With so many choices of sunscreen products out there, it can be very overwhelming to choose the right product to protect you and your family not only from the harmful sun exposure, but also from nasty chemicals in many sunscreens available on the market these days. This is what you need to know when choosing a sunscreen product:
- Look at the ingredient list.
The safety of some sunscreen ingredients is controversial. These include the hard-to-pronounce chemicals such as: Oxybenzone, Octinoxate, Octisalate, Octocrylene, Homosalate and Avobenzone. They are usually listed as active ingredients on the label. These chemicals are known as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC). In other words, these chemicals interfere with the way the body’s hormones work. They absorb into skin fast after single use (EWG, Matta 2019, Matta 2020). The FDA also found that these sunscreen ingredients could be detected on the skin and in blood weeks after application ended (EWG, Matta 2020). Instead, when possible, opt out for the product with active ingredients such as Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide. According to EWG, they are generally recognized to be safe and effective with no evidence of hormone disruptions.
SPF tells you how much protection the sunscreen offers. Higher SPF values (up to 50) provide greater sunburn protection.
- Broad spectrum
Look for a broad spectrum product that protects against both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. UVB rays are the main cause of sunburn. UVA rays can prematurely age and wrinkle skin. Both contribute to skin cancer.
- Lotions or sprays?
Choose lotions over sprays. While sprays seem easier, there are concerns that breathing in the spray (which is easy to do while spraying it) could be harmful.
- And most importantly, remember, when venturing outdoors this summer it is not as important what product you have available, any sunscreen is better than no sunscreen at all .
Here are a few things you should know when using sunscreen.
- Get rid of old sunscreen. Yes, there’s a shelf life of 3 years, but you don’t know when a product first landed on a shelf. Theoretically it’s good until the expiration date, if there is one — but that’s only if it hasn’t been exposed to any extreme heat. I don’t know the temperature of your beach bag, but mine gets pretty hot. Better to throw out the old sunscreen and buy a new tube or bottle.
- The term “waterproof.” Has now been replaced by “water-resistant.” Labels on water-resistant sunscreens must clearly state how long they provide protection after water exposure or sweating. Depending on how often you swim, you can choose one that needs to be reapplied every 40 or 80 minutes.
- Use an ounce of sunscreen per large child or adult. That’s about as much as would fill your hand — or a shot glass. You want to cover all exposed skin well. Reapply at least once every 2 hours, even if your child doesn’t sweat or go in the water.
- Apply sunscreen before you go out in the sun. That way, you go into the sun protected.