What You May Not Know About Sunscreen But Really Should

sunscreen facts

With the holiday weekend upon us, here are the most important sunscreen facts you should be aware of the next time you reach for the one in your cabinet or on a shelf in a store. Have a safe celebration and enjoy the long weekend!

Not applying enough sunscreen

The zinc oxide and titanium dioxide found in sunscreen is what gives it a thick appearance. A lot of the time you might think you’re applying plenty of sunscreen, but you actually may not be applying enough. The Skin Cancer foundation recommends applying one ounce every two hours. If you’re at the beach or pool for most of the day, half of your sunscreen bottle should be used up.

Pay attention to the ingredient oxybenzone

Oxybenzone filters UV light causing the sunscreen to lose its effectiveness or create harmful byproducts that the body ends up absorbing. As a result, oxybenzone can trigger skin allergies. Interestingly enough, oxybenzone was found in 70 percent of the sunscreens that were not mineral based in this year’s study.

SPF above 50 doesn’t offer additional sun protection

Sunscreen above SPF 50 is not recommended. Why? Because SPF above 50 usually only refers to UVB protection, not UVA. If there’s minimal UVA-screening ingredients, then you can still cause a lot of damage to your skin. High SPF can also “create a false sense of security, prompting consumers to stay out in the sun longer“. For best results, use sunscreen that ranges from 30 to 50 SPF.

Stay away from the sprays

Sunscreen sprays are dangerous, especially since the chemicals are easily inhaled through the nose and mouth. This is particularly dangerous for kids, as it can damage the lungs and can even be fatal. Children have a hard time holding their breath and closing their eyes as you spray sunscreen on their skin. Better stay safe than be sorry—stick to the lotions and sticks.

Avoid sunscreen with vitamin A (retinyl palmitate)

Many sunscreens contain vitamin A (a.k.a. retinol, retinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate, or retinyl linoleate). It’s used as a skin conditioning agent in a variety of beauty products such as face creams. The issue with retinyl palmitate is it can harm the reproductive system, and when it comes into contact with sunlight, it can damage new skin cells that have formed.

Stay away from expired sunscreen

There’s a reason for an expiration date. If it’s passed that timestamp, then into the trash it goes! Usually, sunscreens can last two years if it has not yet been opened. It’s also important to keep the sunscreen away from hot areas for long periods of time (i.e. your car), as its effectiveness can “spoil’ faster.

UVA protection is just as important as UVB

Protection against UVA rays is just as important as protection against UVB rays. UVA rays go deeper into the skin, and can cause sun spots, wrinkles, and reduce skin elasticity.

Rethink the “sweat proof”, “water-resistant” and “sport” sunscreens

The FDA doesn’t allow brands to label their products “waterproof” or “sweat proof” unless they indicate the duration of protection while swimming or doing sports (either 40 or 80 minutes). If they choose not to indicate the time, companies will put labels such as “sport” or “water-resistant”. You still have to re-apply sunscreen every two hours, but if you’re in the water for 40 minutes, you’ll have to reapply it again before the 2 hours is up. Becomes a little confusing, right? You’ll also still have to reapply it after you get out of the water, as sunscreen instructions advise.

Moisturizers have less UV protection than sunscreen

Moisturizers with protection usually have less SPF than recommended, so apply real sunscreen if you plan on heading out and spending some time under the sun.

Using sunscreen doesn’t prevent skin cancer

Melanoma has tripled since 1970, and using sunscreen alone won’t keep you protected. Your best bet is to wear sun-protective clothing. There are many options out there such as Coolibar and Sun Precautions.

If you’re looking for sunscreen with a EWG rating of 1, check out the Protect All Over Sunscreen SPF 30 (lotion), Protect Stick Sunscreen SPF 30 (stick), or the Dew Skin Moisturizer SPF 20 (coverage plus sunscreen). More detailed information about each one can be found on my post here.


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