All About Sunscreen
Living in the land down under definitely requires sunscreen. With its close proximity to the South Pole’s seasonal “ozone hole,” Australia is the skin cancer capital of the world.
Getting a little sun without sunscreen is actually good for you. 15-20 minutes a day seems to be recommended amount. You get vitamin D which has been shown to protect against types of cancer. I always like to cover up with a hat and limit my sun exposure.
However, when it comes to sunscreen, choosing one can be quite confusing. With all the reports of chemicals and toxins that around, I decided to dig a little deeper and do some research to get the scoop on sunscreen.
So what is a good sunscreen?
- Well rated by the Environmental Working Group (EWG)
- It is Broad Spectrum (Protects against UVA AND UVC)
- Doesn't contain Oxybenzone (a hormone disruptor) or Retinyl Palminate (linked to skin tumors)
- Is a cream (not spray or powder)
- SPF 30. Anything higher is mostly for marketing.
Chemical vs. Physical
It contains organic (carbon-based) compounds, such as oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate and avobenzone. These create a chemical reaction and work by changing UV rays into heat, then releasing that heat from the skin.
Although chemical sunscreens help protect, they can also contain nasty chemicals which are all absorbed through the skin and end up circulating in your blood stream. Not good! Ever got chemical sunscreen in your eyes? Yeah... it's just miserable. You can read more about these chemicals and their effects here
- Tends to be thinner and easier to apply making better for daily use
- Contains one or a combination of chemicals
- Can possibly cause an increase in existing brown spots and discolouration due to a higher internal skin temperature
- Requires appox. 20 minutes after application before it begins to work
- Increased chance of irritation and stinging due to the multiple ingredients combined in order to achieve broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection
- The protection it offers gets used up more quickly when in direct UV light, so reapplication must be more frequent
- May clog the pores for oily skin types
It works by sitting on the skins surface and deflecting and scattering damaging UV rays with active mineral ingredients, such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.
Some physical sunblocks use nanoparticles to formulate lotions with less white tint. There has been some debate whether the particles can possibly be absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream. Evidence suggests that titanium dioxide and zinc oxide nanoparticles do not reach viable skin cells; rather, they remain on the surface of the skin and in the outer layer of the skin that is composed of non-viable cells. The Cancer Council of Australia has a very informative article here if you want to read more about it.
Naturally broad spectrum
Protects from the sun as soon as it’s applied
Better for sensitive skin, less likely to cause a stinging or irritation
- Less likely to be pore-clogging, making it ideal for blemish-prone skin types
- Longer shelf life
- Can rub off, sweat off and rinse off easily
- May leave a whitish cast on the skin
- May be chalky and opaque for daily use under makeup
- Can be less protective if not applied generously (the UV light can get between the sunscreen molecules and get into the skin)
Which one to buy?
Debate continues on the long-term effects of chemical sunscreen. Take some time to research and read the labels. Personally my preference is for physical sunscreens as they are stronger, natural and is gentler on sensitive skin.
Some of the top rated physical sunscreens:
John Masters Suncare Organic | GF | Non-Nano- $32 (USD) $54 (CAD)
John Masters sunscreen is top notch having both titanium dioxide and zinc oxide in the ingredients. It has a SPF 30, is broad spectrum. It's nice and light weight and I find it works great under makeup. It is one of the pricier physical sunscreens on the market, but I feel it's definitely worth the cost.
Badger Organic | Gluten Free | Non-nano $16
Badger has broad spectrum protection using zinc oxide. Lightly scented with Organic Bulgarian Lavender in an organic moisturizing base of Sunflower Oil, Beeswax, and Vitamin E.