The primary reason people use sunscreen is to prevent sunburns and skin cancer. However, most sunscreen products often contain chemicals that can actually be damaging to our health, including ways that can increase cancer risk.
According to the Surgeon General’s Office, 5 million people in the US are treated for skin cancers. In fact, skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the country, and most cases are preventable. While only 10% of all skin cancers are melanoma, rates of this type of skin cancer have skyrocketed 200% between 1973 and 2011.
This is what we know now:
- According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, more than 5.4 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer were treated in over 3.3 million people in the US in 2012, and more people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the US than all other cancers combined.
- The American Cancer Society has stated that in the decade between 2008 and 2018, the number of new melanoma cases diagnosed annually has increased by 53%.
- Tanning beds, which emit both UVA and UVB rays can increase your cancer risk by 75% if you start before the age of 30, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
Benefits of sun exposure
Although we want to protect our skin from burning, we still want (and need) some sun exposure for proper vitamin D synthesis; especially since vitamin D prevents multiple cancers like bladder, breast, ovarian, colon, lung, and skin cancer.
So it requires some balance — we need enough sun exposure for vitamin D synthesis but not too much that we get burnt and over-expose ourselves to the UVA rays that cause melanoma.
Getting at least 15-20 minutes of sun exposure each day is ideal.
Most commercial sunscreens use chemicals to absorb UV rays; these chemicals are linked to hormone disruption, oxidative damage, congenital birth defects, contact dermatitis, and even weight gain.
Key ingredients to avoid
Both zinc oxide and titanium dioxide offer full sun protection by blocking UV rays from reaching your skin. While some zinc based sunscreens may leave a mild white cast on your skin, most have found ways to eliminate this issue without compromising on ingredients quality. Look for non-nanoparticle sized zinc & titanium as the only “active ingredient” on product labels.
- Zinc oxide
- Titanium dioxide
If you need help knowing which sunscreen fits your needs and is safe for you and your family you can check out EWG’s guide to sunscreen.
How to protect
- Use a broad spectrum sunscreen, which ensures defense against UVA and UVB rays.
- Apply 1 oz liberally and evenly 15 minutes before sun exposure.
- Reapply immediately after swimming or sweating, and at least every two hours.
Higher SPF doesn’t necessarily mean more sun protection. Sun Protection Factor known as SPF is a measurement for defense from UVB rays
- SPF 15= blocks 93% of UVB rays
- SPF 30= blocks 97% of UVB rays
- SPF 50= blocks 98% of UVB rays
Remember, sun protection is generally only as effective as the application quality and quantity.
Safer Sunscreen brand I love
My favorite safer and reef friendly mineral sunscreen is from Beautycounter. Countersun protects from UVA, UVB, and Blue Light Rays.
- UVB rays are the sun’s burning rays and can cause sunburn which is easier to recognize as we can see and feel the damage as it occurs.
- UVA rays are the sun’s aging rays and are present all year round. They penetrate glass and clouds.
- Blue Light which are high energy wavelengths emitted from the sun and technology, and is believed to cause skin aging.
Not only does Countersun protect from all three rays, Beautycounter’s spray sunscreen is non-aerosol technology. It delivers the convenience and even application of an aerosol but it is actually air-powered, so no harmful propellant chemicals sent into the atmosphere or onto your skin.
For those looking to camouflage imperfections and even skin tone, Beautycounter has a tinted mineral sunscreen.
And let’s not forget about an everyday face protection. My go to is Beautycounter’s Dew Skin which is a tinted moisturizer with SPF 20 protection. It is light weight and provides a sheer coverage leaving you with a luminous dewy glow.