I have baked and broiled my skin to attain that golden summer shimmer, but never quite succeeding. I have seen the toll my skin has taken through the years. That, and a few melanoma scares have sent me scrambling for the sunscreen. Now, two of the medications prescribed after my kidney transplant, put me at a high risk for skin cancer. So I’m not messing around. I want the best sun protection I can get my pale little fingers on.
When I started doing some research, I had no idea sunscreen was so complicated. In the past, I would grab anything with spf 100, but as it turns out, spf 100 is not any better than a good spf 50 or even 30.
Chemical versus Mineral
I never knew there was a difference until I went to the dermatologist. Mineral sunscreen will contain Zinc Oxide and possibly Titanium Oxide, which will provide a physical barrier to provide UVA and UVB protection. My dermatologist was adamant about mineral sunscreen being the superior choice. He was also adamant about the importance of wearing an SPF all year, even on overcast days because radiation is always present. UVB rays are mainly responsible for sunburn, while UVA rays can penetrate deeper into the skin and cause long-term damage such as melanomas and skin cancer.
A Condensed Version of the Evils of Chemical Sunscreen
First, they’re made of chemicals, some of which can be dangerous. These chemicals penetrate the skin and can enter the bloodstream. They may disrupt the body’s hormone system. This can be especially dangerous for young children.
The EWG (Environmental Working Group) has a list of chemical culprits that are widespread in conventional sunscreens. Here are a few of the most toxic ingredients to be on the lookout for:
The Simplicity of Mineral Sunscreen
Mineral sunscreens appear to be much more simple. They are minerals. They do not penetrate the skin’s layer and they use natural minerals to reflect and scatter the sun’s rays. There is no evidence of hormone disruption. Physical sunscreens can be thicker in consistency so you might have to rub a bit harder to get rid of residue, but they are gentler on sensitive skin and start to work immediately. They don’t break down in the sun, and they don’t sting your eyes.
My mission is to find the sunscreen with the highest percent of zinc oxide. My dermatologist said at least 5%. It also has to feel good on my skin, not sticky, not gooey, and please not that ghostly film of white.
And don’t forget spa clothing. A sun hat, an spf long sleeve shirt to throw on over a tank, can save your back and arms.
The Best Sunscreen is the One You Will Use
You will probably want a different sunscreen for each season, depending on how cold, hot, dry or humid it is outside. I recommend getting samples, lots of samples or travel sizes. You can find samples and travel sizes at your local health food store, Sephora, or any of your favorite online stores. Your dermatologist should send you home with buckets of samples. Every sunscreen has its own texture and weight. I can tell you what I like, but you need to find the perfect sunscreen for you. A sunscreen you will want to wear everyday.
You can find amazing information and the latest research on sunscreen in the EWG’s Sunscreen Guide http://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/
Are you in camp Chemical or Physical?