Summer Skin Care: Your Guide to All Things Sunscreen

Your guide for protecting your skin while you have fun in the sun.

Special thank you to Goddess Garden for gifting me their sunscreens to try. All opinions are my own.

I'm an avid sunscreen user. I’ve got sunscreen in my eyes more times than I can count. (Yes, I always wash my hands after applying.) Especially growing up, my mom and dad constantly made me wear sunscreen.

Perhaps it's the reason I took an interest in skin care at such young age. Well, that and acne through my preteen and teenage years. If you had acne growing up like I did, you remember in the beginning how challenging it was adjusting to a new skin care routine. In the end though, it was all worth it because you ended up with beautiful, clear skin. Same thing with getting into a sunscreen routine.

Learning the sun accounts for 90 percent of visible signs of skin aging, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, might be enough to scare you from ever going in the sun again.{1} However, skin aging is preventable, if you're committed to properly protecting your skin.

I am not an expert nor do I claim to be one. Most of my skin care knowledge comes from my esthetics degree, college anatomy and physiology courses, and the vast amount of content I constantly consume. My bachelor's is in journalism and public relations, but before I changing my major, I wanted to work as a nurse practitioner in a dermatologist's office.

So today I bring you complication of information for multiple sources including personal, brand blogs and health organizations. I encourage you to utilize the sources listed at the bottom of this post if you want to additional context to the research presented.

Without further ado, I give you my guide for safer sunscreen and smarter sun protection. Let's start by exploring happens when your skin interacts with the sun.

YOUR SKIN & THE SUN

As you know, the sun can age your skin. But how exactly does this transpire?

The sun emits solar energy from different points on a spectrum. Along that spectrum are ultraviolet rays. UV rays are invisible, and when they penetrate the skin and are absorbed, they cause sunburns and sun damage.{2}

Most sun-related skin damage happens from accumulated sun exposure over a lifetime.{3} You'll have a better understanding of why that it and how to confront it after reading this post. To begin, let's examine the differences between UVB and UVA rays in relation to their effects on skin.

UVB vs. UVA rays

UVB rays are commonly known as burning rays because they have the potential to cause sunburns. They penetrate the skin's superficial layers (pictured below) and signal a physical reaction to sun exposure. Increased melanin production, also known as getting a tan, is your skin's way of preventing further sun damage and protecting the deeper layers of your skin. It's also your body's way of telling you that's enough sun for today.{4}

Sun damage from UVB rays shows up quickly usually in the form of redness, skin being sensitive to touch or a tan. UVB rays are also responsible for the generation of vitamin D. UVA rays do not help with the vitamin D production.

UVA rays are the aging rays. They have the capacity to penetrate the deeper layers of the skin, and they do not cause sunburns.

It's hard to determine what is safe amount of UVA rays because the skin has no immediate sensor. Skin aging due to UVA exposure is delayed and doesn't show up until years later.{3}

UVA accounts for nearly 90 percent of UV rays that reach the skin.{4} As a result, you start to see early signs of skin aging like lines and wrinkles as collagen is damaged resulting from a loss of skin elasticity.

Even if you stay indoors when UVB rays are the most intense at midday, UVA rays are always a risk.{4} The objective is not to avoid the sun. It's to enjoy it safely and in moderation, which is why wearing sunscreen is always a good idea.

DECODING SUNSCREEN LABELS

Before I researched this topic again, I thought I knew how to properly select and use sunscreen. I did my due diligence to protect against UVB/UVA rays. I applied 70+ SPF and made certain to reapply every hour. All of my friends can tell you how devoted I am to wearing sunscreen and reapplying.

However, sun exposure guidelines have changed since I adopted these habits more than 10 years ago. It was time for an update, and it started with choosing the right SPF.

Sun Protection Factor (SPF)

An SPF rating is a measure of the time it takes to sunburn when you're not wearing sunscreen versus the time it takes when you are. It's not a specific unit of time, rather a multiplier correlated to the time it takes you to sunburn.{5}

The higher the SPF, the more time you can spend in the sun. You still have to reapply every two hours no matter the SPF. Additionally, sunscreens with an SPF higher than 50 are almost pointless unless you have really fair skin.

Think of it this way, if you burn within 10 minutes of sun exposure, SPF 50 would protect you for up to eight hours before getting a sunburn. It's unlikely that you spend more than eight hours in the sun.

SPF also indicates the percentage of UVB rays blocked. It's a good measure for sunscreen effectiveness, but it doesn't tell the whole story.

Broad Spectrum Coverage

To fully protect yourself from the sun, you want a broad spectrum sunscreen that protects against burning UVB rays and aging UVA rays. A sunscreen lacking in UVA leaves you at risk for long-term sun damage.

SUN PROTECTION MECHANISMS

Active ingredients in sunscreen can be divided into two categories: chemical and mineral (also called physical) sunscreens. Both prevent sunburns but do so using different mechanisms.{6}

CHEMICAL SUNSCREEN

  • Absorbs UV rays and convert it to a small amount of heat
  • Filters UV exposure

MINERAL SUNSCREEN

  • Reflects UV rays
  • Blocks UV exposure

As I mentioned earlier, absorbing UV rays isn't the best anti-aging technique for your skin. Although chemical sunscreens provide the immediate benefit of not getting sunburned, it's hard to justify their beneficial in the long run.

The sun protection mechanism in mineral sunscreen works by creating a physical barrier that sits on top the skin rather than being absorbed, meaning UV rays aren't absorbed either.

Which leads me to the last factor I took into consideration for my sunscreen update: quality of ingredients.

WHAT’S IN YOUR SUNSCREEN

We’ve all had a moment when we realize a product we use regularly contains harmful ingredients. Sunscreen is no exception.

    Questionable Ingredients

    Below are some ingredients you need to watch out for according to the Environmental Working Group, an organization that researches and educates consumers about toxins in personal care products. If you want a more in-depth look at sunscreen ingredients, The EWG Guide to Sunscreens 2017 is a fantastic resource. It provides product safety information about sunscreens, lip balms with SPF, moisturizers and makeup.

    *In no way am I saying these ingredients are harmful, only that they have the potential to be. Sometimes they work wonders in other applications. Be that as it may, using them for the purpose of sun protection should be approached with caution.

    Ingredients with higher toxicity concerns

    Ingredients with moderate toxicity concerns

    Ingredients with lower toxicity concerns

    • Avobenzone: product breakdown causes relatively high rates of skin allergy

    Inactive ingredients to avoid

    Don't get me wrong, chemical sunscreen is better than no sunscreen. However, we can do so much better than not getting a sunburn.

    AN ALTERNATIVE

    As you've probably guess, the alternative I found for common chemical sunscreen is to go mineral. Mineral sunscreen provides the same benefits, and it does so without the added risk that comes with absorbing UV rays and potentially harmful chemicals.{7}

    Active ingredients used in mineral sunscreens include zinc oxide, titanium dioxide or a combination of both. Both of which show little evidence of penetrating the skin.

    You're probably thinking, no way am I going out there looking like one of those old school lifeguards with the white zinc patches across their nose. But don't worry, we've come along way.

    Today's mineral sunscreens are gentle; they work immediately; they don’t break down in the sun, and most of all, they go on sheer.

    The best ones I've found, that meet all the standards mentioned above, come from the company Goddess Garden Organics. Here are a few reasons why I'm glad I made the switch their facial sunscreen SPF 30 and sport sunscreen SPF 30 a couple weeks ago.

    • Goddess Garden sunscreens contain only natural minerals and organic ingredients including aloe vera, sunflower oil, shea butter and helichrysum essential oil.

    • Their product ingredients have very low EWG toxicity ratings.

    • They are broad spectrum.

    • They're easy to apply, go on sheer and leave my skin feeling moisturized.

    • They feel light on skin and they're not greasy either.

    I used the facial sunscreen all the time when I take my dogs for their walks. I love smelling the lavender scent as soon as I open the tube and as it lingers on my skin.

    The sport sunscreen I use when I'm going to be in the water. It's thicker than the facial, but it applies just as easy if you remember to dry off your skin first. This is key!

    I'm really happy with the sunscreens they sent me. My mom and sister started using their products before I did, and they love them too.

    Again, I urge you to do your own research, talk to a dermatologist and then make the best decision for you.

    To recap, what you're looking for in a mineral sunscreen is broad-spectrum protection, active ingredients zinc and/or titanium dioxide and an SPF of at least 30.

    Thank you so much for checking out this post!

    I hope you enjoyed it and that it gave you insight on how best to protect your skin this summer. Stay tuned for more summer skin care series posts. This month I will be talking about sunscreen application tips, how to repair sun damage, and how to prevent it from happening again.

    Let me know about any questions you might have, skin care topics you're interested in or a sunscreen experience you would like to share. Always leave me a comment below if want to see more posts like this.

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    SHOP GG MINERAL SUNSCREENS

    Goddess Garden products are available on their website {click photos to shop}. They are also online at the following retailers Target, Amazon, Walmart, CVS and Walgreens. And, I have found them locally in-store at Fresh Thyme Farmers Market, Hy-Vee and Whole Foods.

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