written by Megan Lieberman, assistant grocery manager
It’s time to get outdoors and enjoy the beautiful weather.
While we all love the extra warm sunshine the summer bring us, Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is on the rise. In fact, the rate has tripled in the past thirty-five years despite many campaigns for sun safety. The FDA has responded by revising regulations on sunscreen labeling and usage but some information is still lacking. Here’s what you need to know before you venture into the sun this summer.
Don’t be deceived by high Sun Protection Factors, or SPF. SPF is measured by its ability to filter UVB rays, but doesn’t reflect UVA screening. High SPFs can mislead consumers into thinking that reapplying is unnecessary, however, sunscreens with SPFs higher than fifty tested only marginally better than those with SPFs lower than fifty. It’s important to choose a sunscreen with enough protection, but keep in mind, the higher the SPF, the potential for chemical exposure increases.
The active ingredients in sunscreen come in two forms, mineral or chemical, each using a different mechanism but both increasing exposure to chemicals. Chemical sunscreens usually contain a combo of two out of six ingredients – oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocreylene, homosalate, and octinoxate – and mineral sunscreens contain either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. The listed ingredients can cause allergies, skin irritation, skin penetration, and endocrine disruption, but zinc oxide is the most recommended as it has the lowest rate of interference and it blocks both UVA and UVB rays. Avobenzone is also considered a safe sunscreen ingredient as it blocks 3% of UVA rays. Oxybenzone, on the other hand, should be avoided due to the frequent occurrence of skin irritation and hormone disruption.
Two other ingredients to be aware of are fragrance and retinyl palmitate, also known as retinol, vitamin A. Fragrance can be any number of ingredients when listed on a label, but it’s usually a skin irritant or toxin. When applied in sunlight, vitamin A has been known to speed the development of skin tumors and lesions. Avoid sunscreen sprays and loose powder with added sunscreen as neither can be applied in an even coat and the zinc and titanium nanoparticles should not be inhaled.
Keep these four simple tips in mind before you head out into the sun. First, reapply sunscreen and often. An SPF range between 15 and 50 is good. Second, avoid toxic ingredients such as oxybenzone and sunscreens with vitamin A. Third, creams are recommended over powders and sprays. Finally, limit sun exposure when outside during peak hours. Use light layers and sunglasses for protection too.