Summer is ubiquitous with tanning, outdoor time, and soaking up the sunshine. However, that also comes with a lot of sun exposure.
UVB and UVA rays are some of the most damaging environmental factors to our skin and wreak some serious havoc. And unfortunately, there’s a lot of chemicals that go into sun protection. Here’s your primer on sun protection for 2020.
Why is sun damage so bad?
Signs of sun damage include wrinkles, age spots, loose skin, spider veins, and sun spots. While we may crave a nice tan, sun exposure can actually accelerate skin aging and make our skin look older than it actually is.
Here’s the science: UV light rays from the sun (UVA and UVB) damage fibers in the skin called elastin. As their name implies, elastin is partly responsible for maintaining tight, resilient skin. Elastin naturally deteriorates with age, but UV light causes added damage and speeds up the natural process. Skin also discolorates and bruises faster.
UV light can also be a major factor in skin cancers, like melanoma. UV light is so strong that it can damage the DNA in skin cells, causing them to essentially malfunction (most cancers are errors in cell replication, causing them to reproduce uncontrollably and form tumors).
Protect your skin: Cover Up
One smart (and may we mention, completely chemical-free!) way to protect your skin from the sun’s damaging rays is to cover your skin with some form of cover-up. This includes wide brim sun hats that cover your scalp (a vulnerable, under-protected spot!), face, and upper torso; beach umbrellas that cast wide areas of shade; and loose, long sleeves, light protective clothing for your arms and legs.
The sun’s rays are strongest from the hours of 10:00am to 2:00pm—for most people, prime sun-bathing time. In order to avoid sun damage, experts recommend limiting sun exposure to a maximum of two hours at a time during this period. This may be less depending on your complexion. Plus, in the shade, you lower your risk for other heat-related health issues.
Wear Sunscreen: Use clean products
Sadly, there are a lot of nasty chemicals in sunscreen, which work as chemical filters that absorb UV rays. Oxybenzone, avobenzone, and octinoxate are three that are key to avoid. According to the Environmental Working Group, these chemicals can be absorbed through our skin and enter the bloodstream, shown by toxicology reports. In their study, fewer than half the products they looked at contained materials classified by the FDA as clean and effective.
These chemicals can also leave behind free radicals that damage the skin further, when the chemicals used to initially absorb the UV rays breaks down. Free radicals are unstable atoms that can cause unknown amounts of damage to the body and increase signs of aging.
Chemicals sunscreen ingredients like oxybenzone also have a troubling affect on the environment. Oxybenzone has been linked to coral reef death and bleaching. Hawaii actually banned sunscreens containing the chemical (along with octinoxate), and has since seen improvement in the health of their marine life.
What do you use instead, then?
The answer is mineral sunscreens that have the active ingredients zinc and titanium oxide. These are used to block the UV rays for hitting your skin, thus they are also known as "physical sunscreens". Even then, be careful of the ingredient list and labeling. “Mineral based sunscreens” may contain zinc and titanium oxide, but may also be mixed with any number of additional chemicals.
For those with sensitive skin, you might want to consider buying a face sunscreen and a different sunscreen for the rest of your body. Face sunscreen is typically formulated with sensitive skin in mind, it can be oil free, fragrance free or ultra light formulation for those with acne or oily skin.
Understanding Sunscreen Labels:
How much SPF do you need? Is SPF 50 better than an SPF 30 sunscreen?
The amount of protection gained from any sunscreen beyond the SPF 30 is really so marginal that it is not worth it the increase of ingredients that comes with it. This is why experts recommend using a sunscreen with at least 30 SPF.
What is a Broad Spectrum Sunscreen? A broad protection sunscreen means that the product will protect you against both, UVA and UVB rays. It's important to note that SPF (Sun Protection Factor) measures how well the product will protect you against UVB rays. In the other hand, UVA protection isn't rated.
Stay hydrated: Water really is your friend
With any amount of time spent in the sun, hydration is just as important as applying sunscreen. Salt and sand can be very drying for your skin, so you want to hydrate by drinking water and applying a moisturizing spray throughout the day.
Then, once you get home, it’s equally important to cleanse your face and body. Not only does these remove any excess sunblock still lingering, but also any salt and sand. We recommend a gentle cleanser like our Deeply Cleansing Milk. The feeling of having soft, clean, sunkissed skin is one of the best in the world.