In the skincare community, sunscreen is non-negotiable. And there's a good reason for this! 1 in 5 Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer before turning 70. Sun damage can account for up to 90% of the signs of aging.
Luckily for us, sunscreens are a common skincare product nowadays. Most brands and stores carry sun-protecting products. Protecting our skin has never been easier.
So what makes a perfect sunscreen? The answer to that is entirely dependent on you and your preferences.
Types of Sunscreen Ingredients
Let’s get down to the basics first. There are two overarching types of sunscreen ingredients: Physical and Chemical. There are also hybrid sunscreens that do both.
Physical (also called mineral) ingredients act as a filter when applied. They physically block the UV rays from reaching your skin. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are mineral ingredients. Both ingredients are approved by the FDA. Zinc oxide is suggested for people with sensitive skin types and children. But mineral sunscreen is notorious for leaving a white-caste on the skin.
Chemical ingredients absorb and alter UV rays. Many people find chemical sunscreen ingredients can cause a stinging in the eyes. This doesn't mean they are unsafe!
Most chemical ingredients are in our sunscreens are approved globally.
The FDA has recently banned two chemical sunscreen ingredients: aminobenzoic acid (PABA) and trolamine salicylate.
Types of UV Radiation
Both mineral and chemical sunscreen ingredients are capable of protecting against UVA and UVB rays. Chemical sunscreens also have the added benefit of protecting against UVC rays (although our ozone blocks this type of UV radiation).
UV rays are a form of electromagnetic radiation from the sun. Other sources include tanning beds and welding torches. Radiation is the emission of energy.
The 3 types of UV rays:
1. UV-A (320-400 nm) contains the least amount of energy. They are linked to the majority of tanning, long term skin damage such as wrinkles and hyperpigmentation, and Melanoma.
2. UV-B (290-320 nm) rays emit more energy than UV-A rays. They are capable of damaging DNA in skin cells. UV-B causes sunburns and are thought to be linked to skin cancer.
3. UV-C (200-280 nm) contains the highest amount of energy. Our ozone blocks UV-C. Welding torches, mercury lamps, and sanitizing bulbs can also give off UV-C.
It is best to look for a ‘broad spectrum sunscreen’. Learn more about sunscreen labels here.
Dermatologists recommend ½ a teaspoon of sunscreen for your face, and one ounce of sunscreen for your body.
Be sure to cover everything!
When to wear sunscreen?
Many people who live near the poles and have very low amounts of UV during winter months choose to skip sunscreen (such as Canada and Norway). However, only UV-B rays are lower in winter. UV-A rays are consistent throughout the year.
It is recommended to wear at least SPF 30 on a daily basis (yes, even in winter or on rainy days). SPF30 will block 97% of incoming UV rays from reaching your skin. Be sure to lookout for broad-spectrum sunscreen or PA+. This will ensure your skin is protected from both UV-A and UV-B rays.
We always recommend speaking with a dermatologist. They will be able to give you the best advice for your skin based on your location.
Dr. Patel at MD Anderson Cancer hospital states, “Even if it's not the perfect sunscreen it’s better to wear something rather than nothing.”
The state of Hawaii has banned certain ingredients to protect marine ecosystems.
According to the state of Hawaii, these ingredients should not be exposed to the ocean:
Although the research is ongoing, we recommend following local regulations. Other countries and regions that have banned sunscreen ingredients include Mexico, Key West, U.S. Virgin Islands, Bonaire, Aruba, national parks in Thailand, and Palau.
Want to learn what 'water-resistant', PA+, or SPF means? Check out our guide here.