Want to make sure you take the best possible care of your skin this summer? You need to be on top of your sunscreen game. This article takes you through why sunscreen is important and why you should use natural sunscreen instead of chemical based alternatives.
As summer approaches quickly, most of you will be aware of how crucial it is to protect your skin in the harsh sun. No beach day is complete without towering waves, a beautiful blue sky and a large tub of sunscreen.
But have you ever thought about what sunscreen you should be buying, beyond looking at that big “SPF” label on the front? Did you know that there was a difference between natural and “regular” sunscreen? Most people don’t!
Let’s take you through everything you need to know about why you should be using natural sunscreen this summer, so your skin emerges radiant and healthy.
The threat of skin cancer
The importance of protecting your skin from the sun can not be stressed enough. According to the Cancer Council of Australia, an estimated two out of three Aussies will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime. Isn’t that just a little bit terrifying?
Skin cancer is caused by overexposure to UV radiation from the sun, damaging important skin cells. There are two types of UV radiation emitted from the sun: UVA and UVB.
UVA rays are always around, no matter the weather and penetrate deeply to cause premature aging, sunspots and wrinkles. UVB is more prevalent during summer and are the rays that cause sunburn and skin cancer.
As many of you might have heard throughout your schooling life, the Cancer Council recommends five key steps in protecting yourself from the threat of UV radiation:
- Slip on sun protective clothing that covers as much skin as possible.
- Slop on broad spectrum, water resistant SPF30+ (or higher) sunscreen.
- Slap on a hat.
- Seek shade
- Slide on some sunglasses.
So how does slopping on some sunscreen actually help?
Why we need sunscreen
Sunscreens generally consist of one of two types of ingredients: absorbers which absorb UV and radiators which reflect UV away from the skin. These ingredients, obviously, protect your skin from the effects of UV radiation.
You may have seen “SPF” a lot while buying sunscreen. This stands for “Sun Protection Factor” and is a measure of how long it takes for your skin to redden when exposed to sun, in comparison to if no product was applied.
So, theoretically, SPF30 sunscreen will mean that your skin takes thirty times the amount of time to redden. Keep in mind, this is affected by other factors such as a skin type and clothing.
Why you need to look beyond SPF
While SPF is a great measure of the quality of sunscreen, there is much more that goes into determining the best product for your skin.
When buying any derma product, it’s extremely important to examine the ingredients being applied to your skin. Nothing is different in selecting sunscreen.
Recently, the Environmental Working Group released their annual sunscreen guide which found that a massive 73% of sunscreen products weren’t very effective and/or contained concerning ingredients, such as chemicals tied to hormone disruption and skin irritation.
So clearly, it’s not as simple as picking the sunscreen with the highest SPF rating.
What are chemical and natural sunscreens?
The key difference between natural, mineral based sunscreens and regular chemical based sunscreens is the active ingredients used to protect against UV radiation.
Mineral based, natural sunscreens use physical UV blockers such as zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. These form an actual reflective barrier between your skin and sun rays. They also absorb UV, but not to the degree of chemical based sunscreens.
Chemical based sunscreens use ingredients that combine with sun rays and react chemically to absorb UV radiation before it takes effect on your skin, such as oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and/or octinoxate.
Why you should use natural sunscreen instead
Where mineral sunscreens sit on the surface of your skin, chemical based sunscreens absorb into it. Many of the chemicals used, when absorbing into your skin, have been strongly linked with hormone disruption. This is something that’s been proved by many animal and cell studies.
Oxybenzone is added to approximately two thirds of chemical sunscreens and has also been linked with poorer sperm quality in men, higher risk of endometriosis in women, skin allergies and cell damage. The Environmental Working Group gives oxybenzone a “hazard score” of 8.
Octinoxate is another typical chemical sunscreen ingredient that also receives a hazard score of 8. It has moderate rates of skin allergy and is believed to disrupt hormones if absorbed into your skin.
A recent study also found that common sunscreen ingredient avobenzone, while usually safe on its own, reacts poorly when mixed with water and UV radiation; causing it to break down into compounds called phenols and acetyl benzenes, which are known to be incredibly toxic.
Furthermore, natural sunscreens don’t just have fewer side effects, but tend to be more effective at protecting against UVA rays (as well as UVB rays). In other words, they have what is referred to as a “broader spectrum” of protection.
They also start working immediately, unlike chemical based sunscreens which generally require a period of time to properly absorb into your skin.
Summer is the most exciting part of the year, but also a period where it’s extra important to think about skin care.
Skin cancer is extremely prevalent and is caused by exposure to UV radiation, particularly potent in summer months.
SPF is a measure of sunscreen efficacy, but is only a small part of the overall story. As with any skincare product, you must pay close attention to the ingredients comprising your sunscreen.
Chemical based sunscreens absorb into your skin and commonly contain ingredients that are strongly linked with irritation, hormone disruption and other side effects.
Natural sunscreens, particularly zinc and/or titanium based, sit on top of your skin and reflect as well as absorb UV radiation. They contain far less chemicals and have a broader spectrum of protection.