Recently, the FDA released a report stating that 12 chemicals commonly found in sunscreens were able to enter the human bloodstream in under 1 hour. Avobenzone, cinoxate, dioxybenzone, ensulizole, homosalate, meradimate, octinoxate, octisalate, octocrylene, padimate O, sulisobenzone, and oxybenzone, are the twelve chemicals in question. This is concerning not only because they can act as hormonal disruptors, allergens, further increase a person’s toxic burden, but Octinoxate and Oxybenzone were also banned by the state of Hawaii in 2018 for their detrimental effects on the marine environment. Although I’ve been told by my doctors for years to seek out mineral sunscreen instead of chemical, I’m shocked that the FDA is only now becoming concerned with the safety of skincare.
If I’ve learned anything from this year of my personal skin-issues, its that the products we put on are face aren’t much different than the products we ingest - they are truly skin food! Therefore, it’s beneficial to be as inquisitive about your skincare as it is about your food for overall health. This is ESPECIALLY true for sunscreen - something that should we should be using on the daily. Before going down this rabbit hole of sun care research, I used to think I was protected when working inside, so I didn’t sunscreen. Welp, turns out UVA rays can pass through window glass! These are the rays that damage collagen and elastic tissue, create wrinkles, dark spots, aka not fun stuff. Meanwhile, UVB rays are blocked by window glass, but can cause a burn if you’re unprotected when outside. Another pro tip I learned: rain or shine, chances are you’re still gonna need that SPF if you’re outside; UV rays can penetrate even the most overcast days.
Ever wonder why some sunscreens have different SPF ratings? I know I did! Basically, SPF is short for Sun Protection Factor, which is a rating of the amount of UVB protection provided by a product. The higher the SPF, the higher the protection. For example, a product containing SPF 30 blocks about 97% of UVB rays; this is the SPF amount that my dermatologists have suggested for daily use. That being said, the lower or higher concentrations do not vary much in protection (SPF 15 provides about 95% coverage, SPF 50+, about 98-99%). If you like to geek out on health things like me, there is actually a math to SPF ratings! Basically, you would need to know how long it takes your skin to turn pink from unprotected sun exposure, then multiply that number by the SPF rating. For a fair-skinned person like myself, that number is around 10 minutes. So I’d multiply 10x30, and get 300. Then divide that number by 60 minutes, and you get 5 hours of sun protection! Note: SPF is only measuring the UVB rays, so you’re going to want to look for a broad spectrum sunscreen that covers both bases.
On a scientific level, the difference between chemical and physical (otherwise known as mineral) sunscreens is two fold. First off, ingredients. As discussed above, there are 12 different types of chemicals found in most chemical sunscreens. If you have sensitive skin like me, adding extra chemicals on top of the chemicals exposed to on the daily (hello LA traffic and smog), is just going to cause extra and unnecessary irritation. For physical sunscreens, there are only two ingredients - the minerals zinc and/or titanium dioxide. That being said, some chemical sunscreens are sneaky, and will add zinc to a mixture of chemicals and call it a ‘mineral’ SPF. This is fake news and you should pat yourself on the back that you know better now.
Secondly, chemical and physical sunscreens have different reactions. Chemical sunscreens create a chemical reaction that converts the sun’s rays into heat, which is then released from the skin. Because of this reaction, most chemical SPF’s suggest waiting 15-20 minutes before going outside. Meanwhile, mineral based sunscreens sit on top of the skin, physically blocking the sun rays from damaging the skin. They offer full coverage protection (deflecting both UVA and UVB rays), and protect the skin as soon as they are applied. Although physical sunscreens are less likely to clog pores, some can feel heavy or leave a white cast on the skin. Therefore, in my experience it’s important to have a cleanser (or two) that you know will be effective at keepin’ those pores clean and free from leftover zinc. I’ve tried a bunch of sunscreens over the past year, and definitely think that cleansing with a balm is the way to go.
Now for the moment y’all have been waiting for: what non-toxic sunscreen should you use!? Well, luckily there are so many options out there, and some of my favorites can be found at The Detox Market! Here are some that I’ve tried (or have on my wishlist) and would recommend to anyone with sensitive skin like me:
1. Coola Mineral Unscented Matte SPF 30, $36 USD | 2. Suntegrity 5 in 1 Moisturizing SPF 30, $45 USD | 3. Josh Rosebrook Nutrient Day Cream SPF 30, $50 USD | 4. Love Sun Body Unscented SPF 30, $21 USD | 5. Hynt Beauty Sun Prep SPF 25, $55 USD | 6. Marie Veronique Everyday Coverage SPF 30, $48 USD | 7. Babo Botanicals Sheer Zinc SPF 30, $22 USD **Some of these links are affiliate links. They do not cost you anything extra but help support my blog & content if you choose to shop through them! Thank you <3
If anything, I hope this post has inspired you to reconsider what products you’re putting on your skin, and why! Skin cancer is on the rise, with an estimation of one in five Americans developing skin cancer in their lifetime by the American Association of Dermatology. By applying a safe sunscreen daily, you’re taking a preventative measure for your skin and body health!
To learn more about sun care and all things non toxic, I’d highly recommend checking out The Detox Market. They’ve been so sweet with answering all of my questions, and truly have a plethora of the best products out there. Also love that you can try samples of products before committing to any one product (as we all know skincare can get expensive real quick). Your skin and the environment will thank you - rest assured.
Do you have a favorite mineral/non toxic SPF? Leave a comment below and let me know! Love discovering new products :)