What to Look for in Your Sunscreen

Summer is not that far off and warmer weather is finally upon us. We need to be aware of protecting our skin from the sun’s intense UV rays. Read on to learn what to look for in a sunscreen.

What a whirlwind of weather we’ve been experiencing lately! Summer has arrived and we need to be aware of protecting our skin from the sun’s intense electromagnetic, ultraviolet (UV) rays. We did get a sample of how intense these UV rays can get – I know I got a bit carried away with the beautiful summer weather this past weekend – I wasn’t prepared for the sun, which lead to the first sunburn of the season! Can’t wait until this turns in to a golden tan, but until then I’m loving my all-natural oatmeal, vitamin E and aloe-based lotion to help repair my skin from sun damage. However I do encourage that you don’t make my mistake by not using sunscreen (especially when it comes to your children).

Sunscreen is very important for protecting your skin from harmful UV rays. Despite my encouragement to get a good amount outdoor activity for optimal Vitamin D production, it is important that we protect skin from the potentially harmful effects of the sun, no matter what type of skin tone you may have.

With all skin-products, you should be aware that what you put on your skin will ultimately be absorbed in to the bloodstream. The problem with most commercial sunscreens is the dependence on synthetic chemicals to protect your skin from the UV rays, many of which have been flagged as health hazards.

When choosing a sunscreen, be aware of the chemicals added by looking at the ingredient list. Common toxic chemicals added to most commercial sunscreens have all been flagged as hormone disruptors. These include:

Octinoxate (Octylmethoxycinnamate)

Also avoid retinyl palmitate, a form of Vitamin A that has been linked to causing skin tumors in rats, when exposed to the sun. Parabens, phthalates and sodium lauryl sulfates are other chemicals generally found in most skin products are all items that we should be aware of as well.

Mineral-based sunscreen offer great protection from UV rays, and are much safer compared to chemically-based sunscreens. These sunscreens use one of two minerals as the active ingredient – zinc oxide and titanium oxide – which form a physical barrier between your skin and the sun’s UVA and UVB rays (most chemical sunscreens do not offer UVA protection). Mineral-based sunscreens are not absorbed in to the bloodstream as the molecules are too big to pass through the skin. Optimal sunscreens should have either one of these minerals and should contain natural skin healing ingredients such as aloe, coconut oil, chamomile, calendula, shea, and vitamins A, E and D. Avoid aerosol sprays and loose powder sunscreens due to high risk of inhalation (even if they are mineral-based). The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has compiled a list of the safest sunscreens available on the market, which you can find by clicking on this link: http://www.ewg.org/2014sunscreen/best-sunscreens/best-beach-sport-sunscr....

The EWG also recommends applying sunscreen every 30 minutes, especially after swimming or sweating.

Sunscreens are there to protect the skin from the sun’s UVA and UVB rays, however the best protection is always staying covered up – wear hats, light cotton clothing and sunglasses during long days in the sun.

Dr. Tanya Lee, H.BSc., N.D.

Health Centre of Milton
420 Main S. E Units 102-103
Milton, ON L9T 1P9