Which sunscreen should you use? That’s a burning good question eh? With all the sunscreens available now, you might bust a gut choosing the right one. Well, you don’t have to. All you have to do is keep these practical tips in mind.
How does sunscreen work anyway?
Most sunscreens today combine both organic and inorganic filters to help protect your skin from the damaging effects of the sun. Though the use of the word organic here isn’t in the traditional, green living, healthy sense.
Organic filters – Absorb harmful ultraviolet radiation like a sponge and prevent it from getting to your skin. They then convert radiation to heat and dissipate it. These sunscreens are also known as chemical sunscreens because they actively intiate this process.
Examples of organic filters used in sunscreens are: salicylates, cinnamates, benzophenones (i.e. avobenzone, oxybenzone) , anthranilates, dibenzoylmethanes and p-aminobenzoates.
Inorganic filters – Instead of absorbing the radiation, this type of filter deflects UV radiation like a mirror. These sunscreens are widely known as reflective sunscreens.
Examples of active ingredients found in these sunscreens are: zinc oxide, titanium oxide, iron oxide, kaolin, ichthammol, talc, calaminein.
The advantages of inorganic filters is that they provide broad spectrum protection from both UVA and UVB radiation. They also have greater stability when exposed to light and are generally non-irritable for the skin. However they also cause a whitening effect of the skin so have a lower aesthetic appeal. For this reason organic and inorganic filters are usually both added to sunscreen.
Which one is better? You don’t have to decide because as we mentioned earlier most sunscreens nowadays contain both organic and inorganic filters. Nice.
But you do need to look out for sunscreens that use natural, non-harmful ingredients. Remember your skin absorbs everything you put on it!
Read the label and stay away from these ingredients:
Any ingredients starting with Methyl…, Propyl…, Butyl…, Ethyl…, Trieth…, Dieth… and other chemical names. In fact if in doubt, look it up. Watch this space for our cosmetic ingredient glossary to help you navigate your skin care products.
PABA. PABA stands for para-amino benzoic acid. Some individuals with sensitive skin are allergic to this chemical. If you think you are, then ask your dermatologist about it before applying it to your skin. Better yet, don’t apply it at all by choosing a sunscreen that doesn’t contain it.
Retinyl palmitate. Commonly found in sunscreens advertising that they contain vitamin A. Pick a sunscreen that doesn’t have this potentially harmful ingredient in it. Some studies have found that it may speed the growth of some types of skin cancers especially when exposed to sunlight.
Sunscreens with bug repellants. Hmmm, sounds awesome huh? Repel sunlight and bugs at the same time. Wait a minute, ask yourself this, do bugs pester you around the same time as the sunlight strikes your skin? Kidding aside, some sunscreens out there advertise their product as having bug repellant properties. First off, you don’t need to apply bug repellants as often as you apply sunscreen. Secondly, steer clear from these chemicals: DEET, picaridin, para-menthane-diol and IR3535.
Other harmful chemicals that may be found in your sunscreen: octyl salicyclate, cinoxate, padimate O, dioxybenzone, phenylbenzimidazole, homosalate, sulisobenzone, menthyl anthranilate, trolamine salicyclate and octocrylene. Stay away from them!
It’s time to go natural
With all the chemicals they’re putting in new sunscreens, it may be time for you and your family to use natural ones. Natural sunscreens don’t contain the harmful chemicals stated above. Don’t worry, they’re every bit as effective as the traditional ones, just look for the SPF factor to make sure you’re still getting the protection. We also recommend checking the product for a natural certification so that you can be confident that it really is natural. Insert a link to our article ‘Natural Skin Care, why its better’ to the words ‘natural certification’ above.
Here are some common ingredients found in natural sunscreens: astaxanthin, sunflower oil and wax, lecithin, coconut oil, glycerine, almond oil, jojoba oil, shea butter, eucalyptus oil, aloe vera gel, pomegranate extract and zinc oxide (yes, it’s safe).
In addition to using a natural sunscreen, you can also help to protect your skin from the inside out. Follow a diet rich in fresh vegetables, fruits, healthy fats and super foods. These are loaded with antioxidants and essential fats that help to protect your skin from within. Additionally, supplemental astaxanthin has been shown to help provide UV protection to your skin, especially if your skin is very sensitive to the sun.
Here are some tips for how you can recover from a sunburn more quickly (if you didn’t apply enough sunscreen or didn’t bother to apply it at all!)
1. Fight the heat (sunburn) with a cold shower, bath or swim.
2. While your skin is still moist, apply aloe vera gel to the affected area. This helps to cool, soothe and hydrate your skin.
3. Coconut oil can help moisturise and heal the sunburn after your skin has cooled down. Re-apply aloe vera gel and coconut oil twice daily to help your skin heal.
4. Hydrate yourself with a squeeze of lemon juice in a glass of water. You’ll be needing the electrolytes for recovery. When your skin gets burnt, your body sends extra fluid to your skin so make sure you drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
5. Stay out of the sun for several days and remember to apply sunscreen every two hours next time. Try natural sunscreens this time around.
Remember, regular sunlight isn’t bad for you. You also need it to get your daily dose of vitamin D. But getting too much of it without protection, that’s the burning part. Try regular short bursts of sun exposure early in the season to build up a tan for later when the suns at its hottest. Next time you head out to get some sun, make sure you’re prepared especially if you’re going to be in the sun all day.