I get asked the sunscreen question a lot. Sun safety is important.
While it’s critical to avoid sunburns and excessive exposure to the sun, we also want to minimize the risks associated with chemicals present in many popular sunscreen products. I have some recommendations about how to choose a sunscreen below, but here’s why sunscreen matters...
The sun emits radiation in the form of UVA and UVB rays. Both of these can damage the skin and the eyes.
- UVB rays have shorter wavelengths that reach the outer layer of the skin
- UVA rays have longer wavelengths that penetrate to the middle layer of the skin
Here are some of the risks of too much sun exposure:
- Eye damage and vision problems
- Premature aging of the skin
- Skin cancer
Sunscreen is ONE of the precautions you can take to protect yourself from excessive sun exposure and sun damage. To help you choose a safe sunscreen, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has a comprehensive 2021 sunscreen guide with some of these recommendations:
- Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are generally recognized as safe sunscreen ingredients.
- Avobenzone, homosalate, octinoxate, octisalate, and octocrylene lack sufficient safety data.
- Oxybenzone has particular safety concerns, especially for kids, because of the potential for allergic reactions, endocrine disruption, and higher absorption through the skin.
As for SPFs, higher is not necessarily better. Look for something that is at least SPF 15, but the EWG says that higher numbers might give you a false sense of security and recommends avoiding any products that claim higher than SPF of 50.
It’s most important to apply sunscreen when you are spending long hours in the sun and when the UV index is high. Remember that water reflects UV rays, so be sure to wear sunscreen when boating or swimming.