With the arrival of the sun, it's important to protect your skin, which is no longer used to summer light. That said: sunscreen is great, even if your skin doesn't tend to burn easily. Because of course, although it may not seem so at first glance, UV rays can have a damaging effect on the health of your skin in the long term. Although the sun has several positive effects on the body and mind, such as improving mood, easing acne, and synthesizing vitamin D through the skin, long exposure without protection is very dangerous. UV rays accelerate the aging of skin cells (appearance of dark spots and wrinkles) and can be responsible for skin cancer.
The ultimate question: which sunscreen to use?
There are two types of sunscreens: mineral and the more traditional, chemical-based. Therefore, I suggest that you evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of each, to make an optimal choice for your skin and your health. Let's start with a few definitions...
- “Mineral” or “physical” sunscreens typically consist of zinc oxide or titanium oxide (or both) to provide a physical barrier against the sun's penetration into the skin. They act as a shield.
- "Chemical" sunscreens, made up of a more comprehensive list of ingredients, absorb UV rays before they can damage the skin. They act like a sponge.
[Source: American Academy of Dermatology Association. “Is sunscreen safe?” American Academy of Dermatology Association website. n.d.]
Some sunscreens, especially chemically based ones, may contain ingredients that are harmful to your skin's health, such as endocrine disruptors, which can interfere with the body's hormones and endocrine function. What are the names of these products to target them on the labels?
- Oxybenzone: A xenoestrogen and a moderate antiandrogen.
- Octinoxate (Octyl methoxycinnamate): may harm the reproductive system, thyroid, and brain.
- Homosalate: may negatively impact estrogen, progesterone, and androgen.
The environment is also a factor to consider. We tend to forget it, but when we go to enjoy the cool water of the lake or the sea shortly after “creaming” a lot of the components of our sunscreen are found in the water. Over time, these substances dangerously affect ecosystems, especially coral reefs.
Pro tip! Watch out for misleading marketing!
It's UV rays that are harmful to the skin: UVA (which causes skin aging and the risk of cancer) and UVB (which causes sunburn). So, it is important to get a broad-spectrum sunscreen; either protecting your skin from these two types of rays. Some manufacturers favor UVB protection only, while UVA and UVA protection is essential.
The other aspect to watch out for is this famous idea of greenwashing. This term means that we are trying to pass off a natural and environmentally friendly product when it is not. Unfortunately, the sunscreen industry is a big driver of this. One of the ingredients to be aware of is Butyloctyl Salicylate (BOS), which is used to make the sun protection factor (SPF) more effective. However, this product is not always on the list of active ingredients, although it should be. These effects on the body are still being studied, but remain a potential risk for a target clientele, namely young children, pregnant women, and people with asthma.
The moral of this story
You must always remain vigilant and vigilant about the ingredients of sunscreens! A reliable source for verifying the components of a product is the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Sunscreen Guide: https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/.
In sum, how do we select the ideal sunscreen?
The best option is mineral sunscreens, as they often have more natural ingredients in addition to staying on the skin's surface. However, they often leave a thin white layer on the surface of the skin, unlike chemical sunscreens. In addition, many are made without nanoparticles, which are largely responsible for the damage caused to marine environments. Mineral sunscreens are also recommended for sensitive skin.
Regardless of the sunscreen you choose, remember to always stay hydrated, whether it's sunny or not!