With summer approaching, we are all excited to get some much needed relaxation and enjoyment from the warmer weather. Most people I know will be outside more and feeling happier. The question is how to fully enjoy all the wonderful things about summer yet protect our skin from harmful sun rays which leads to photo damage. How do you enjoy the sun and stay healthy? Like the old saying goes and like most anything we enjoy the sun should be taken in moderation. The sun does provide essential Vitamin D which is vital for overall health, just be sure you are protecting your skin in a healthy way without the toxic ingredients that are so common in most skin protectants.
How does the skin tan? Why does it burn? And what is actually happening to our skin and what are the long term effects?
When we sit in the sun, the sunlight that reaches us is made of two harmful rays: Long Wave Ultraviolet A, or UVA and Short Wave Ultraviolet B, or UVB. Most of us are exposed to large amounts of UVA rays in our lifetime. UVA penetrates the skin more deeply than UVB and plays a major part in skin aging and wrinkling.
UVB is the main cause of skin reddening and sunburn and tends to damage the superficial epidermal layers. It also plays a key role in skin cancer and is a contributory role in skin tanning. In the Eastern U.S. the most significant amounts of UVB rays hit between the hours of 10AM and 4PM.
Depending on your skin tone and color, you may burn or tan quicker than others and be more susceptible to skin damage. To understand different skin color classifications we refer to the Fitzpatrick scale which was developed as a way to estimate the response of different types of skin to ultraviolet (UV) light. We are all at risk for skin damage and that includes even the darker skin tones, which are often more sensitive than lighter tones. The Fitzpatrick scale also can indicate how the skin may pigment and how quickly it can be burned.
Skin Type 1 – Light, always burns & doesn’t tan
Skin Type 2 – Fair, usually burns & tans with difficulty
Skin Type 3 – Medium, sometimes burns& slow to tan
Skin Type 4 – Olive, rarely burns & fast to tan
Skin Type 5 – Brown, rarely burns & easy to tan
Skin Type 6 – Dark, almost never burns & and tans dark
Please note that a sunburn or tan today could help cause, and show up in our skin later in life as post inflammatory damage, hyperpigmentation and skin cancer. This is why it is vital to protect your skin with SPF while also seeking shade to minimize your sun exposure.
As a skin care professional I get first-hand experience all the time as to what people have to say about SPF and sun exposure. Here are two recent examples:
“I just want to get a base tan first and then I will use sunscreen”
This actually will not only cause harm to your skin, but will not help you achieve the tan that you desire. What it will do is promote a burn that can peel, resulting in an uneven tone and most likely leave post-inflammatory damage.
“Sunscreen breaks me out”
This can actually be a combination of chemicals added to the sunscreen product in combination with sitting in the sun - sweating, clogging and irritating the skin. If you are using an SPF that is healthy and does not contain chemicals you will have a very little chance of breaking out. This is why I recommend healthy organic options as well as proper post sun care.
So why is it important to use a good SPF? Here are some pretty scary facts related to sun damage and skin cancer:
· U.S. over 5.4 million cases of non- melanoma skin cancer are treated in more than 3.3 million people.
· Each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined cases of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung & colon.
· Over the past three decades, more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined.
· One in five Americans will develop skin cancer.
These statistics can be somewhat alarming and it is why you want to take protections seriously. Is it possible to get sun safely as well as protect our skin? The answer is yes. Below are some great tips that I would like to share on how to protect your skin and get the best SPF coverage with some healthy benefits as well.
With skin cancer cases rising dramatically over the last 20 years the FDA, in 2011, announced new regulations on sunscreens and labeling requirements. Here are the revisions that were to be implemented for sunscreens on the market as well as any moisturizers that include an SPF.
Broad Spectrum designation: Sunscreens that pass FDA's broad spectrum test procedure, which measures a product's ultraviolet A (UVA) protection relative to its ultraviolet B (UVB) may be labeled as "Broad Spectrum SPF [value]" on the front label. For Broad Spectrum sunscreens, SPF values also indicate the overall protection.
Use claims: Only Broad Spectrum sunscreens with an SPF value of 15 or higher can claim to reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging if used as directed with other sun protection measures. Non-Broad Spectrum sunscreens and Broad Spectrum sunscreens with an SPF 2 - 14 can only claim to help prevent sunburn.
"Waterproof," "Sweatproof" or "Sunblock" claims: Manufacturers cannot label sunscreens as "waterproof" or "sweatproof," or identify their products as "sunblocks" because these claims overstate their effectiveness. Sunscreens also cannot claim to provide sun protection for more than 2 hours without reapplying.
Water resistance claims: Water resistance claims on the front label must indicate whether the sunscreen remains effective for 40 minutes or 80 minutes while swimming or sweating, based on standard testing.
Drug Facts: All sunscreens must include standard "Drug Facts" information on the back and/or side of the container.
As an organic and wellness advocate I believe in choosing the healthiest options for sun protection and routinely refer to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) for their excellent work in guiding consumers to the safest products available. This group and their research strive to educate consumers on the toxic levels and harmful ingredients that may be present in skin care and cosmetics.
Many sunscreens have chemicals and toxins added to them that are unnecessary and can actually contribute to irritations and skin damage. Below is a list of chemical sunscreen ingredients.
In 2007, EWG published its first Sunscreen Guide, helping to distinguish the safe SPF products and the ones using phony marketing claims while not testing well against the approved standards. Here are some great tips EWG has shared when looking for a healthy sunscreen that works. Please take note and be cautious of these important facts.
*High SPF numbers: High SPF numbers are tricky as consumers think that higher is better. Higher SPF ratings don’t necessarily offer greater protection from UV-related skin damage and may lead users to spend too much time in the sun. I recommend SPF 30 and to reapply every two hours to ensure you are being protected.
*Increases in UVA filter use: Over the past decade dermatologists and skin cancer researchers have concluded that good sunscreens should not only guard against sunburn, primarily caused by UVB rays, but also protect people from lower-energy UVA rays.
EWG warns that the FDA’s broad spectrum rule is still too lax. When proposed, EWG estimated that 80 percent of products would pass the new test without any change to their formulation. Europe sets a higher bar, requiring UVA protection to rise in proportion to SPF, which reflects only UVB protection. This year, we estimate that nearly every sunscreen EWG reviewed passed the FDA test, but that about half of them would not offer enough UVA protection to be sold in Europe.
Despite concerns, sprays still dominate the market.
Sunscreen sprays are popular with consumers. In 2007, just under 20 percent of the sunscreens EWG reviewed were sprays; this year, just under 30 percent were. EWG is concerned that these products pose an inhalation risk and may not provide an even coating on the skin when applied. In 2011, the FDA raised similar concerns.
EWG remains concerned that a common sunscreen additive, a form of vitamin A called Retinyl palmitate, can harm the skin. Government test data shows more skin tumors and lesions on animals treated with this ingredient and exposed to sunlight. In 2010, when EWG first voiced concerns about this additive, nearly 40 percent of the products they reviewed contained Vitamin A. Since then, the use of this troubling ingredient in sunscreens has dropped by more than half, contained in only 16 percent of the products that were surveyed for 2016.
Oxybenzone is a common UV filter in sunscreens. It is a hormone disruptor and allergen and the CDC has detected it in the urine of 97 percent of Americans. Despite emerging concerns, the sunscreen industry continues to rely heavily on Oxybenzone as an active ingredient: it was in 70 percent of the non-mineral sunscreens that EWG evaluated for this year’s guide.
A great option that I prefer is mineral sunscreens with healthy ingredients added to give antioxidant support and moisturizing factors. Mineral sunscreens are also considered physical active ingredients to scatter and reflect UVA and UVB rays.
Zinc oxide, a naturally occurring mineral, absorbs both UVA (aging, cancer-causing) and UVB (burning) rays. If zinc oxide is coating your skin via a mineral sunscreen, both kinds of harmful rays are kept from affecting your skin.
Titanium dioxide is the other mineral sunscreen active ingredient, but it is less effective for two reasons:
• It doesn’t block the UVA rays like zinc does.
• It is a less stable molecule, so when it absorbs the sunlight, it’s more likely to release energy in the form of excited electrons.
Zinc oxide is incredibly stable, so it can hang onto the UV energy it absorbs and simply release it as heat...perfectly safe. Zinc oxide is also the only option rated safe for babies.
Below are some of my favorite choices from Eminence Organic Skincare to use for SPF as well as some post care products to ensure your skin will look and feel its best. All of these are hypo-allergenic and will work on every skin color. These products work well to keep skin cool and to reduce oil production, rosacea & melasma flare ups.
Tropical Vanilla - SPF 32 for the face and the body
Sun Defense Mineral SPF Powder – SPF 30
Persimmon and Cantaloupe – SPF 32
Tomato Sun Cream – SPF 16
Rosehip and Lemongrass Lip Balm – SPF 15
Post Care Products
Rosehip and Lemongrass Repair Balm & Cream
Stone Crop Masque
Stone Crop Body Lotion
Once you select the healthiest option for you follow some of these easy tips:
*Apply sun protection 30 minutes in advance to sun exposure and be sure to reapply every two hours.
*Seek shade when you can – use a beach umbrella if you are at the beach and always wear a hat when in the sun. You may also opt for UPF clothing for all water sport activities.
*If you sweat and swim reapply directly after to ensure you are protected.
*Stay hydrated with drinking water throughout any amount of exposure. You may also eat food high in beta carotene which have been proven to reduce skin burning.
*Wash your skin with cool water and a gentle cleanser.
*After sun exposure be sure to apply post care products to reduce heat and inflammation.
See you at the pool!