Deciphering the Label: How to Pick the Best Sunscreen
If you find yourself in the health and beauty section of your local Whole Foods market standing in front of five shelves of 18 different brands of sunblock, take a deep breath. Consider the following points to help you make an informed purchasing decision:
Broad Spectrum Protection
Look for a non-chemical, non-nano sunscreen that has broad-spectrum protection. Broad-spectrum sunscreen blocks out both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays are the long ultraviolet rays prevalent throughout the daylight hours. They penetrate through glass and clouds, and deep within the layers of the skin. UVA exposure is linked to premature aging of the skin and wrinkles and is known to exacerbate skin cancers. UVB rays are ultraviolet rays with a medium wavelength, and are most prevalent in the United States between the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. UVB is known to cause damage to the superficial layers of the skin.
The active ingredients I look for in a sunscreen are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, in combination or zinc oxide alone. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are minerals and are considered “physical” ingredients (they do not absorb into your skin). Zinc oxide blocks out both UVA and UVB rays. Titanium dioxide blocks out only the UVB rays.
Sun Protection Factor
15, 18, 30, 35, 40, and 50… So many choices of SPF! A sun protection factor signals how many minutes of coverage you have until you burn. For example, someone who burns after 10 minutes and uses a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 can be in the sun for up to 150 minutes without burning. Select a sunscreen with an SPF between 15 and 50. The FDA has not approved SPF fewer than 15.
You may have to purchase a few sunscreens and try them before you find one that works for you (save the receipt in case you need to make an exchange). I tried many sunscreens before I found a few that I like. My personal favorite is Aubrey Organics Natural Sun Active Lifestyles Tropical Scent. The active ingredients are a combination of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. It’s nicely scented and has a smooth texture that applies evenly and easily on the skin. The formula is vegan and contains certified organic ingredients.
Additional Sun Protection
Wear a hat with at least a 3-inch brim all around. Certain types of clothing also have a natural SPF. Cotton clothing, for example, has a natural SPF of 15.
Vitamin D offers a long list of health benefits. It aids in the absorption of calcium and phosphorus in your intestine to boost your immune system and build strong bones. It also reduces stress and tension, helps fight depression, and makes skin soft, strong and smooth. The best source of vitamin D is sun exposure. Some suggest exposing your skin to the sun daily prior to the application of sunscreen for a period of time, but not too much. Balance is key, and preventing sunburn is of utmost importance.