Before I start, let’s make things clear.
UVB: affects the top layer of the skin, causes sunburns, can cause skin cancer, damages the DNA in your skin, burns unprotected skin in as little as 15 minutes (depending on skin type, but this is a good average).
UVA: penetrates the second layer of the skin, causes wrinkles and premature ageing of the skin, penetrates clouds and glass windows. And the level of protection in products is never quantified because well they don’t really know. Here’s an article about it and here.
It’s important to mention that besides sunscreen there are other behaviours that should be adopted, here’s an article, to ensure optimal protection.
The difference between Mineral and Chemical Sunscreen
Mineral sunscreens provide a physical barrier between the skin and the UVA and UVB rays, and the way they work is by reflecting the rays. The main ingredients are:
Zinc Oxide: Zinc oxide is still the only FDA-approved ingredient that protects the skin from both UVA and UVB rays. This physical blocker is naturally occurring, but can also be synthetically produced. It scatters and reflects UV rays, preventing them from penetrating the outer layer of the skin.
Titanium Dioxide: This ingredient is a naturally occurring mineral characterized by its white pigment. Titanium Dioxide is a useful addition to cosmetic products, as it remains stable even when exposed to UV radiation and doesn’t degrade in the sun.
But how much should I apply on a day-to-day base?
Accordingly, to the British Association of Dermatologists, you should apply more than half a teaspoon of sunscreen to the face/neck (including ears), but because there are so many different formulas in the market (creams, sprays, powders, etc) its impossible to give an exact amount. But, making it clear that no matter the formula, strength or how much you applied you still should reapply every two hours.
There’s a study by the King’s College London that found that protection was only significant when sunscreen was applied at a thickness between 1.3 and 2.0 milligrams per centimetre squared. And quote: “For example, if you get SPF20 and use at a lower thickness of 0.75 milligrams per centimetre squared, your level of protection could be as low as SPF4.” And chances are 0.75 is how much you’re applying, according to this study.
Why make up with SPF doesn’t count has an SPF?
Because brands don’t specify how much product would be necessary to apply to get the protection advertised in the product. So you should look at it as a nice extra. Nothing else.
Can Sunscreens cause more harm than good?
No. But let me explain.
Sunscreen products have been a hot topic for the past couple of months because of a recent study. But like most news these days is just someone trying to make a boring topic more profitable.
But beyond the headlines, there’s an important conclusion that news outlets should have pointed at and made content: are legal regulators doing their job and making sure beauty products go throw intensive testing before being introduced to the public? Here’s your answer.
The study focus on four ingredients: avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene and ecamsule. If you go back to this link, you can find information on all of them and even for someone without any scientific knowledge you can understand that these ingredients are harmful to the environment. And to me, that alone makes the cut. Why bother when there are other options?
So in conclusion, besides the study mentioned previously, there’s no other evidence that those or any other ingredients used to formulate sunscreens products are harmful to human beings. However, it is known that some chemical ingredients like the ones referenced above are harmful to the environment.
Why I’m changing to Mineral Sunscreens and you should too
Remember oxybenzone? One of the four evil ingredients mentioned a paragraph ago, there’s study after study, after study referring this ingredient has one of the key factors to coral bleaching among other environmental effects.
And on top of being higly pollutant, chemical ingrendts are less effective than mineral ingredients because some deteriorate once exposed to the sun, requiring more frequent application. They can also, irritate skin/eyes and increase the likelihood of redness, especially for those struggling with rosacea and similar skin conditions.
But this doesn’t mean all mineral sunscreens are good neither the ones labelled reef-save. Again like most things advertised in the beauty industry, there’s no specific law that determines what these terms stand for. So it’s up to the brands to decide. And up to us as consumers to ask for better products and research before purchase new products.
So… What should we look for in a sunscreen?
- Look for mineral sunscreens non-nano: means that is made of particles bigger than 30 nano, which coral-reefs and your skin can’t absorb.
- Check for formulas without oxybenzone, avobenzone and ecamsule
- Avoid butylparaben, octinoxate, triclosan, PABA, octocrylene, and 4-methylbenzylidene camphor
- Look for water-resistant sunscreens if you plan on going for a swim, as fewer ingredients will wash off your body
- No parabens!
- Check if the brand claims to be reef-safe
But can sunscreen prevent premature ageing?
Yes! – here’s a study.
Our skin is made up of over 97.5% collagen, think of it as a building block; It acts as the foundation of our tissues, working as the glue that holds our skin together and allows for strength, elasticity, and general well-being.
Unprotected exposure to the sun’s rays causes the collagen in our skin to break down at a much faster rate than normal. Due to UVA rays that penetrate the dermis. As a result, this causes damage to the enzymes usually used to rebuild collagen which begins to degrade instead. As collagen degradation continues over time, your skin can become subject to “photo-aging”, wrinkles or fine lines start to appear and you may notice spots of hyperpigmentation appearing on your hands, arms, and face.
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