What should a consumer look for in a safe and effective sunscreen this summer? We’ve developed a list of tips to help you shop. The good news for fans of natural products is that dermatologists and skin cancer experts agree that major points go to Zinc Oxide, a mineral that performs as a natural sunblock offering both UVA and UVB protection and is very stable in sunlight. Everyone from the Skin Cancer Foundation, to Vogue Magazine is recommending consumers seek zinc oxide.
#1) READ NOT ONLY SPF, BUT INGREDIENT LISTS TO INSURE UVA PROTECTION
80% of consumers buy their sunscreen based solely on its SPF rating. SPF (sun protection factor) only measures protection from UVB rays, ignoring the UVA radiation exposure that is also cancer causing and damaging to skin. The ridiculously high SPF’s (70+) are unsubstantiated and for the purpose of marketing.
As far as UVB protection, SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB, SPF 30 blocks 97% and SPF 50 blocks 99%.
Since SPF excludes UVA protection information, the only way to insure your sunscreen offers UVA protection is to read the ingredient label. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends “looking for UVA blocking ingredient zinc oxide”, which is the closest thing to a total sunblock on the market today. A high quality sunscreen will have around 20% zinc content. (Ours contains 18% zinc oxide, plus natural oils with sunscreen properties, like Jojoba and Olive.)
#2) SEEK MINERAL (zinc oxide) vs. CHEMICAL INGREDIENTS (all the rest)
Zinc is a physical sun blocker that actually reflects or bounces the sun’s ultraviolet rays off of your body. It has over a 300 year history of safety with no known adverse reactions (which is why it is used on even the youngest babies in diaper rash creams). On the flip side, chemical sunscreens (avobenzone, oxybenzone, homosalate, etc.) absorb the UVA rays once they hit your skin. Many chemical sunscreen ingredients have shown to be unstable when the rays are absorbed, causing the chemical to break down and cause free radical damage.
#3) AVOID TITANIUM DIOXIDE AND NANO-PARTICLES
Its difficult to find a mineral sunscreen that is purely zinc. Most formulations rely on a blend of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. As far as performance, Titanium Dioxide degrades in the presence of uv light to form free radicals. Not good…especially if we are talking about use in a sunscreen. A new report from the American Cancer Society identifies Titamium Dioxide as one of their top “suspected carcinogens”. The safety of Titanium Dioxide is one of the least well studied in humans, although it has been long established as a cancer causing agent in animal exposure studies. There is conflicting evidence as to whether nanoparticles of titanium dioxide can pass through the skin. But if nanoparticles do pass through, the presence of titanium dioxide in a large variety of sunscreens, cosmetic powders and creams may be a cause of concern.