Are Sunscreens More Dangerous Than the Sun? Helpful Facts To Keep Your Skin Healthy
Before 2013, the “rules” for marketing so-called sunscreen lotions to protect our skin from the sun were lax, not to mention that the information was grossly misleading. Since then, the FDA has created some barometers for peddling sun protection. Now we are still being slightly duped—and the misinformation can potentially cause some serious repercussions. Here are some clarifications that may help keep us safer…
You may have noticed that the term “sunblock” hasn’t been used in a while. That’s because there really is no way of fully blocking the sun’s rays from our skin (unless you’re indoors, away from a window.) The lotions may only be termed “sunscreen.” The FDA also came down hard on the term “broad spectrum.” Broad spectrum must actually protect against both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays are the ones responsible for making us look older and causing skin cancer. UBV rays turn our skin red and can give us a sunburn.
How long does an application on sunscreen last? Well, manufacturers are now required, somewhere on the container, to suggest when the product needs to be reapplied; it’s either after 40 or 80 minutes. You also won’t see claims like “waterproof” or “sweatproof” because they couldn’t deliver that promise. The best the product can now tout is water- or sweat- resistant.
What Hasn’t Changed, but Should
The initials SPF stand for sun-protection-factor. In Europe, they cap SPFs at 50. Here in the US, it’s all still questionable because our cap-limit hasn’t been enforced yet, even though the FDA has admitted that anything over 50 has no more benefit than an actual 50. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has been policing the safeties and dangers of sunscreen for years. The EWG found that 61 sunscreen products today still claim to have an SPF higher than 50. Oops.
The EWG studied more than 750 products and concluded that over 550 of them offered extremely poor sun protection and/or included chemicals that are harmful to our health. Most suncreens include oxybenzone and/or avobenzone. Both chemicals seep into your skin as you rub them on. The additives enter your bloodstream; oxybenzone has been proven to be a hormone and endocrine disrupter. It’s even been found in breast milk, which means a developing fetus can be exposed to the toxin. Additionally, many skin allergies have arisen from use of these compounds. Also, as it turns out, spray-on sunscreen isn’t really effective because most of it evaporates before it covers your skin.
What To Do
The most obvious solution is to live in a cave. But that’s no fun. Wear long sleeve cotton, sunglasses, and a hat. The other good news is that over 30% of sunscreen products are made of only minerals. Those are safe because they protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Also, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide sit on top of the skin and physically block the rays. Find a shady tree, relax, and enjoy the nearby sunshine.