Protect Your Skin in The Sun
By Holly Potter, L.E., L.M.T.
It is finally warm, and the sun is shining. Time to head to the store and pick up some sunscreen. But, wait, what number do I need? What is the difference between a physical and chemical sunscreen? Will a sunscreen cause cancer? Let’s take a close look at these questions and give you some guidance so you can make an educated decision on what sunscreen to buy and use to protect your skin.
The number of a sunscreen is solely based on its protection level in conjunction with your skin’s own natural protection. For example, let’s say you are fair-skinned, and burn within one hour of intense sun. You apply an SPF of 15. Technically, you would have 15 times greater protection than if you had not applied sunscreen. Does this mean one application of sunscreen for the day, and you’re good to go? Of course not. Even the thickest sunscreen will wash or wear off through the course of the day. The rule of thumb is this: Every two hours for days at the beach, and every six hours otherwise.
How about the difference between physical and chemical sunscreen? Physical sunscreens BLOCK the sun’s rays, while chemical sunscreens ABSORB the sun’s rays. Physical sunscreens only contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, and nothing else as their active ingredients. Physical sunscreens are also less irritating to sensitive skin, but do bear in mind that their formulas are often thicker in consistency. The rule of thumb with chemical sunscreens: If you can’t pronounce it, it’s most likely chemical! Chemical sunscreens are potentially more irritating, but the formulas are thinner and apply easier. Ultimately, the choice is up to you.
Does sunscreen cause skin cancer? Let’s put it this way...85% of all skin cancers are caused by overexposure to UV rays. The word here is overexposure. You DO need 20 minutes or so a day of sunlight to absorb Vitamin D, and all its wonderful benefits. However, overexposure leads to skin cancer, which is a mutation of the skin cells. There has been some evidence linked to some chemical sunscreens being linked to basal cell carcinoma (specifically octylmethylcinnamate), however, at this point, the sun is still a major cause (when it’s overdone).
My advice is this: It’s best to wear at least a physical sunscreen
than none at all. Better to be safe than sorry! The biggest thing you
can do for your skin (no matter what you put on it) is to check your
ingredients. Your skin and body (from the outside in) will thank you!
Holly Potter, L.E., L.M.T.