Sunscreen Is Essential
What we always hear from dermatologists, celebrities, doctors, and our parents is to apply sunscreen every day. We do not realize until we get a bit older is how important that advice really is. However, many times we just go with any sunscreen that we find, because sunscreen is sunscreen right? To begin, that is an amazing start to at least use any kind of sunscreen and sun protection daily. But if you want to dig deeper and really be sure if your skin is protected, there are some things you can learn about which ingredients to look out for in your sunscreen that can either help or hurt your skin against the sun’s rays.
What Sunscreen Protects Your Skin From
The kinds of rays that come from the sun down to earth are in the form of ultraviolet radiation. There are three main types of ultraviolet (UV) radiation that come from the sun that affect our skin. The three main categories of UV radiation rays are UVA, UVB, and UVC ordered from longest to shortest wavelength. UVA rays are the sun’s rays that we as humans come into contact with the most every day. These rays penetrate the skin deeply because of their longer wavelength. These rays are large contributors to premature skin aging and wrinkling. UVB rays also affect the skin, but instead of affecting deeper layers of the skin as UVA rays do, UVB rays affect the more outer layers of the skin. For example, UVB rays are the cause of sunburns and reddening of the skin. Both UVA and UVB rays are also factors that contribute to skin cancer. UVC rays are mostly absorbed and blocked by the ozone layer, but if they were not, they would be very dangerous.
SPF or Broad-Spectrum?
So, how to make sure your skin is protected from these invisible rays? Check your sunscreen to see if it says if it has SPF or broad-spectrum. When it only says SPF on the bottle or packaging, that means that it only has protection from the UVB rays. Even though you may not get a sunburn with this kind of sunscreen, over time, you may still find yourself with signs of premature aging from the UVA rays that you were not protected from. When the sunscreen includes the word broad-spectrum on it, this means that it has protection from both UVA and UVB rays. Therefore, the overall better option is to get the kind that protects you from both in one product.
Mineral or Chemical Sunscreens?
The ingredients that are listed as active ingredients are actually sun/ultraviolet filters. The way they work is that the ingredients help absorb or reflect the ultraviolet rays. There are two main categories for the ultraviolet filters, mineral and chemical. Mineral sunscreens often are those that leave a white cast because their job is to block/reflect around 5% of UV rays and absorb the rest as heat. The ingredients that are FDA approved and on the “generally safe and effective” list, Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide, fall into the mineral sunscreen category. Typically, people prefer to use mineral sunscreens because they are more gentle on the skin, as well as have ingredients that really protect the skin. Sunscreen producers use many different UV filters in products because the ingredients all work against different UV ranges which you can see in the table below.
Ingredients to Avoid
The kinds of chemicals that are used to make sunscreens for their sun protection characteristics are often called active ingredients. Sunscreens that are the best in terms of quality and safety to the skin are the ones that are FDA approved. Currently, the ingredients that are considered “generally safe and effective” by the FDA require stricter guidelines, so the two in sunscreen that are in this category are Zinc Oxide and Titanium Oxide. The other active ingredients that are commonly found in sunscreen but are not yet on the GRASE (generally safe and effective) list are Avobenzone, Ensulizole, Homosalate, Octinoxate, Octisalate, Octocrylene, and Oxybenzone. In fact, many of these ingredients are actually banned in different places such as Hawaii in order to protect the coral reefs. Until then, it is better to stick with broad-spectrum sunscreens that include ingredients such as Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide to protect your skin, your health, and the environment.