As the season changes and the sunshine leads us outdoors to enjoy its rays, the use of sunscreens increases. And that often leads to the question of what type of sunscreen to use. There is an ongoing debate in the scientific community regarding safe sunscreens. Is a chemical sunscreen safe or should I look for a physical sunscreen? And what is the difference anyway?
Really we should begin with what types of sunscreens are most effective at protecting us from the sun’s harmful rays. The best choice is a sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays penetrate the skin more deeply, and are considered the chief culprit behind wrinkling, leathering, and other aspects of "photo aging." UVB rays are the rays that cause burning. Physical sunblock reflects, scatters, and blocks the ultraviolet radiation, where as chemical sunscreens absorbs the radiation into your skin (A, B, or both in combination) and converts it into long-wave radiation.
There have been several scientific studies on the potentially harmful ingredients in chemical sunscreens such as, Avobenzone parsol 1789, Oxybenzone Benzophenones, PABA, and more. These studies suggest these ingredients may be endocrine disrupters, skin irritants, and potentially cause free radical damage. An endocrine disruptor will either mimic or block hormones and disrupt the body’s normal hormone functions. Skin irritants cause rashes, hives, and dermatitis, and free radical damage can lead to skin damage (think age spots, discoloration, etc) and pre-mature aging. Canada, Australia, and Europe regulate sunscreen ingredients to only allow the use of three specific active ingredients since 1997. These are Avobenzone, titanium dioxide, and zinc oxide. The United States does not impose any restrictions on chemicals used in sunscreens at this time.
So which type of sunscreen is best? The best sunscreen is to be covered, with a hat, a shirt, or any clothing that covers your skin and limits your sun exposure. But as that is not always practical, I would suggest a mineral based sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays without any harmful chemicals. This type of physical sunblock does not absorb any radiation from the suns rays, but rather deflects any of these harmful rays. Zinc oxide receives the highest rating for both UVA and UVB protection from the EPA. It has been shown to be very well tolerated by most with no skin irritations (hence its use in baby diaper ointments) Zinc oxide covers 290 to 380 nm of sun’s rays. UVB ranges from 290 to 320 nm. UVA ranges from 320-400 nm so it pretty well covers almost all of the UVB and UVA spectrum.
I like sunscreens that also contain skin nourishing oils and butters. As these are helpful in reducing the free radical damage. Here are a few amazing oils and butters that I have discovered in my personal research.
Soy bean oil: strong anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. It has high levels of genistein, which studies show to be the most potent anti-oxidant against UVB rays and may provide some defense against symptoms of skin aging. The high polyphenol content also provides powerful anti-oxidizing punch.
Rice Bran oil: Rice bran oil contains several components that exhibit antioxidant properties. These include gamma-oryzanol, tocotrienols, tocopherols, and squalene. Gamma-oryzanol is effective in absorbing ultraviolet light, thereby inhibiting a number of adverse effects attributed to exposure to sunlight.
Avocado oil: vitamins A, D, and E, lecithin, potassium, beta-carotene, essential fatty acids that absorb into skin and protect it.
Raspberry Seed: is an extremely potent antioxidant. Studies have also demonstrated powerful anti-inflammatory qualities and broad spectrum UV protection. It has exceptionally high levels of alpha- and gamma-tocopherols, vitamin A, and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. In a study done on the properties of Red Raspberry Seed Oil, the oil showed absorbance in the UV-B and UV-C ranges suggesting that it may be useful as a broad spectrum UV protect ant in skin care formulations (Oomah et al, 2000).
Shea butter: vitamin E, vitamin A and cinnamic acid .Shea butters ingredients increase the healing of wounds and improve scars. It is commonly used in the treatment of eczema, rashes, burns, and severely dry skin. Several studies have revealed that Shea butter has UV anti-erythemic activity, which helps tissue cell regeneration and softening of the skin.
Coco butter: contains a high amount of antioxidants, minerals and vitamins that help to nourish and protect skin.
My daughter is a fair skinned girl that turns from white to red --with no tanning in between. She is also extremely sensitive to any chemicals. Because of this I have played with creating my own sun protection for her using the above ingredients. And the results have been great! No sunburns, no skin rashes. I don’t know what the SPF rating is as I don’t have a lab to measure it, but again this girl burns, never tans, and she hasn’t gotten a sun burn using this yet. Because of this I think I have found our families best sunscreen.
I am in production mode and will have this product up on the products page soon available for sale--or you can call 407-2260 or email me @ firstname.lastname@example.org .
This cream is formulated in an oil and wax base (no water) thus enabling it to be naturally quite water resistant. The ingredients include organic soy bean oil, rice bran oil, avocado oil, red raspberry seed oil, wild crafted shea butter, cocoa butter, beeswax, zinc oxide 10%.The active ingredient is mineral zinc oxide, and the base is made entirely of oils, butters, and waxes. This is a very moisturizing cream as well and a little goes a long way!!
2 oz. ~ $10.00
4 oz. ~ $18.50
Some other commercially produced sunscreens that contain great ingredients to try are Badger and BurnOut, or visit http://www.ewg.org/2010sunscreen/best-beach-sport-sunscreens/ .