The 411 on Sunscreen for Preventing Burns & Aging

Just when I was about to spend the time breaking down what this all means on sunscreen and how to use it, I found this gem of an article written by the lovely, Tricia Trimble.  Tricia is the founder of the beautiful, holistic Suntegrity Skincare line I have been using and selling for years now.  I figure why “reinvent the wheel”  when she has done the work of clarifying all you need to know to understand and use your SPF correctly to prevent burns and damage. I’m not sure if you know her story but her mom passed away from skin cancer which is why Tricia went on to “create lemonade out of lemons” as she told me when we met! Her passion for creating a healthy sunscreen to not only prevent sunburns but also cancer and damage to our environment and ecosystem is contagious and inspiring!  She is a lovely human doing good things.

“Ride The Heat Wave” By Tricia Trimble for Les Nouvelles Esthetique & Spa Magazine

Did you know that up to 90 percent of visible skin aging is caused by sun damage? Or that one in five people get some form of skin cancer in their lifetime? If you want to keep your skin youthful and protect yourself from skin cancer, doesn’t it make logical sense to wear sunscreen?

Well, yes, but then… did you know that recent studies indicate many sunscreens can cause endocrine disruption and harm the wildlife in our ocean? And on top of that, approximately 95 percent of people are vitamin D deficient and being in the sun is what your body needs to create Vitamin D.

With all of this contradictory information, what are you supposed to do?

In this article, it is my intention to share with you what I know about sunscreen in hopes that it will help you and your loved ones stay safe in the sun because a lot of skin cancer and premature aging can be prevented with education, awareness, and an easy to apply product called sunscreen… but not just any sunscreen, one carefully crafted with safe and effective ingredients.

What is sunscreen? 

We all know that it’s the white creamy stuff (and sometimes tinted) that our parents were always yelling at us to put on before we left the house.  But, have you ever wondered how it actually works?

Sunscreens are filters of UV energy.  They are used to filter out a portion of the sun’s UVA and UVB rays before they penetrate your skin and cause damage.

Do sunscreens block out all UV rays? 

No, sunscreens are filters, not “blocks.”  All sunscreens let some UV radiation through at varying rates indicated by the SPF number. This is why the term “sunblock” is now prohibited by the FDA.

What is the difference between UVA rays and UVB rays? 

UVA light rays are long wavelength (320-400 nm) light rays and can penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin.  Unprotected exposure to these rays can lead to premature skin aging (aka: photoaging) and wrinkling and may initiate the development of skin cancers.   UVA rays are present during all daylight hours all months of the year and can penetrate through glass and clouds.

UVB light rays are the mid-range wavelength (290-320 nm) light rays and are responsible for tanning or burning the superficial layers of your skin.  They also play a key role in the development of skin cancer.  These rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

An easy way to remember the difference between the two types of UV rays is to think of  “A’ for Aging and “B” for Burning.

What does SPF mean and why is it important to know? SPF (Sun Protection Factor) indicates how long you can stay in the sun without burning from the UVB light rays.  SPF does NOT indicate any protection from UVA rays.

For example, an SPF 30 product allows 1/30th of the sun-burning UV radiation energy through your skin versus wearing no sunscreen at all.  Wearing an SPF 30 product will give you 30 times the protection before burning takes place.

An SPF 15 product blocks about 94 percent of the UVB rays; an SPF 30 blocks about 97 percent of UVB rays; and an SPF 45 product blocks about 98 percent of those rays.  Most dermatologists recommend an SPF 30 because the difference in protection above that is minimal, especially considering no SPF number will block out 100 percent of the rays.

What does “Broad Spectrum” mean and why should you look for it on your sunscreen bottle?

The term “Broad Spectrum” indicates that the sunscreen protects you from UVA rays.  Since UVA rays are associated with aging and skin cancer, it is very important that you choose a sunscreen with “Broad Spectrum” protection or else you will only be protected from the UVB rays.

Chemical (organic) & Mineral (inorganic) sunscreens, explained:

When you see the term “organic”, don’t be fooled.  Sunscreens contain filters that either reflect or absorb UV rays, and there are two main types: organic and inorganic.  Understanding the difference between these two categories often proves tricky for most consumers who believe that the label “organic” (usually indicated by a USDA organic symbol in the food industry) denotes a healthy, safe product containing limited or no pesticides.  However, when used in reference to sunscreens, the term organic can often mean something entirely different.  It simply indicates that a substance contains carbon.

Chemical (organic) Sunscreen

Organic sunscreens absorb UV radiation and convert it into heat.  Organic sunscreens contain one or more of the following ingredients: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, octinoxiate.  *** Note***These are all the ingredients we DO NOT want to see on the label!  These are the ones I am always preaching will cause issues and pigment coming up due to the heat they create as indicated. 

Mineral (inorganic) Sunscreen

Inorganic sunscreens (aka “Chemical Free”, Natural Sunscreen) reflect and scatter UV radiation.  They contain zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide as the active ingredients. *Zinc and Titanium are the only ones you want to see on the label* LE

Why choose a mineral (inorganic) sunscreen? 

Mineral sunscreens are typically less irritating to skin and are considered safer than organic sunscreens.  Chemical sunscreens have a higher rate of allergic reactions in users and the possibility of the compound being disruptive to hormones such as estrogen is higher.  Additionally, some of these ingredients (oxybenzone) leach the coral reefs of their nutrients and bleach them white, as well as disrupt the development of fish and other wildlife. 

Why zinc oxide is the best mineral (inorganic) sunscreen choice:

Zinc oxide is a much more effective sunscreen than titanium dioxide.  It is a better absorber across more UV wavelengths than titanium dioxide.  This means zinc oxide provides better UVA/UVB protection than titanium dioxide.  It is the only sunscreen active ingredient that’s generally recognized as safe by the FDA for use on babies under six months of age for the purpose of diaper rash cream.  It is also a critical mineral nutrient you often find in vitamin supplements

Zinc oxide has several properties which make it therapeutic to the skin and useful for certain skin conditions. It is antiseptic, astringent and absorbs moisture, which makes it particularly good for severe eczema.  It also helps the skin stay dry when exposed to alkaline liquids– which is why its used in diaper rash cream.  Additionally, it is approved by the FDA as a Category 1 skin protectant and is used as a soothing preparation for facial redness and steroid-induced thinning of the epidermis.

How long will it take for you to burn if you are wearing sunscreen? 

  1. First, take the number of minutes you would normally burn in the sun without protection.  (Depending on one’s skin type and severity of the sun, it only takes an average of 4 to 10 minutes (depending on UV index) for most people to burn from the sun without protection.  Sunburn may take hours to actually appear on the skin which means the damage is occurring before you can actually see it.)
  2. Multiply that number by the SPF of your product.  For example, with an SPF 30 x 6 minutes of sun time before burning = 180 (3 hours) … this is how many minutes you can stay in the sun without burning if you apply sunscreen properly and reapply after 120 minutes. 

Why and when do we need to re-apply sunscreen?

Re-application is necessary and recommended every two hours and after swimming, sweating, or towel drying.  Use a water-resistant sunscreen if swimming or sweating.   Re-application of sunscreen only gives the first application a boost in effectiveness; it does not prolong the amount of time you can stay in the sun.  *This is often misunderstood** This means if you are fair skin, you cannot stay in the sun more than 120 minutes no matter how many times you re-apply sunscreen.  You need to get out of the sun or cover up with clothing if you don’t want to photoage and damage your skin!

 

 

 

 

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