Choosing Sunscreen

TL;DR

Choose a broad spectrum sunscreen that is SPF 30 – 50+. Apply as directed by the maker; using less, lessens the product’s effectiveness. Because of skin absorption be careful of the ingredients list. Consider using one of these three:

  1. Kiss My Face SPF 30
  2. 100% Pure Hydration Organic Pomegranate
  3. Aubrey Organics SPF 30 Children’s Unscented Sensitive Skin

Why Use Sunscreen?

It is Ultraviolet Light that causes sunburn and skin cancer in humans; it also causes generation of Vitamin D which is beneficial. Knowing how our skin reacts to UV light is especially important in these summer months.

Let’s look first at UV light. We classify the Ultraviolet portion of the light spectrum in three segments, UVA, UVB and UVC.

The latter, UVC, decimates biologic entities, including humans. In fact when you purchase an UV water treatment tool, it’s using UVC. That really cool looking “oven” your barber places his comb and scissors in uses UVC as well. Before you decide to never step outside again, relax, our little planet blocks UVC in the highest reaches of our atmosphere. Pretty handy I’d say.

UVA and UVB, however, do reach the planet’s surface and are what cause skin aging and sunburn. The latter being the most noticeable effect is what most sunscreens are formulated to protect against.

How to Choose an Effective Sunscreen

The industry standard for measuring sunscreen effectiveness is measured in SFP or Sun Protection Value. This measurement is often misunderstood by consumers which can easily lead to poor choices in sunscreen products.

You skin has a natural SPF which is unique to you. It’s based on how much melanin you have. The darker your skin the longer you can stay in the sun without burning. That’s why a ginger burns so much quicker than an African American.

Once you have an idea how long it takes you to start to burn in direct sunlight, you can use the SPF rating of a sunscreen to calculate it’s effective duration. Say it takes you 15 minutes to start burning. Using an SPF 10 product will give you an additional 150 minutes in the sun.

There’s a catch here, you must apply the sunscreen as directed. Putting on less than the manufacturer’s recommendation will lessen its effectiveness.(( What’s Wrong With High SPF? ))

How Sunscreen Works

Photo by Karrie Nodalo

Photo by Karrie Nodalo

In general, sunscreens get their effectiveness from their ingredients which either reflect or absorb UV rays. Zinc or Titanium oxides are literally miniscule flecks of those metals suspended in the location. They bounce the UVB light rays away from your skin just like a mirror.

Many sunscreens include other substances which absorb UV rays and convert that energy to heat. Different ingredients absorb different types of UV. For example Cinnamates absorb UVB while Benzophenones absorb UVA. Depending on the ingredients a sunscreen will be labeled as “multi-spectral” if it screens both UVA and UVB.(( How Does Sunscreen Work? ))

Since UVB is what causes the more immediate burning that has traditionally been what sunscreen makers have focused on. While the effects of UVA are not understood completely, it is highly suspected that UVA causes deep tissue damage which leads to premature aging. In the last decade more and more manufactures have been offering multi-spectrum sunscreens.

What About Chemical Absorption?

According to Dr. Josh Axe, many sunscreens include some not so awesome chemicals which can be absorbed through the skin. He lists the following three products as his choice of healthier sunscreens:

  1. Kiss My Face SPF 30
  2. 100% Pure Hydration Organic Pomegranate
  3. Aubrey Organics SPF 30 Children’s Unscented Sensitive Skin

I highly recommend checking out his article which includes more details on why he chose to recommend these three products over hundreds of others. He also has some recommendations regarding nutrition and its effect on natural skin protection.

Please note that I’m not a doctor. Any recommendations above are based on reviewing other’s research and my personal opinions. I encourage you to do your own research and speak with your health provider before making your own decisions.