BOSS Series; Everything SUNSCREEN #3
WHAT IS IN YOUR SUNSCREEN?
Today we will explore the different kinds of ingredients in sunscreens and application varieties, so you can walk out of the store with confidence that you have the RIGHT SUNSCREEN.
- CHEMICAL VS MINERAL SUNSCREEN
There are two different types of sunscreen, commonly referred to as Chemical and Physical.
Chemical sunscreens- Also known as organic filters, can use up to 12 different ingredients.
They are absorbed into the top layer of the skin, where they convert into energy and then released as heat, before they harm the skin. This is why it is important that they are completely rubbed into your skin 20 minutes prior to being exposed to UV rays.
The tinner versions of this type of sunscreen, like those found in spray, degrade quickly after 2 hours, but are better for darker skin as they don’t leave a “white cast”
They can be less effective at blocking against all UVA rays
These sunscreens can be problematic for those with sensitive skin, rosacea, acne prone skin, and hyperpigmentation
Heated skin produced by chemical sunscreens may produce more “brown spots”
Most of these products are easier to apply because they are thinner and they can be more transparent on the skin
AVOID products with oxybenzone and octinoxate, studies have shown they are harmful to humans, coral reefs and aquatic life. Many countries and Hawaii have banned these active ingredients.
Look for chemical sunscreens that have added 10% or more zinc oxide for the better protection - these are often referred to as mineral blends
BEWARE, chemical sunscreen often contains more dyes and fragrances which can cause increased irritation. Look for fragrance free or dye free if you have sensitive skin
There are 4 main active ingredients in chemical sunscreens - all 4 of these have been shown to absorb into the body after just one day of use. Refer to the guide section when choosing your sunscreen.
Benzene, which can still be found in a wide amount of “spray” sunscreens and lotions, should always be avoided. Studies show long term effects with bensen are linked to cancer and anemia. Short term exposure can cause dizziness and headaches. Although many of the high level benzene products have been pulled or banned already, they do still exist in today's products.
Alway apply moisturizer AFTER chemical sunscreen, to allow adequate absorption
Physical or Mineral sunscreen- also known as inorganic mineral compounds, or “natural” sunscreens.
Mineral sunscreens only include 1 or 2 active ingredients; zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. These are the only two 2 active ingredients the FDA endorses as safe and effective sunscreens
These sunscreens sit on the TOP of your skin and deflect or reflect the sun’s rays, so there is minimal skin absorption
They are thicker consistency and leave a white appearance on the skin
These are better for sensitive or acne prone skin and are considered more natural because they are not absorbed
Because they sit on top of the skin they sweat and rub off and degrade quicker then chemical types, which means they should be reapplied more frequently. Especially if you are actively sweating or swimming
Applying this sunscreen creates an immediate barrier, and you do not need to wait to go out into the sun
This is best for longer days in the sun because to provides better blockage of UVA rays
BEWARE - inhaling this type of sunscreen is dangerous do not use as a spray or powder
“NANOPARTICLE” mineral sunscreens can eliminate the white appearance, but can be harmful to the GI tract if ingested or inhaled into the lungs. More research needs to be done to check the effects of nanoparticles on the environment
Check the label for “mineral based” sunscreens, which also include other active ingredients
Active Ingredients - Chemical Sunscreen
Here are the most common active ingredients in chemical sunscreens and the recommended levels.
I have included information about recent studies results. These ingredients have some reported reactions and long term effects. As with all studies, the amount and duration plays a part in the reported effects.
Oxybenzone - Can be a cause of allergy, irritation, dizziness, headaches, and can cause long term cumulative effects like cancer and anemia. It has been shown to enter the bloodstream and affect hormones, linked to endometriosis and low birth weight. It’s also known to be environmentally unsafe, and affect coral reefs. It’s been recommended in Europe to keep levels less than 2.2%, lower than the US amount of 6%. CHOOSE Oxybenzone Free products.
Octinoxate - Has been shown in animals to affect metabolic system, thyroid hormone production and other endocrine issues. It has also been known to cause allergic reactions. There is some evidence that it can also affect aquatic life. CHOOSE Octinoxate Free products
Octisalate - Studies have indicated that it is linked to allergic contact dermatitis, endocrine effects and has a weak bind to estrogen receptors. More studies still need to be done. Choose 5% or less
Octocrylene - This ingredient has been shown to have a high rate of skin allergies. Linked to environmental concerns to coral reefs and aquatic life. It is considered safe up to 10%. CHOOSE 10% or less.
Avobenzone - Often combined with other ingredients to stabilize it and prevent breakdown, this ingredient can cause allergic reactions, eye irritation and has been shown to affect testerone levels. CHOOSE < 7.5%
Homosalate - There is insufficient date to whether this is safe to use, but it has been found to penetrate the skin and disrupt hormones. In Europe, a recent opinion stated that this product should be used at a maximum concentration of 1.4%. US sunscreen is used in concentration up to 15%. CHOOSE < 10%
*I did not choose to include mineral sunscreen’s active ingredients in this guide because they are FDA approved
HOW TO CHOOSE AN APPLICATION
Sunscreens come in several forms like lotions, gels, creams, foams, sticks, lip balm, powders and aerosol sprays.
Powder forms are good for daily use, found mostly in makeup, should not be used for long periods in the sun
Lotions and creams are found in most stores. These are the best formulas to use because they absorb easily, and coverage is more consistent
Sprays are gaining popularity, but beware this form of sunscreen can contain cancer causing benzene. Inhaling any sunscreen could be dangerous to your health. Due to the uneven application of spray it is best just to AVOID SPRAYS WHEN POSSIBLE.
“Stick” and lip balm sunscreens are easy to apply and small enough to fit in pockets and purses for quick use and reapplication
READING LABELING TERMS
There is a lot of gimmicky marketing on the labels of sunscreens. To some they may be important. Here are some common labeling to know so you don’t get caught up spending extra money on added features that don't change the efficacy of the sunscreen.
waterproof, water resistance, sweat proof - Has added cetyl octanoate that forms a film over your skin that repels water so it doesn't dissolve as fast. FDA does not allow the use of waterproof labeling because it comes with false promises. You will see water resistance, but it must include a replication time. NOTE, there are really no sunscreens that are truly waterproof.
Kid or baby formula - For use on infants 6 months or older, almost always mineral sunscreen. The only difference is the cute labels. Sunscreen should not be used on infants under 6 months
Daily use - Not intended for long duration outdoors, found in powders and daily face moisturizers
“Natural” - Usually indicates mineral sunscreens
Non- toxic - Usually refers to mineral sunscreens
Long lasting - All sunscreen should be reapplied every 2 hours max
Light-weight - Usually found in face sunscreens, often a more thin and sensitive forms
Non- greasy or won’t cause breakouts/ or clog pores- Similar to light-weight, thinner and less likely to clog pores or irritate skin
Hypoallergenic - Usually doesn’t contain active ingredients that could cause irritation, mostly mineral sunscreens
For faces / scalps - These formulas are no different then full body sunscreens, they are just a thinner version which make them easier to apply
Gluten free, paraben free, vegan - These seem to be marketing terms, and are guides to users who care about that stuff
Recommended by the Skin Cancer Prevention labeling - The Skin Cancer Prevention Associate does award labeling to products through an application process and fee
Reef friendly- This labeling is NOT regulated by the FDA, so check ingredients. Your best bet is to make sure it is a full mineral sunscreen if you are in a reef sensitive area
Dermatology tested - Again this labeling means a dermatologist or skin expert was paid to endorse the product. No actual testing needs to have been done.
We all have our favorite sunscreens because they smell good, they have extra moisturizers, they absorb well, or you have not had skin irritation from them in the past. You may also have some that were on sale or a grab and go purchase when you ran out.
With so many choices available that claim to be the best, or safest, including added gimmicks and labeling it can be confusing.
EWG’s Guide to Sunscreen is my go to when it comes to picking out safe and effective sunscreen. They have been testing and producing yearly guides for the last 15 years. You can read more on their site about how they test, but here are links to those guides for find out if your favorite made the list.
How to read a sunscreen bottle;
Best Recreational sunscreens; https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/best-sunscreens/best-beach-sport-sunscreens-non-mineral-options/
Best Sports sunscreens;
Best for Babies and kids sunscreen; https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/best-sunscreens/baby-kids-sunscreens/
Best Daily use sunscreen;
Read your labels and know what you are looking for when you go to pick out sunscreen for you and your family.
Always reapply any sunscreen at a minimum of 2 hours, more often if you are sweating or swimming.
There is NO sunscreen that is 100% effective, and it is always better to use any type of sunscreen than none at all.
*This is for informational use only. It is not in place of health care professional advice. If you have health issues and are concerned with the use of any products, always contact your provider or specialist for direction.