Monday, June 23, 2014

Sunscreen Q&A

Every morning, as everyone rushes out of the house to school or to work, I remind them to put sunscreen on... Then I hear that I am too paranoid and that a little sun is good for us. "You are such a mom!" they say... As if it's a bad thing!

I say that I'm not that paranoid! I mean, even if skin cancer is not scary enough, the wrinkles, facial brown spots, skin sagginess are!.. Or vice versa. Our bodies need shielding from harmful rays. Period!

I know that only a small fraction of people use sunscreen as much as I do, and that made me question as to what is sunscreen and why we even need it this much. So I decided to do a little research, and find the answers, and, naturally, want to share what I learned with you.

1. What are sunscreens?
Sunscreen is a product that prevents the sun ultraviolet A and B radiation (UVA and UVB) from reaching the skin.

2. Why we need protection from UVA and UVB?
Because they damage the skin, age skin prematurely, and increase risk of skin cancer.

UVB rays are responsible for burning the skin.

UVA rays get deep into the skin and responsible for wrinkles, sagging, basically, aging. Also, more importantly, UVA rays exacerbate the carcinogenic effect of UVB rays what is a cause of skin cancer.

3. Are all sunscreens created equal?
No, no, and no!

First, you must go for a broad-spectrum sunscreen with protection against both UVA and UVB rays.

Second, if you are planning to spend time outdoors, or in water, or, simply, may be sweating, you need a water-resistant sunscreen.

4. What does SPF number mean?
SPF number is a measure of sunscreen ability to prevent UVB rays from damaging the skin. SPF# does NOT show how much protection you get from UVA rays.

SPF 15 filters out approximately 93% of incoming UVB rays. SPF 30 filters 97 %, and SPF 50 filters 98% of UVB rays.

5. What key ingredients should we look for in sunscreen?
Many companies are trying to use natural and the least harmful ingredients in their sunscreen products. Look for titanium dioxide, zinc oxideavobenzone, Mexoryl SX. 

6. What ingredients should we watch for?
If you were to apply sunscreen occasionally, I would not really worry about chemicals' side effects, since the amount is so minimal. However, if you are serious about sunscreen as you should, and applying it daily, you should stay away from the following ingredients in your sunscreen:

PABA - para-amino-benzoic acid - which can be harmful to liver and, strangely enough, may cause skin abnormalities. Luckily, most companies are now trying to stay away from PABA.

Oxybenzone (maximum recommended by FDA ~ up to 6%) and Octinoxate (maximum recommended by FDA - 7.5%) - these chemicals are widely used in sunscreen products. So, I am just looking for a smaller amount of these ingredient I can find. Some research shows that these chemicals produce harmful free radicals and can attack DNA cells. And, for this reason, oddly enough, they may be contributing to rise of melanoma cases with sunscreen users. Some studies also show that these chemicals have been linked to contact eczema.

7. How should we use sunscreen?
Apply a liberal amount of sunscreen at least 20 minutes prior to the sun exposure. Theoretically, sunscreen should be reapplied every 2 hours ~ and I don't have a problem doing that when I am outdoors, sweating or swimming. However, if I am inside the building and running out to grab a quick lunch, I hope that I get some protection from the SPF 30 sunscreen I put in the morning coupled with a summer hat I always keep in the backseat of my car.

8. Spray or Lotion?
Technically, both are effective. But both also have Pros and Cons.

To me, lotion does not feel good, but it is less expensive and does not wipe off as easy as spray sunscreen. Meanwhile, spray sunscreen feels good, application is fast and convenient, but much more pricy (especially, when wind blows it away before it gets on the skin!).

What's your preference?

9. Does sunscreen cause vitamin D deficiency?
Some say yes, some say no. So, if you live in a sunny climate, you probably get enough sun anyways. And, if in doubt, you can use Supplement Vitamin D, eat salmon, eggs, Vitamin D milk, etc. Remember, there is more harm in the sun rays than not getting vitamin D from the sun.

10. A few things to know~
- Water resistant sunscreen means SPF level stays effective after 40 min in the water, and very water resistant sunscreen means that it holds after 80 min of swimming.
- Do not use expired sunscreen because the ingredients break down and do not protect skin properly.
- If skin does not get red or burned, it does not mean it did not get damaged!
- U.S. is behind Europe, Canada, and South America in using more effective ingredients in sunscreen products because FDA takes a long time to approve them.

Finally, here are a few sunscreens for you to consider ~
The Honest Company SPF 30 $13.95
Hawaiian Sol SPF 50 $18
Tropical Sands SPF 50 $17.95
Dr. Robin Sunscreen for Children 
SPF 30 $24

Kate Somerville Daily Deflector SPF 50 $48

More EWG (Environmental Working Group) approved sunscreen list here.

xo, Zuma A.
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Other sources: - Sunscreens Explained
EWG's 2014 Guide to Sunscreens
Huffington Post - Sunscreen Benefits
Truth in Aging - Sunscreen Ingredients and Are They Safe
WSJ - European Sunscreen 

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