Summer is in full swing. Pool parties, beach vacations, and outside time is peaking. While you are enjoying those much-needed rays, it’s important to be smart about your sun exposure. While your body needs sun to create vitamin D, you also want to make sure you aren’t overdoing it and exposing your skin to too much sun. Having a good balance is ideal. But what is that balance? This article will tell you why sunscreen is necessary to your health and how to pick the best kinds to protect your skin without loading it with toxins.
What Does Sunscreen Actually Do And Why Is It Important?
A good sunscreen prevents the sun’s UV rays from reaching your skin and potentially damaging it. Without protection, UV rays can penetrate your skin cells, harming, and altering the DNA from oxidative stress and oxidation. There are a couple of different types of sunscreen that work in different ways. Organic compounds, such as oxybenzone and octinoxate, protect our skin by absorbing UV radiation, however, these compounds can be toxic to our bodies. Inorganic compounds, like zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide, can shield the skin by reflecting UV radiation. Some sunscreens use both types of ingredients so they can offer both types of protection.
Side Effects Of Sun Damage
- Skin Aging
- Sun Spots
- Skin Cancer (the most common type of cancer by far)
Each time you get a sunburn, you increase your risk of getting wrinkles and aged skin. But what is more alarming is that if you experience a sunburn more than 5 times, it doubles your risk of melanoma, the more harmful form of skin cancer.
Tips On What To Look For When Purchasing Sunscreen
There are a lot of sunscreen choices out there to choose from. How do you know which ones are the best? Here are a couple of things to keep in mind when purchasing your sunscreen.
This protects your skin from UVA and UVB rays by absorbing or by reflecting the sun’s radiation. UVB rays account for about 3-5% percent of the ultraviolet spectrum, but these are known as the “burn rays,”. UVA rays, on the other hand, are more prevalent and penetrate deeper into your skin, through the epidermis and dermis.
SPF (Sun Protection Factor)
If you know you’ll be in the sun for longer periods of time, you will want to use at least SPF 30. SPF 30 protects against 97% of rays while SPF 50 protects against 98%. There’s no sunscreen that can protect you 100% from the sun, so it’s vital that you practice other sun safety measures.
Avoid sunscreens with fragrances, oxybenzone (benzophenone-3), homosalate, vitamin A, octisalate, avobenzone, and/or ethoxylated ingredients. Many of the sunscreens in the United States have questionable ingredients because they are regulated by the FDA, who doesn’t have as strict rules regarding toxic chemicals. In fact, a large percent of the sunscreens available here would not be allowed in Europe because they have stricter policies on the safeness of ingredients in their products.
Be aware that no sunscreen is totally waterproof. Some sunscreens protect you a little longer while in the water, but be sure to always reapply once you get out of the water.
The EWG has a great resource for choosing and checking your sunscreen’s toxicity.
Some of our favorite brands at in2GREAT are:
- Body Deli Solar Day Cream (we sell this in our office)
- Manda Products
- Badger Sunscreens
How Often Should You Apply Sunscreen?
You should apply sunscreen even before you are in the sun – about 30 minutes or so. This allows the sunscreen to bind to your skin and actually do its job. So apply your sunscreen while you are getting your suit on for the day or while you are getting dressed. This will allow enough time before you are actually in the direct sun rays. You may even want to apply it twice if you know you will be in intense sunlight, ensuring you are actually getting all surfaces of your body.
You should reapply sunscreen after every 2 hours. Even if you are using SPF 100, you should still be reapplying every 2 hours. However, if you go swimming or participate in activities that cause you to sweat, you should reapply as soon as you dry off to ensure you are still receiving adequate protection.
Even if it is cloudy out, don’t think you can pass on the sunscreen. Sun rays can still pass through the clouds and penetrate your skin. If you are spending more than 20 minutes outside, you should be using 30 SPF sunscreen, 15 SPF at a minimum.
How Much Do I Need To Put On?
Most adults need about one ounce of sunscreen to cover their body. However, this obviously changes from person to person depending on body size.
Other Natural Ways To Prevent Sun Damage
- Don’t go out in the peak sun. This is usually between the hours of 10am-2pm.
- Stay under shade as much as possible. Use an umbrella or shade from a large tree.
- Use lightweight UV protective clothing, swim shirts, hats, etc
- Wear a hat to protect your face and neck as much as possible
- Eat a diet rich in antioxidants to help protect your skin. Tomatoes, green tea, citrus fruits, carrots, pomegranates, and strawberries can all increase the SPF of your skin and/or protect your skin from UVB and UVA rays on a cellular level. This helps prevent skin cancer and other skin damage like wrinkles.
- Participate in yearly skin screenings. Early detection is key to skin cancer. The faster you find it, the easier it is to treat it before it spreads deeper into the skin or to other organs.
- The supplement Astaxanthin can provide some sun protection as well
If you want more information on how to keep your skin healthy, get in contact with in2GREAT Functional Medicine Clinic in Kansas City. They can help you optimize your diet to help your body protect you naturally, as well as give you tips on how to keep your body safe from the sun. Give them a call at (913) 308-0172 to set up an appointment.
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