sun protection

Choosing The Right SPF (What you need to know)

Anyone with sunspots should try to be very careful about sun exposure, right? 

Well, unfortunately being out on a hot sunny day is just so damn addictive. Is anything lovelier than being swathed in the comforting warmth of the sun's rays, while its uplifting brightness halos your body? It's no wonder we have our own pesky pigmentation.

Now, while we can chalk it some of this up to a lack of restraint, one major hurdle to contend with in the pursuit of healthy sun practices is a misconception of sun protection.

SPF 101

In order for you to appreciate this, we will begin by giving you a little SPF 101.

SPF is the Sun Protection Factor that measures the DURATION of time it will take to burn.

It's not the filtration of UV rays, it's not the concentration of ingredients; it is simply how much of a delay you can expect before you get nice and crispy.

So, if you burn in 5 minutes without SPF, with an SPF 10 you will burn in 50 minutes. With an SPF 20, you will burn in 100 minutes.

This is why you don't need SPF if you're only walking to and from your car that day.  But also why SPF 30 is not enough for basking outside all afternoon.

Chemical concerns

What concerns us about many chemical-based sun protection products, is that many are formulated with UV absorbers that mimic estrogen hormones.

And, the higher the SPF, the more of these chemical sun screening agents there are in the product. Now, we are not saying to skip SPF.  That is the opposite of what we want. Instead we want you to choose safer options.

Some regulators agree.  Actually, listing the claims of an SPF over 30 has been banned in some countries (like Australia) .

Here is list of popular sun screening agents to avoid, as they are possible estrogen-mimicking endocrine disruptors:

  • octyl-methoxycinnamate
  • octyl-dimethyl-PABA (OD-PABA)
  • benzophenone-3
  • homosalate (HMS)
  • 4-Methyl-benzylidene camphor (4-MBC)

Perhaps we should take the rough with the smooth and simply opt for avoiding 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 many chemical sun screen agents become inactive in an hour or two anyway. This is why you cannot simply apply your SPF (or your moisturizer containing an SPF) in the morning and think you're covered for the rest of the day.  By the time you mosey your way on home, you're no longer protected. 

This is why we like physical blocks that don't rely on chemical agents to protect.

Mineral Blocks 

We like using a mineral Sunblock. This is a sunblock made from natural minerals such as zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide.

These, unlike chemical UV absorbers/neutralizers, are physical blocks - meaning they act as a shield to the skin.

While this may bring to mind old 70's beach movies, in which surfers with white noses did 'the monkey', these ingredients do not deactivate, so you get all day protection.

This, of course, does NOT mean you can apply a mineral sunblock and then frolic all day in the sun. You will 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 fall asleep in the sun under the assumption that, as long as you've got sun block on, you're A-Okay.

Also, if you sweat or swim, you must reapply.

Natural sunblocks are active as soon as they are applied.  Chemical sun screen ingredients require you wait at least 20 minutes following application before safely going out into the sun. It requires this time to 'react' with your skin and take effect.

More about minerals & how to use them 

So what are the downsides to natural sunblocks? Well, they can sometimes have a whitish, chalky appearance and feel.

If you opt for a product using micronized (not nano) minerals, you will find application and appearance is noticeably better. Not perfect but better.  If you have a darker skin tone, a tinted mineral block may be the best option.  Mineral makeup comes in many shades and can be used as a protector and a cosmetic.  We need more companies to make dark tinted mineral SPFs!

Also important - make sure not to use too much.

Often people slather on handfuls of mineral block and don't understand why it leaves a white cast on their skin. This is because it is a physical block and sits ON the skin as a protector - if you put too much on, it will leave a residue as it doesn't actually absorb into the skin (nor should it, it is meant to physically block the sun from your skin).

Also, minerals are dry because they're...well...minerals.

A trick to combat this: Apply sunblock over a face oil - this gives the minerals an easy glide and prevents chalkiness. The oiliness combats chalky texture; we often look flaky when minerals adhere to dehydrated, dead skin cells.

If that doesn't appeal to you, the other option is a mineral-based foundation containing an SPF derived from zinc and/or titanium dioxide. This will even out your skin tone while containing a built-in natural sun block. Multi-tasking!

We know not everyone wears make up but it's a good workaround.  While chemical sun products can have a nice-feeling finish, we wonder if the potential down sides are worth it? That is up to you, we just deliver info.


Image by Alex Perez via unsplash

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