DO NOT FIGHT THE SKIN CANCER – PREVENT IT.
We know that sunscreen labels can be confusing, therefore we want you to read the article that we found in Natural Health magazine, which answers all the questions you might have regarding that important matter.
First, the basics: What’s the difference between chemical and physical sunscreens? Aren’t all sunscreens made of chemicals? Yes and no. Chemical substances are made from complex ingredients created in a lab to absorb and neutralize damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays (oxybenzone,avobenzone,ocitisalate, mexoryl, homosalate, octyrylene and octinoxate are the most common). Physical sunscreens (titanium dioxide and zinc oxide) are tiny naturally occurring metal particles found in sand and rocks that block UV radiation by creating a reflective shield. Technically, though both types of sunscreens are chemicals, because the FDA calls all active ingredients in a drug- yes, the FDA considers sunscreens a drug-chemicals, says Jeannette Graf, M.D., a dermatologist in Great Neck, N.Y.
So it is true that chemical sunscreens can penetrate my skin and enter my bloodstream? Studies have shown small traces of oxybenzone in urine after topical application, which means the chemical gets absorbed through the skin and processed by your body, says Heather Woolery-Lloyd, M.D.,a dermatologist in Miami. And though those studies didn’t yield totally conclusive results on whether or how damaging that intake may be, other preliminary research (done on animals and therefore not considered viable by some scientists and physicians) suggests and the absorption of oxybenzone can create free radicals on the skin that could cause cancer and mess with hormones, leading to infertility. Scary stuff. But there have also been studies conducted by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review, the FDA, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Toxicology Program and the European Union Cosmetics Directive showing that oxybenzone has no effects on human hormones. Bottom line: The jury is still out, but if you want to play it safe while more research is done, stick to titanium dioxide and zinc dioxide.
Yikes! That sounds pretty bad. So what’s worse… chemical sunscreen or no sunscreen? No sunscreen, hands down, said every single dermatologist we spoke to. Sunscreen is proven to protect skin from cancer-causing and aging UV rays, so if the choice is between a chemical sunscreen or wearing no protection at all, go for the chemical, Woolery-Lloyd says.
What about vitamin D? Should I head out for s stint each day without sunscreen to get my quota? The skin-damaging effects of UV rays most likely outweigh the benefits of getting your Vitamin D from the sun, experts say, especially since Vitamin D from food and supplements offers similar bone- and immunity-strengthening results without the added danger from sun exposure, says Ranella Hirsch, M.D., a dermatologist in Cambridge, Mass. Eggs, fortified milk and fatty fish like salmon, tuna and trout are all good sources. If you’re concerned about deficiency (from eating vegan, for example), talk to your doctor about a blood test before you start taking supplements.
OK, always wear sunscreen. Got it! But can I DIY one to guarantee it doesn’t contain chemicals? Please do not make sunscreen at home, begs Ni’Kita Wilson, a cosmetic chemist with Catalyst Cosmetic Development in Union, N.J. Formulating sunscreen is extremely complicated with strict regulations from the FDA and extensive testing to make sure the SPF listing on the bottle is accurate. Manufacturers work hard to keep the ingredients stable and properly distributed, Wilson says. Remember, sunscreen is a drug. You wouldn’t try to make ibuprofen in your kitchen, would you?
So my only option is sunscreen from a drugstore? Not necessarily. You can opt for clothing with Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF), Hirsch says. Mott 50, Athleta, Coolibar, Parasol and Patagonia all make cute dresses, shirts, pants and hats with UPF 50 (about an SPF 30), which means the fabric blocks up to 97 percent of UV rays. Just remember, if you choose a sleeveless top or a short dress, your arms and legs will be exposed, so you won’t be able to completely skip the SPF.
Ugh, I don’t know what half of the words on a sunscreen label mean. What should I look for? In 2011, the FDA issued brand new requirements and regulations for sunscreen labels.(Can you believe that before this ruling, there were very few guidelines in place?) Here’s what changed and what you should pay attention to:
Only the term sunscreen can be used on packaging. Formulas that use titanium dioxide were sometimes referred to as sunblock in the past, but the FDA determined this overstated their effectiveness.
Water- and sweat- proof are false claims. Instead, labels now say water-resistant and must indicate whether they remain effective for 40 or 80 minutes during swimming or sweating based on tests.
Only sunscreens with SPF 15 or more can claim to reduce the risk of skin cancer and early aging. Sunscreens with a lower SPF or that aren’t deemed broad-spectrum can only state that they help to prevent sunburn.
All sunscreens labeled broad spectrum are proven to protect skin from UVA (long-wave, aging and cancer causing) Rays. This term was previously unregulated.