What You Should Know About Sunscreen and SPF

When is the last time you got intimate with your sunscreen label? If we asked you at random, could you tell us what’s in it? Moreover, could you tell us what it does? In case you were looking for the answers, or a new set of useful party facts to take to your next gathering, here’s the topline on SPF and sunscreen.

What does SPF mean?
Assembled together, these letters mean Sun Protection Factor and are an indication of how long you can expect your sunscreen to block off the sun, relative to how long it takes for you to burn naturally. As an example, this means that if it typically takes 30 minutes for your skin to burn, sunscreen with an SPF of 15 should protect you 15 times longer than that (so 450 mins). The higher the SPF level, the less frequently you should have to re-apply your sunscreen. Anecdotally, a higher SPF also blocks an increased percentage of harmful UV rays, making you less likely to experience sun damage overall.

Does it matter whether you choose chemical over mineral sunscreen?
To take it from the top, you should know how they operate. Whereas chemical sunscreens absorb into your skin to soak in UV rays, convert them into heat and release them from the body, mineral sunscreen sits on top of the skin and acts as a reflective shield.  So, the long and short of it is that one isn’t better than the other, they just act differently, and it’s just a matter of preference!

And on that note, are the ingredients safe?
As we’ve told you before, your skin is your body’s largest organ, absorbing so much of what it touches. For this reason, there is much ado about the chemical makeup of the products we utilize. On today’s agenda: sunscreen. While the internet is thick with self-authored “think-pieces” on the potential health concerns tied to ingredients like titanium oxide and zinc oxide, research continues to generally support them as safe, and for the most part, evidence shows these as no more hazardous than any other sunscreen ingredient. And since ultraviolet radiation (see: ray of sun) is considered a class 1 carcinogen, the trace amounts that may find themselves beneath the surface of your skin are most certainly the lesser of 2 evils.  

Everyone needs it, all of the time
No matter your natural complexion, no human is immune to sun damage. Most importantly, experts stress that every person should opt for a sunscreen with an SPF of no less than 30. The good news is that this will help prevent unwanted aging attributed to sun damage. While there are many natural things you can do to curb the signs, one that shouldn’t be overlooked is sunscreen. Fortunately, there are many moisturizers out there formulated with SPF, so they take care of the first step for you.

Does it really block out vitamin D?
The short answer here is yes. And while your body needs vitamin D to meet many primary functions, we use sunscreen to protect us from the sun’s carcinogenic effects. So how do you enjoy the sun, get your nutrients and remain unscathed? Well, through supplements, of course.

So what should I look for?
While each person is different, and the way one person reacts to a product can be significantly different from the other, our suggestion is to keep it natural and make sure your protection levels range between 30 and 50. You should also be certain that the label shouts out protection against both UVA and UVB rays with 4-5 stars UVA rating, or includes the UVA in a circle.

 

Sources

Is your sunscreen safe? [Editorial]. (2019, August). Harvard Health Publishing. Retrieved 2020, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/is-your-sunscreen-safe

Brown, J. (2019, July). Sunscreen: What science says about ingredient safety. BBC Future.

Skin Cancer Foundation. (2020, June 09). Ask the Expert: Does a High SPF Protect My Skin Better? Retrieved June 26, 2020, from https://www.skincancer.org/blog/ask-the-expert-does-a-high-spf-protect-my-skin-better/