As someone with pigmented spots, I try to be very careful about sun exposure. It just unfortunately that I find the sun just so damn addictive. I don’t think there is anything lovelier than being swathed in the comforting warmth of the sun’s rays as its uplifting brightness halos my body. You can see why I have pigmentation. Now, while I try to show a little restraint, I will admit that when I lived in Australia I got some pretty bad burns (burns that I know would make my mother shudder) – but a lot of it had to do with a misconception of sun protection.
In order for you to appreciate this, I will begin by giving you a little SPF 101. SPF is the sun protection factor which measures the duration of time it takes to burn. Its not the filtration of UV rays, its not the concentration of ingredients; it is simply how much of a delay it will offer before you get nice and crispy. So, if you burn in 5 minutes, with an SPF 10 you will burn in 50 minutes, with an SPF 20, you will burn in 100 minutes. This is why it makes no sense to me why derms often tell their patients that they need an SPF 100 for everyday use. Most of are in the direct sun only to and from work for about 20 minutes.
What concerns me the most about chemical-based sunprotection, is that many sun screens are formulated with UV absorbers that are both carcinogenic and/ or mimic estrogen hormone in our bodies. Furthermore, the higher the SPF, the more of these chemical sun screening agents there are in the product. This is why listing the claims of an SPF over 30 has be banned in some countries (like Australia) to deter the encouragement of high sun protection factors. Here is list of popular sun screening agents to avoid as they are estrogen mimicking endocrine disruptors:
- octyl-dimethyl-PABA (OD-PABA)
- homosalate (HMS)
- 4-Methyl-benzylidene camphor (4-MBC)
But perhaps we should take the rough with the smooth and simply opt for avoid skin cancer at the risk of other types of cancer with a side of possible endocrine disruption? Well, what is even more perplexing, is the fact that most chemical sun screen agents become inactive in an hour or two anyway – so if you apply your sun protection in the morning (or even more efficient, have a moisturizer with SPF in it), by the time you mosey your way on home, your aren’t protected anymore anyway.
I recommend using a mineral Sunblock. This is a sunblock made from natural minerals such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These, unlike chemical UV absorbers/ neutralizers are physical blocks – meaning that they act as a shield to the skin. You may remember zinc from old 70’s beach movies in which surfers laden with white noses from the stuff did the monkey.
The ingredients cannot deactivate, so you get all day protection. This, of course does not mean you put on a mineral block and can frolic all day in the sun. You still need to take breaks from the heat and let your skin cool down before the time according to the SPF you have chosen runs out. This is very important. You don’t want to me like me and fall asleep in the sun while assuming that as long as I had sun block on, I was a-okay. But at least once you bring down the heat of your skin, you do not not need to worry about reapplication (unless sweating or swimming). Natural blocks also do their work as soon as you apply it unless chemical sun screens which require you wait 20 minutes before going out into the sun so it can cause a reaction with your skin to take effect.
More about minerals & how to use them
The downside to natural sunblocks? Well, they sometimes have a whitish, chalky appearance and feel. But if you opt for a product using micronized minerals, you will find that this shouldn’t be the case. Another thing that is important is to make sure you don’t use too much. Often people slather on handfuls of mineral block and dont understand why it leaves white. This is because it is a physical block and sits on the skin as a protector – if you put too much on, it leaves a residue as it doesn’t absorb. Also, minerals are dry because they’re…well…minerals. So a personal trick is to apply my sunblock over a face oil – this gives them easy glide and prevents chalkiness. I find that the oiliness combats chalky texture because often we look flaky when the minerals adhere to dehydrated dead skin cells.
If you don’t like this, you can chose a mineral make up foundation which will evenly out your skin tone while containing a built-in natural sun block. This is my favorite way to keep my skin sheltered because its multi-tasking! I know not everyone wears make up so I’ll put it to you this way, while chemical sun products can have a nice feeling finish, I don’t really think the potential side effects are worth it. I believe beauty stems from health and we need to cherish our own wellness in all of our grooming habits.