How to Choose a Safe Sunscreen

CHICOPEE, Mass. (Mass Appeal)  There are so many sunscreens out there so knowing what to look for is important.  Certified Environmental Health Specialist Jennifer Steiner from Healthy Healing Wellness in Connecticut joins us to share more.

Don’t fall for high SPF labels.

Products with sky-high SPFs may protect against sunburn but could leave your skin exposed to damaging UVA rays. Although the letters SPF stand for “sun protection factor,” this refers only to protection against UVB radiation, which burns the skin. It has nothing to do with the sun’s UVA rays, which penetrate deep into the skin, suppress the immune system, accelerate skin aging and may cause skin cancer. All sunscreens protect against UVB rays, but only some protect against UVA. Many American sunscreens are now labeled “broad spectrum,” but the UVA protection is often inadequate. Stick to SPFs between 15 and 50+. Pick a product based on your own skin coloration, time outside, shade and cloud cover. Reapply often. Wear clothing.

Spray Sunscreens

There’s growing concern that these sprays pose serious inhalation risks. They also make it too easy to apply too little or to miss a spot, leaving bare skin exposed to harmful rays. Skip the spray and use a cream lotion.

  • Oxybenzone

Ingredients matter. Avoid the sunscreen chemical oxybenzone, a synthetic estrogen that penetrates the skin and can disrupt the hormone system. One study has linked oxybenzone to endometriosis in older women; another found that women with higher levels of oxybenzone during pregnancy had lower birth weight daughters. Look for active ingredients zinc oxide, avobenzone and Mexoryl SX. They protect skin from harmful UVA radiation.

  • Retinyl Palmitate

When used in a night cream, this form of vitamin A is supposed to have anti-aging effects. But on sun-exposed skin, retinyl palmitate may speed development of skin tumors and lesions, according to government studies.  Avoid any sun product whose label says retinyl palmitate, retinol or vitamin A.

Chemical-based sunscreens will break down in the sun and lose their effectiveness over time.

Say ‘No’ to:

  • Oxybenzone, which has shown the possibility of significant allergenic effects and hormone disruption
  • Vitamin A, which increases the development of carcinogenic lesions.
  • Fragrance which frequently contains toxic phthalates.
  • Spray on sunscreens that release nanoparticles into the air and your skin with a risk of inhalation
  • Anything this is higher than SPF 50+ – it’s unnecessary and misleading.

Say ‘Yes’ to:

  • Zinc oxide: Physically blocks UVA and UVB light.
  • Avobenzone: Absorbs full spectrum of UVA rays.
  • Ecamsule: Filters out UVA rays.
  • An SPF that is based on your skin color, time outside, and cloud cover.
  • Broad-spectrum sunscreen that is water resistant.

Remember these quick tips:

  • Check labels.
  • Learn ingredients.
  • Use 15 – 50 (SPF)
  • Reapply often!
  • NO tanning beds. Like EVER!

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