Happy National Sunscreen Day!
What better time to talk about choosing clean sunscreen options than today, the first week of summer. For many, finding “clean” options can seem daunting and overwhelming simply because the ingredients are hard to pronounce. But here are some simple tricks for finding clean sunscreen: keep it FRAGRANCE FREE, look for NON-NANOPARTICLE ZINC OXIDE as an active ingredient, and AVOID ingredients like OXYBENZONE or AVOBENZONE.
Q: Can you find clean sunscreens at the drugstore?
A: Yes! More and more brands are flooding the market, so getting your hands on clean options has never been easier. My favorite drugstore brands are Blue Lizard, Sun Bum, Bare Republic, Pacifica, and Thinksport.
Q: What’s the difference between mineral and chemical sunscreen?
A: Chemical sunscreen works by absorbing the suns rays through chemical reactions, while mineral sunscreen works as a barrier on top of the skin to physically blocks rays. Ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are the key to mineral or physical sunscreen. However, many ingredients in chemical sunscreen, including oxybenzone, octinoxate, homosalate, avobenzone, octisalate, and octocrylene, have been proven to disrupt your hormones, cause skin irritation, induce allergic reactions, and even harm coral reefs. Many of you have probably heard about the harm of parabens and phthalates in traditional beauty products, but sunscreen has it’s own category of culprits.
Q: What are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide?
A: Zinc oxide is a naturally-occurring UV absorber that provides broad spectrum coverage against UVA and UVB rays. Titanium dioxide is a naturally-occurring mineral found in the earth’s crust. It too is a UV absorber, however it tends to absorb more UVB rays than UVA. Both in their non-nanoparticle form are safe for humans and the environment.
Q: How do you choose an SPF?
A: Great question! I feel like there are so many myths about SPF. First of all, SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. The number indicates the level of protection against UVB rays only. That’s why broad-spectrum sunscreens are a thing, because we want protection from both UVA and UVB rays. So when looking at SPF alone, you are only looking at UVB protection. A higher SPF does not mean the coverage jumps significantly. SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB rays. SPF 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays. SPF 50 blocks 98% of UVB rays. And SPF 100 blocks 99% of UVB rays. That being said, you probably will only find SPF 50 and below on the market.
Q: I’ve heard mineral/physical sunscreen is difficult to rub in. Is that true?
A: It can be more difficult to rub in because of the way it’s formulated. However because it acts as a barrier, it’s important to rub it in as much as possible to get the full effect of it’s sun-blocking power. Mineral sunscreens start working immediately unlike chemical sunscreens that require 20 minutes of waiting for the formula to absorb. But on the plus side, because of their formulation, mineral sunscreens are more moisturizing than chemical sunscreens.
Q: Is mineral sunscreen safe for babies/children?
A: Absolutely! Chemical sunscreen is full of ingredients that have detrimental effects on our bodies endocrine, reproductive, and integumentary systems. Oxybenzone, a known chemical disruptor, has been associated with lower testosterone levels in adolescent boys. Kids are most vulnerable to these types of deleterious effects, because their bodies are still growing. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises to start using sunscreen on children 6 months and older. Children younger than 6 months are more prone to skin reactions like contact dermatitis, therefore keeping them in the shade or wearing protective clothing and wide-brimmed sunhats until they reach 6 months is preferred.
Q: What are some good resources for finding clean products?
A: I’m loving the EWG Healthy Living App! One of my friends from college who’s a Beautycounter consultant shared it with me a couple years back. If you are ever concerned about a specific product and it’s clean factor, just search it in the app and find out what ingredients are “safe” and which aren’t. Products are rated on a scale of 1-10, and I try and stick with products rated 1-3. If it says ‘EWG Verified,’ that’s a win-win-win!