Quick! Get outside immediately Torontonians, THE SUN IS OUT!!!
But for reals, it hasn't been the sunniest of summers this year but it doesn't mean your skin should suffer the consequences! Despite all that we know about the risks of sun exposure and all the many sunscreens on the market, the rates of new melanoma cases are rising (in men, the death rate has skyrocketed!).
Who knew that trying to keep our skin and the skin of our loved ones safer could be so dangerous? We’ve been educated to protect our skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays during outdoor summer activities. What we didn’t know as consumers is that sun protection is oftentimes veiled behind false claims. Many chemical-based sunscreens aren’t actually blocking dangerous UVA and UVB rays at all. In fact, they contain chemicals to simply prevent a burn so that we’re mistakenly led to think that we’re being protected. No burn, no problem, right? Wrong.
If you want more information about this, The Environmental Working Group, a consumer protection agency, has released their incredibly well-researched Sun Safety Campaign that rights the ship for many sunscreen myths that the general consumer deserves access to. Sections of the report include “The Problem with High SPF“, “Nanoparticles in Sunscreen“, and “Getting Enough Vitamin D“.
So today, I wanted to share 3 tips for safer suncare with you to ensure you enjoy your summer days & protect your health for the long term:
1. Get some D! (But make sure to check the UV index and plan around the sun)
We get a lot more sun exposure in the summer and it’s a great time to load up on Vitamin D (because the body stores it), ESPECIALLY if you live in Canada. And it’s a good idea to get some sun exposure a couple times a week WITHOUT using sunscreen.
Your body makes vitamin D when sunlight hits the skin. But when you use sunscreen/sunblock, it blocks the skin’s ability to make it.
What I recommend is to go outdoors in the early morning or late afternoon for about 20 minutes a couple times a week*, when the sun is lower to avoid sun damage. Expose your arms and legs as they are the largest surface areas and are less exposed to sun year round. UV radiation peaks at midday, so make sure you are protecting your skin if you go out during that time.
**This varies based on where you live, your skin colour, air quality, weight and age.
2. Don’t fall for high SPF labels.
SPF values of 50+ are inherently misleading and tempt people to apply too little sunscreen and stay in the sun too long. Avoid these high SPF sunscreens at all costs and opt for SPF 30 which is great for face and body. Anything above 30 is really more marketing hype than anything!
The Environmental Working Group goes into much more detail about what the problem with high SPF sunscreens and outlines 5 key issues with SPF labels over 50.
3. Avoid sunscreen ingredients that disrupt hormones and cause skin allergies
Sunscreen is designed to be applied to large portions of the body, several times per day. Sunscreen ingredients soak through skin and can be detected in people’s blood, urine and even mothers’ breast milk. Several commonly used ingredients appear to block or mimic hormones, and others cause allergic reactions on sensitive skin.
Throw out sunscreens with oxybenzone, a synthetic estrogen that penetrates the skin and can disrupt the hormone system. Look for products with zinc oxide, 3% avobenzone or Mexoryl SX. They protect skin from harmful UVA radiation and can have longer lasting protection without the harmful ingredients.
While there are other companies that make great zinc based (non-oxybenzone) products, I personally think that Beautycounter produces the safest protection under the sun! And the EWG thinks so, too: Protect was once again selected as one of EWGs safest sunscreens. I love that they offer their sun protection products from in sunscreen stick formulations, which are easy to use, keep your hands clean and mess free and are PERFECT for parents with little ones!
As always: do your research, read your labels and use resources like EWG's Skin Deep Database or the Think Dirty Shop Clean app to empower you to be more ingredient conscious and choose the safest beauty and personal products.
I hope this helps shed some sun – er, light on a complicated topic!