Too much sun can cause major damage, but not enough, can cause Vitamin D deficiency (common in Breast Cancer patients)… so what do we do? Well… it’s a delicate balance – as both can result in The Big C.
Lots of people ask what I do + personally, I don’t wear sunscreen on a daily basis or under my makeup. Why? Well, for a few reasons… 1. Because it’s already built into my mineral makeup already! 2. I’m not fair-skinned + don’t burn easily. 3. I’m not usually outside for a prolonged period of time most days. 4. I don’t live on a tropical island (I wish!). 5. I’m a Breast Cancer Survivor who was very deficient in the Sunshine Vitamin (Vitamin D). And, 6. The active ingredients in sunscreen, natural or not – can cause free-radical damage. So, I only slather it on when necessary. If I know I’m gonna be outside for awhile, I don’t rely solely on my makeup – I’ll use it underneath, or instead of makeup!
Regardless of where you stand though, at some point you’re gonna have to use something if you don’t want to fry – so it’s important to choose sun prep products that prevent more damage than they cause.
How to Choose
Unfortunately, all sunscreens currently on the market in the US (natural or chemical) cause some measure of free-radical damage! In natural sunscreens, it’s caused by the active ingredients. In conventional sunscreens, it’s caused by both the active + inactive ingredients! So natural, physical Sunscreens are always the better choice.
- Physical Sunscreens – natural, reflect + scatter light.
- Chemical Sunscreens – non-natural, absorb UV light.
understanding uv + broad-spectrum
The sun’s rays are the strongest between 10 am – 4 pm + at higher elevations, near water (penetrates at least 3 feet) or snow. As a reaction to UV radiation – the amount of brown pigment (melanin) in the skin increases, and is known as a suntan!
- UVB rays (high midday, low morning and night) help skin produce Vitamin D.
- UVA rays (during all daylight hours throughout the year) are constant and penetrate skin more deeply, causing more free radical damage.
- “Broad-Spectrum” protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
sun protection factor (spf)
The numbers that come after “SPF” on a label only protect from UVB rays, not from UVA rays. Besides the SPF, protection from sunscreen can vary based on:
- Skin type
- Time of day your out in the sun
- Amount + how often applied
- Activities (sweating, swimming),
- Amount of sunscreen that has absorbed.
For example, if your skin normally turns pink after 8 minutes of sun, SPF 8 means it will take 8 x’s as long (64 minutes) before that should happen.
The FDA recently mandated sunscreen labeling laws to help consumers better understand what they’re buying, using + what the risks are.
- The term “Waterproof” is no longer allowed, since no sunscreen product is actually 100% waterproof. “Waterproof” has been replaced by the words “Water-resistant” – meaning that it must provide at least either 40 or 80 minutes of protection.
- Only SPF 15 or above is able to claim it helps prevent sunburn, but anything over SPF 50, can give you a false sense of protection.
- Lower than SPF 15, or not Broad Spectrum must use a warning that they have “not been shown to reduce the risks of sun exposure”.
- Can be labeled as “Broad-spectrum” only if it has passed tests showing it blocks both UVA / UVB.
- The maximum Amounts of Titanium Dioxide + Zinc Oxide allowed in the US are 25%. Any more is considered misleading, since sunscreen can’t totally block all of the suns rays.
Choose mineral based ingredients like Titanium Dioxide, Zinc Oxide or a combo of both. Active ingredients are the ingredients that make sunscreen, well- sunscreen + are now required by the FDA to be labeled like drugs.
Titanium Dioxide can protect against UVB + UVA2 rays, while Zinc Oxide is effective against UVB + both types of UVA (UVA1 + UVA2) – so, I’d make sure that Zinc Oxide is in there.
Look for products that contain organic or at least natural, plant based ingredients like Carrot Seed Oil, Green Tea, Coconut oil, Olive Oil, Shea Butter, Aloe Vera, Beeswax, etc. Watch out for common, toxic sunscreen ingredients or sun care products that tout plant-based ingredients, but actually contain only the slightest amount. Imagine trying to sell a batch of home-made muffins at a bake sale + advertising that they’re made with salt because the recipe called for a pinch. You can also see a full list of what to avoid in beauty + personal care products here.
what to buy
Most natural sunscreens contain the active ingredients Titanium Dioxide, Zinc Oxide or a combo of both + come in the form of an opaque lotion. They usually use heavy carrier oils to resist being washed off + the ones that contain Zinc Oxide only, tend to have a little less of a white-ish cast to them. Not the most convenient, or the most glamorous – but they’re usually the safest + they are what I use. Check out my list of the Top 20 Brands of Natural + Organic Sunscreens here!
When shopping, look for…
- Broad Spectrum protection,
- Uncoated, non-nano, mineral-based Active Ingredients
- Natural, plant-based Inactive Ingredients
How to Use
How to Apply
Studies show that we commonly apply only about ½ of the recommended amount to achieve the rated SPF on the label. The recommended dose for the average American (5’4”, 150 lbs.) is about 1 oz. applied evenly to the uncovered body. That’s about 1/3 teaspoon for your face. Sunscreens need to be applied…
- 15-30 minutes before sun exposure, thick enough to protect.
- Reapplied 15-30 minutes after the exposure begins.
- Further applications are only dependent on activities such as sweating, swimming, etc.
If you think fake-baking is a better option, think again! I used to believe the same thing + worshiped all of it – tanning beds, spray tans + sunless tanning lotions, you name it! Tanning beds have crazy amounts of radiation though + the active ingredients in anything that artificially tans you – creates free radicals on the surface of your skin, especially if you go out in the sun afterwards! So, unfortunately – these are all, also associated with the promotion of Cancer in some form or another too. So, on that note – I’d take real sun any day!
For more info on Sun Safety, check out the EWG’s Smart Sun Campaign!
Do you wear Sunscreen daily? What do you look for in a Safer Sunscreen?