Sunscreen is a product of paramount importance and using it daily is the main way you can protect your skin against skin cancer, as well as premature aging, sunburn, wrinkles, and sunspots. However, there are numerous mistakes people make when it comes to using sunscreen, from not reading the label properly to under-applying the product. Below are 5 critical sunscreen tips to keep in mind:
1. Use Sunscreen 365 Days a Year
Unfortunately, many people apply sunscreen only during the summer, which means their skin is only protected against UV radiation a few months of the year. Since UV radiation is always present outdoors, you should wear sunscreen daily, regardless of the weather because the sun's damaging rays can take a toll on your skin even in the winter. Even if you don’t get sunburns, ultraviolet radiation still affects your skin, as the UVA rays, which are the most dangerous, are present all year round.
Additionally, snow reflects UV radiation, and, surprisingly, fresh snow reflects even more UV rays than water. Since the ozone layer is thinner in winter, the power of UV radiation is even greater in the winter than it is in the summer. Consequently, sunscreen should be integrated into your daily skincare routine to be protected against the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation all year round.
2. Apply Enough Sunscreen to achieve the label claim
Most people underapply sunscreen. The AAD recommends 2 mg per square centimeter of body surface area per application of sunscreen and this is the amount used when testing sunscreen for it’s SPF label claim. This translates to one shot glass (1 oz) for the entire body and you should aim for approximately ¼ - ½ teaspoon for your face/neck/ears.
3. Don’t rely on Sunscreen Alone for Protection
Although sunscreen can help protect your skin from UV damage, it is essential to take additional measures when you go outside since no sunscreen can block out 100% of UV rays. The following are some extra precautions you should take when outside to have more protection against UV radiation:
●wear a wide hat to shade your face, head, and neck
●wear sunglasses that block UVA and UVB rays
●seek shade, especially during the midday hours
●wear SPF 15 or SPF 30 sunscreen, as a product with a higher SPF, will not make a big difference
●there is no "waterproof sunscreen," just "water-resistant sunscreen," which you will have to reapply every 40 or 80 minutes if you spend time in the water
●limit the time you are in the sun between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM because this is when the ultraviolet radiation is the most intense
4. Read Labels for Dangerous Chemicals
Most people quickly scan the sunscreen label to find out the SPF. Nevertheless, there are many other essential aspects you should consider when purchasing sunscreen, perhaps the most important being that it offers Broad Spectrum protection. While all sunscreen products offer some level of protection against UVB rays that contribute to skin burning and some skin cancers, only Broad Spectrum sunscreens can shield your skin against UVA rays that contribute to premature skin aging and skin cancers.
Additionally, it is important to acknowledge that there are two types of sunscreen: chemical and mineral. While chemical sunscreen absorbs ultraviolet radiation, mineral sunscreen reflects it and is considered safer by many medical researchers. It protects your skin by virtue of zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide, two active ingredients that are also known to be reef friendly. At this time, the FDA only considers zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to be GRASE (Generally Regarded as Safe and Effective).
Most of the sunscreen sold in U.S. stores are chemical sunscreens and contain some of these ingredients which are questionable at this point in time:
●oxybenzone: this controversial ingredient was found to cause lower testosterone levels, higher cancer risk, skin irritation, respiratory tract irritation, organ toxicity, and severe eye irritation
●avobenzone: the breakdown products of this ingredient may cause allergic reactions, disrupt the endocrine system, and block the effects of testosterone
●homosalate: this ingredient is known to disrupt the endocrine system and generate toxic breakdown byproducts over time. In Europe, it is only allowed in sunscreens at a maximum concentration of 1.4%, but in the US, it is still allowed to be used in concentrations up to 15%
●octocrylene: this ingredient is known to disrupt the endocrine system and it is often contaminated with benzophenone which is a known carcinogen
5. Buy Sunscreen that is not contaminated with Benzene
Sometimes there are dangerous chemicals lurking in sunscreen that aren’t listed on the label. When the results of a study led by the independent pharmacy Valisure were made public in the spring of 2021, consumers were outraged, and for a good reason. Researchers examined 294 unique batches of sunscreen from 69 different companies. Roughly 27% of the samples contained detectable benzene, and some batches had up to three times the safe limit of 2 parts per million. In other words, Valisure found 78 sunscreen products to be contaminated with benzene. Shockingly, the sunscreen of one of the companies found negligent had a concentration of benzene 5 to 12 times above the safe limit.
Only ten products have been recalled so far, which means that benzene-tainted sunscreens are still on the market at the moment. Benzene is a very toxic chemical and a known human carcinogen. The most dangerous route of exposure to benzene is inhalation so we recommend avoiding aerosol spray sunscreens.
The legal team at the Environmental Litigation Group, P.C., a law firm specializing in toxic exposure, started the Benzene Sunscreen Replacement Initiative to offer people benzene safe, non-toxic sunscreen alternatives. We joined the initiative and encourage you to check it out here: https://www.elglaw.com/sunscreen/replacement/