Sun protection. We all know it’s important, because when you were a kid your parents were always slathering you with sunscreen - and for a good reason! Too much UV radiation can cause damage to the genetic material in your skin cells. With enough DNA damage over time, cells can start growing out of control, which can potentially lead to skin cancer.
What you might not know is that there are a lot of toxic chemicals in something that’s supposed to help us: sunscreen. Fear not! We’re here to help sort through all the chemicals to find the best sunscreen for your skin.
Major ingredients found in chemical sunscreens—oxybenzone, avobenzone, and octocrylene—have been found by the FDA to be absorbed by the skin at rates far, far higher than the 0.5 ng/mL guidelines, meaning they may be downright toxic. You might have heard of oxybenzone as the chemical that’s endangering coral reefs, too. If you know a chemical is harming one living organism, it’s safe to say it shouldn’t go on your skin, either.
Sunscreen vs Sunblock
There’s also a scientific difference between sunscreen and sunblock. Your typical chemical sunscreen just filters out some UV rays, while a sunblock, well, blocks them from being absorbed. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of junk out there. The Environment Working Group found in a study that two thirds of the over 1,300 SPF products they tested were either ineffective or contain some of those harmful chemicals we went over earlier.
So what do you do?
Minerals to the rescue
The best option is to ditch those chemicals and use a mineral-based product—for clean sun protection against uva and uvb rays, use a product containing zinc oxide. Mineral sunscreen creates a barrier on the skin, shielding it from damaging rays - this is why it's also known as physical sunscreen. The ideal product has zinc oxide as the only active ingredient.
Depending on the formulation, mineral sunscreens often leave a white cast on top of the skin and this is perfectly normal. Some also have additional ingredients that prevent this from happening, especially if formulated for the face, specifically.
Also important to note is that you should always use a cream formula. Research is still being done on the topic, but early results from the Environment Working Group suggest that inhaling sunscreen spray could result in adverse health effects.
When to apply
There’s no time like the present to start integrating sunblock into your everyday skincare routine. That’s right—even if you don’t plan on spending time in direct sunlight, damage from even indirect sun exposure can add up over time and cause dark spots and wrinkles.
The best time to apply sunblock is every day in the morning. Add it to your routine after any oils—like our Facial Recovery Elixir—but before makeup. As mineral sunblocks may be a bit harder to rub in, a great option to start your makeup look is with a primer - to even everything out.