Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Cosmetics Q&A: Sunscreen - What to look for & what to run from!

This sun is blazing out there in full force and you probably already know it's important you protect your skin from the harsh rays of the sun. Who wants wrinkles or perhaps something worse later on? Sunscreen isn't normally something you'd worry about, in fact it's meant to keep you safe! Yet here we are hearing more and more about how the chemicals in sunscreen can actually cause negative long-term effects.

First let's look at the two different kinds of active ingredients in sunscreens. There are the chemical ingredients like oxybenzone, adminobenzoic acid, and avobenzone (to name a few) and there are the physical barrier ingredients titanium dioxide and zinc.

Here's how they work:

Chemical ingredients absorb the energy of UV rays before it affects your skin

Physical barriers reflect or scatter UV rays before they hit your skin

Right off the bat when researching this and coming upon this info I thought to myself--So the chemical ingredients rubbed into my skin absorb the UV rays? 

What are some of the negative effects of the chemical sunscreen ingredients?

While there are many negative effects associated with the chemical ingredients used in sunscreen, it seems the most common include the generation of free radicals in the body and affect on estrogen in the body. Looking at the common sunscreen ingredient Benzophenone, it may come as a surprise that it is actually used in industrial processes as a free radical generator to initiate chemical reactions. It also happens to be one of the biggest culprits in regards to free radicals in the body as a result of using sunscreen that contains it. And since up to 35% of the sunscreen you rub into your skin can end up in your bloodstream, it doesn't seem like something you want to slather all over your body. Also, the fact that some chemicals in sunscreen have an estrogen-like affect on the body can increase the risk of cancer and cause a number of other fairly severe issues.

Comparing chemical ingredients side by side with physical barriers:

So maybe you think the information floating around about the chemical in sunscreen and how awful they are is a lot of hype. I think everyone needs to read and weigh the information themselves and perhaps while I'd rather err on the side of caution, you feel that something that's been in use for so many decades can't possibly be that bad of a culprit. All of that aside, let's look at a super basic, super objective comparison of the two when it comes to protection from the sun. After all, that's why we smear it all over our bodies anyway, right?

You are probably already aware that there is a broad UV spectrum broken down to UVA and UVB more or less. Now you may not believe it, but chemical sunscreen ingredients only cover portions of the spectrum which is why you usually see 3 or 4 active ingredients on your sunscreen. Adding these chemical ingredients together causes the sunscreen to have a bit more protection against different portions of the spectrum. At the same time, titanium dioxide as well as zinc provide broad spectrum UVA AND UVB protection. 

Here's an awesome chart I can across that shows the protection offered by both chemicals and physical barriers:  (Scroll to bottom of page) http://www.dermatology.ucsf.edu/skincancer/general/prevention/sunscreen.aspx

This chart was created by University of California San Francisco's School of Medicine in relation to skin cancer, dermatology, etc. They didn't create a rant-y piece, this was information they collected and organized for a section of the school's website for the Department of Dermatology. Looking at the information above alone, I'd feel better about using something that not only covers me well, but offers the added piece of mind that both zinc and titanium dioxide in sunscreen is gentle enough for daily use without possible side-effects like the chemical ingredients. If you don't feel there's any harm in using most of the sunscreens out there, that's totally up to you. I know plenty of people that don't think twice about it. 

On the other hand, if you've decided it's not such a huge deal to switch just to be safe I can recommend two different sunscreens that I put on myself, my husband, and my kids. I like Badger Balm's Suncreen and Goddess Garden Kids Natural Suncreen.  I'll tell you upfront that they are more expensive than Banana Boat and Neutrogena sunscreens. To me it's worth it, but it may not be to you. However, if you are interested in switching the cheapest Badger Balm I found was HERE and you can use the promo code FATHERSDAY (until June 10 at midnight) to get an extra 10% off plus free shipping for orders over $49 and the cheapest Goddess Garden I found was HERE

Hope that helps! Keep that skin sun-safe and fabulous ;)


  1. This was super helpful! I use alot of acid based skincare products, mostly from MD Formulations. And it requires me to use spf 50 almost all the time! I'm like MR spf! :p

    Btw, I've got a contest going on. Where you can win some really nice high end prizes, and its super easy.

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  2. I'm a huge fan of more natural sunscreens! The two I listed are the two I like best because all of the ingredients are so fabulously natural. I'm all about being careful in the sun! I have an olive complexion and tan underneath the sunscreen a bit anyway. I do miss being very tan, but it's not worth the trade off to me ;)

    Great giveaway btw!


Please make sure all comments are appropriate and void of self-promotion such as links, blog URLs, etc. Thanks for chatting!