Hopefully by now, you’ve added a facial sunscreen to your daily routine. But now that summer’s in full swing, it’s time to dig out all the body sunscreens you have from last summer, and… probably throw them away. They are either A. Expired, or B. Full of unsafe chemicals. And some of the ones you think are fine, are causing more harm then good. There’s a lot of misconceptions out there about sunscreens, and most people aren’t equipped with any knowledge about what they should be using.
Sunscreens contain either chemical sun blockers, which work by absorbing UV rays from the sun, or mineral sun blockers which work by reflecting them. The problem with most chemical sunscreens is they typically contain oxybenzone, which can disrupt your hormones and cause skin reactions. SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor, which is the amount of time you can be in the sun without burning. So if it would normally take you 10 minutes to burn with no sunscreen, then with an SPF 15, you would theoretically be safe from burning for 150 minutes. However, this doesn’t take into account sweat, or water (like a pool or ocean), and under applying (you should be using about a shot-glass worth for the body!). All these factors can alter your SPF.
Now comes the question of whether it’s worth buying sunscreens with high SPF numbers. I think no. According to the EWG, higher SPF numbers mean more DNA altering chemicals, with marginally higher benefits. Sunscreens only protect you from UVB rays, not UVA rays, which penetrate deeper into the skin. The higher SPF numbers also are misleading because people think they can stay in the sun for long periods of time without reapplying.
In my opinion, find a good, non-toxic sunscreen that has an SPF of 30 or higher, but don’t forget to wear your hat and seek shade when you can. I live in Southern California where the sun is awesome but often unavoidable. I do what I can to keep myself protected so that I can enjoy many more years outside! Below are some of my favorite options to check out.