As a redhead whose pale skin is seeing sunlight again after 10 years living on the east coast, I am one physician who feels strongly about finding the perfect sunscreen! There are so many sunscreens on the market today. As consumers, we have to decide from so many options - waterproof, spray, lotion, stick, even powder. And what about UVA vs UVB rays?
In general, chemical sunscreens work by being absorbed in your skin and then activated. This is why the bottle says wait 30 minutes before going in the sun. Mineral sunscreen works by acting as a superficial shield against the sun on top of your skin and starts to work the instance it is applied.
In terms of safety, several questionable ingredients in sunscreens currently available have been grandfathered in since the late 1970s (meaning they have not undergone extensive studies and safety screening). So far, a few studies suggest that several of these chemical filters may interact with human sex or thyroid hormones; however, additional long-term studies looking at the potential risks to humans from hormone disruption have not been completed.
Nonetheless, there are safer options on the market today for both children and adults. Please feel free to contact the office with any additional questions after reading the information below.
1. Don’t be fooled by SPF.
Higher SPF does not mean more protection. An SPF of 50 will block 98% of harmful UV rays and SPF beyond that is negligible.
2. Sunscreen does not protect against all types of skin damage.
Higher-energy UVB rays are the primary cause of sunburns and pre-cancerous DNA mutations. Lower-energy UVA rays cause tanning and subtler damage. Even though many American sunscreens claim to filter UVA, they lack the adequate UVA filtering when tested (Wang 2011). Be sure to check labels and get a sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays or has "broad spectrum" coverage.
3. Some sunscreen can actually disrupt your hormones and cause allergies.
Oxybenzone, a chemical found in many sunscreens, can cause allergic skin reactions (Rodriguez 2006). In laboratory and clinical studies, it is shown to be a weak estrogen and has potent anti-androgenic effects in both adolescent men and women (Krause 2012, Ghazipura 2017, Harley 2016). I recommend both children and adults avoid chemical sunscreens in general.
4. Some sunscreens can be unsafe for the environment
Research has demonstrated some of the chemicals found in chemical sunscreen such as Oxybenzone, para-aminobenzoic act (PABA), octinoxate, and methylparaben actually kill coral reefs. As such, many states are starting to outlaw these sunscreens at the ocean. Another great reason to stick to mineral sunscreen.
List of Highly Rated Sunscreens (both effective and safe)
For your little ones
Coola Baby Sunscreen, Unscented stick, SPF 50+
Aveeno Baby Continuous Protection Lotion, Zinc Oxide Mineral Sunscreen, SPF50+
Tom’s of Maine Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 50+
Babyganics Mineral-Based Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 50+
For the athlete
Sunumbra Sports Natural, SPF 40+
Maui Natural Organics Surfer Honey Sunscreen, SPF 30+
All Terrain AquaSport Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30+
For everyday use
EltaMD SPF 46 UV Clear
Loving Natural Sunscreen stick, SPF 30+
Attitude 100% Mineral Sunscreen, Sensitive Skincare, SPF 30+
MDSolarSciences MD Crème Mineral Beauty Balm, Medium/Dark, SPF 50+
Additional Summer Tips
1. Schedule your day around the sun, avoiding being in the sun at peak times from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
2. Wear shirts, clothing can help block an additional 27% of the sun’s rays
3. Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside if you are using a chemical sunscreen, minerals work instantly
4. Shield your infant from the sun, and do not use any sunscreen on the skin until 6 months of age
References for additional information:
2. M. Ghazipura et al., Exposure to benzophenone-3 and reproductive toxicity: A systematic review of human and animal studies. Reproductive Toxicology, 2017, 73:175-183.
3. K.G. Harley et al., Reducing Phthalate, Paraben, and Phenol Exposure from Personal Care Products in Adolescent Girls: Findings from the HERMOSA Intervention Study. Environmental Health Perspectives, 2016. DOI: 10.1289/ehp.1510514
4. M. Krause et al., Sunscreens: Are They Beneficial for Health? An Overview of Endocrine Disrupting Properties of UV-Filters. International Journal of Andrology, 2012, 35:424-436.
5. E. Rodriguez et al., Causal Agents of Photoallergic Contact Dermatitis Diagnosed in the National Institute of Dermatology of Colombia. Photodermatology, Photoimmunology & Photomedicine, 2006, 22(4):189-192.
S.Q. Wang et al., Ex Vivo Evaluation of Radical Sun Protection Factor in Popular Sunscreens with Antioxidants. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 2011a, 65(3):525-530.