To slather, or not to slather, that is the question.
In this case, I’m talking about sunscreen. Do I always need to use it? And how do I choose a safe and effective one?
- Protect Yourself: Did you know that one of the best strategies to protect yourself from the sun is actually not a sunscreen at all? It’s true.
- Wear clothing. Shirts, wide brimmed hats, shorts, and pants provide good protection from UV rays and don’t coat your skin with goop.
- Get into the shade. Picnic under a tree, read beneath an umbrella, take a canopy to the beach or soccer game. If you’re going to be outside for any length of time, wear a wide brimmed hat in addition to being in the shade.
- Apply a safe sunscreen.When you’re going to be in the water and/or in the sun for an extended period of time apply a safe sunscreen repeatedly (after a 5-20 minute period to get your daily dose of Vitamin D) and wear a shirt. Don a hat when you are out of the water.
The safest time to be out of doors without sunscreen is before 10:00 a.m. or after 4:00 p.m.
- UVB and UVA protection. SPF stands for “sun protection factor,” and refers only to protection against UVB radiation, which burns the skin. It has little to do with protection from sun’s UVA rays, which penetrate deep into the skin, suppress the immune system, accelerate skin aging and may cause skin cancer. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide block both UVB and UVA rays.
- Avoid oxybenzone. This chemical commonly used in sunscreens penetrates the skin, gets into the bloodstream and acts like estrogen in the body. It can also trigger allergic reactions.
- Avoid retinyl palmitate.When used in a night cream, this form of vitamin A is supposed to have anti-aging effects. But on sun-exposed skin, retinyl palmitate may speed development of skin tumors and lesions, according to at least one government study.
- The Environmental Working Group selects sunscreens based on ingredient listings and products are rated on five factors encompassing overall ingredient safety and product efficacy in providing sun protection: health hazards, UVB protection, UVA protection, balance of UVA/UVB protection, and sunscreen stability (how quickly an ingredient breaks down in the sun).
Remember, sunburn provides no benefit, and is never good for your skin.