Whether you’re a beach bum or paddleboard queen, enjoying outdoor activities is an incredible way to recharge your mind and body, as long as you don’t forget to give your skin some extra protection. Even if you’re not surfing waves in Hawaii, applying sunscreen should be a part of your everyday routine. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, up to 80 percent of the sun’s UV rays can pass through clouds, so although you may not be in a particularly sunny region, it’s still very important to protect your skin from potential radiation damage any time you’re outside.
But before you reach for that sunscreen bottle that’s collecting cobwebs under your sink, you may want to take a closer look at the type of sunscreen you’re using and reconsider if it’s full of chemical ingredients. Sunscreen can be differentiated into two main groups: chemical and mineral sunscreens. As someone who strongly believes in the importance of minimizing our daily exposure to potentially harmful chemicals, I recommend opting for mineral sunscreens.
Harmful chemical ingredients
The Environmental Working Group has done a significant amount of research into harmful chemicals that are found in everyday products and two big offenders that are commonly found in chemical sunscreens are oxybenzone andretinyl palmitate. Research has shown that oxybenzone is easily absorbed through the skin and can then masquerade as estrogen, which can lead to hormone disruption. And as for retinyl palmitate, studies by federal government scientists indicate that this chemical may trigger development of skin tumors and lesions when used on skin in the presence of sunlight. Best to avoid.
Mineral sunscreen ingredients
No sunscreen is perfect, but mineral sunscreens rate much better in the EWG safe sunscreen database. The active ingredients in mineral sunscreens are usually titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, which are non-toxic, serve as a physical barrier to the sun, and are considered two of the most protective broad-spectrum ingredients. Zinc oxide sunscreen is stable in the sunlight and can provide greater protection from UVA rays than any other sunscreen ingredient approved in the U.S.A.
Unfortunately, the word “natural” on food and product labels has become nothing more than a marketing buzzword, so when looking for new sunscreen, there are ingredients and classifications you can look for to determine what’s safest for your family. I would recommend adhering to the following tips when protecting yourself from the damaging effects of the sun.
1. Look for broad spectrum protection. Some sunscreens only protect against UVA or UVB rays. You want protection from both.
2. There’s no need for the super high SPF figures. The federal Food and Drug Administration says that SPF benefits max out at 50 and wants to bar higher numbers.
3. Avoid chemical sunscreens. Check the ingredient label. If oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate are listed as active or inactive ingredients, put it back on the shelf.
4. Mineral is best. Shop for safe sunscreen from trusted providers with main ingredients zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide.
5. Spray sunscreens. If you choose a spray sunscreen, definitely make sure it’s mineral-based because of the increased chance of inhalation. You know when the wind blows and you end up with a mouthful of lotion? Don’t let harmful chemicals put an even worse taste in your mouth.
6. Check out the EWG sunscreen guide.This guide provides a ton of research and helpful information on choosing sunscreens.
7. Other protection. Don’t forget the importance of shirts, hats, pants, and sunglasses to shield UV rays and seek shade often.