by Karin Kircher, Wellness Buyer at Just Local Food Cooperative in Eau Claire
Summer is finally here and, as we say hello to the outdoors, we have to consider how to protect ourselves and our families from the sun. It’s time to go through your old bottles and tubes of sunscreen and check for expiration dates to see which ones are still effective. You may also want to look at the ingredients on your sunscreen bottle and take note that according to new Federal Drug Administration findings, the latest recommendation for consumers is to look to mineral sunscreens vs. synthetic chemical sunscreens for safe sun protection .
Why mineral sunscreen vs. chemical? Simply put, research has shown that mineral sunscreens sit on top of your skin and reflect UV rays away from your body while chemical sunscreens absorb through the skin and into your bloodstream and can be harmful to your body . There is also evidence that shows synthetic chemical sunscreens are harmful to our coral reefs . Because chemical sunscreens can be dangerous to your health and the environment, it is easy to see that mineral sunscreen is a better choice.
When it comes to choosing a mineral sunscreen, there are only two minerals that the FDA has proposed categorizing as safe and they are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide . So which one should you choose? Zinc oxide is derived from zinc. It is visible after application and has the strongest sun protection–broad-spectrum, which blocks out both short and long UVA rays and all UVB rays. It is also wound-healing and non-comedogenic (doesn’t block pores). Titanium dioxide is derived from titanium. It is less visible after applying, but it is not broad-spectrum—it only blocks out short-wave UVA and UVB. It is, however, non-comedogenic and good for sensitive skin. There are some sunscreens that contain both zinc oxide and titanium dioxide that can give you broad protection but are less visible after application. The Environmental Working Groups 2019 sunscreen guide is a helpful tool for choosing a mineral based sunscreen, and can be found at https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/. Mineral sunscreens can also be found at your local food co-op and natural food stores.
Making the switch to mineral sunscreens vs. synthetic chemical sunscreens can take some getting used to. Mineral sunscreens are more expensive than synthetic chemical sunscreens and they often feel and look different because they don’t absorb into the skin (think white stripes on a lifeguard). But this should not deter you from choosing a sunscreen that is safe, effective, and environmentally friendly. Summer is short in Wisconsin! Be a conscientious shopper and enjoy the sunshine!
Tips when choosing a sunscreen:
UVB/UVB Protection- Look for the active ingredient(s) of Zinc Oxide (broad-spectrum) or Titanium Dioxide
SPF 30 or higher
Free of synthetic fragrances
Choose creams and lotions over sprays
Tips when applying sunscreen:
Apply generously and every two hours or after swimming
Apply on all skin surfaces that will be exposed to the sun including lips
Use sunscreen even on a cloudy day – a good rule of thumb: if you can see your shadow, even a little bit, you can get burned
Discard expired sunscreen
Avoid using sunscreen on children younger than 6 months (keep babies in the shade)