I’ll never forget lathering up in suntan lotion (that oily, coconut smelling stuff that made you BROWNER) laying out on my beach towel and sun tanning with my teenaged cousin Jenny… for an hour. I was six. The resulting burn was a nasty ‘right of passage’.
We now know burns are bad for your skin, but what about tans? According to Mona Gohara, a dermatologist at Yale University:
“There’s no such thing as a good base tan. That’s a fallacy. Tans are your body's way of telling you that you've damaged the skin.” (National Geographic)
Apparently skin cancer is on the rise, and it’s not just because of our depleted Ozone, it’s because we’re more active - hiking, biking and kayaking - than ever before, so we need to make sure we’re protecting our skin with shirts (hold yours up to a light bulb to see what gets through, the more light, the more sun will be hitting your skin) wide brim hats and SUNSCREEN.
In addition to Cancer, Gohara also says UV rays are the leading cause of premature - aging skin, including wrinkles, sagging and dryness, so if you want to keep your skin ‘youthful’ you’ll want to protect it - regardless of skin tone because even darkest skin tones are susceptible, verifying what we’ve always known deep down - that skin colour is only a surface difference.
So with that in mind, here are 5 things you should know about sunscreen.
1- HOW MUCH SUNSCREEN SHOULD YOU USE?
According to the American Academy of Dermatology and the Skin Cancer Foundation you should use at least SPF 30. The key takeaway is to use as directed, but most of us don’t.
Up to a shot glass worth for your body and ¼ - ⅓ of a teaspoon for your face.
And if you have a beard, unless it’s super thick, you should still apply that screen to your beard as well.
2- SPF - IS BIGGER BETTER?
SPF 30 sunscreen filters out approximately 97% of UVB rays, while SPF 50 sunscreen filters out around 98% of UVB rays, so the difference in sun protection between SPF 30 and SPF 50 is relatively small.
To be more precise, SPF 30 allows about 3% of UVB rays to reach your skin, while SPF 50 allows about 2% of UVB rays to penetrate. This means that SPF 50 provides a slightly higher level of UVB protection compared to SPF 30.
3- HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU APPLY IT?
Every 2 hours or after swimming and heavy sweating! That’s a lot. And it doesn’t matter how strong your SPF is, as in, a stronger SPF still needs to be applied every 2 hours, which is all the more reason to support your sunscreen efforts with clothing, hats and shade.
And if you want true protection, dermatologists suggest using it 365 days a year! Not just in the summer sun. You can even get sun damage through your office window, so whether you step outside or not, it’s still a good idea - and habit - to wear it on the daily.
4- CHEMICAL VS. MINERAL - WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
Mineral sunscreens sit on top of your skin and reflect the light away, which is why mineral sunscreens are effective immediately.
Chemical screens take some time to be absorbed - typically about 20min - and contain oxybenzone or octinoxate, compounds that absorb the UV rays instead of your skin.
Dermatologists generally agree that both are safe, despite some concerns over a study in 2020 that indicated oxybenzone may have had hormone disrupting qualities.
If you have sensitive skin, mineral screens may be a better bet because they don’t get as absorbed.
Mineral screens are historically noted for leaving a film - or white cast - on the skin, but newer formulations are overcoming that aesthetic issue.
And what about reefs? While there’s little debate that chemical screen can damage reefs, it’s hard to say if sunscreen is solely responsible for the widespread destruction because the concentration of chemical screens - even in highly populated beaches - is still so small. And some of the most damaged reefs are far from sunscreen wearing humans.
Many experts believe that the real issue is climate change and other pollutants.
5- WHAT ABOUT VITAMIN D - DOES SUNSCREEN PREVENT ABSORPTION?
In a word… no. DiAnne Davis, a medical and cosmetic dermatologist in Dallas, Texas says that: “As little as 15 minutes of sun exposure each week—the kind you’re likely to get walking to and from your car, on parts of your skin that are less than 100 percent protected—is adequate for vitamin D protection. Fortified foods and nutritional supplements are a far safer way to raise vitamin D levels than sun exposure.” (National Geographic)
So there you have it. To protect your skin from both Cancer and ‘signs of age’ you should ideally wear it EVERY DAY and apply up to a shot glass worth on your body, and at least a ¼ teaspoon to your face. But sunscreen alone won’t do the job, tightly knit clothing and wide brim sun hats are key.
Want to check out our mineral - facial - SPF 30 sunscreen? In addition to providing the needed protection - without the white film - we send it in our backyard compostable re-fill pods so you can protect your skin AND our planet.CLICK HERE for our mineral screen in backyard compostable refill pods.