What To Look For In Your “Clean” Sunscreen

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Clean sunscreen is all the rage right now.

As consumers, it’s really incredible to see brands moving towards making safer, higher quality products. But, what you may not know is that the beauty and skincare industry is actually unregulated. This means there may be lots of companies that are making false claims or marketing their products as “clean” to capitalize on the natural skincare trend.

You may also be wondering why you need to care about clean skincare or clean sunscreen. Isn’t your good old Hawaiian Tropic tanning oil spray with SPF 6 good enough?

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Here are a few reasons why it matters to carefully select your sun protection:

  • Your skin in your body’s largest organ and studies have shown that it absorbs 60% of what you put on it
  • Furthermore, research has also shown that what you put on your skin may be absorbed into bloodstream within 26 seconds
  • Using harmful ingredients on your body may eventually result in toxic overload, endocrine disruption, cancer and other health harms
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes
  • The American Academy of Dermatology consistently cites sun exposure as one of the top ways to prematurely age your skin
  • Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States
  • The Environmental Working Group (EWG) estimates that 50% of sunscreens on the market do not provide adequate protection

Every year the Environmental Working Group puts out its guide to sunscreens (in addition to an approved list of sunscreens). It’s a pretty hefty report, so to make your life simpler, I’ve taken those recommendations and broken it down.

Here’s what you need to know.

Look For Natural Ingredients And Minerals

The FDA has publicly stated that only two sunscreen minerals are safe: zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.

There are 12 other ingredients that the FDA claims there is not sufficient data to determine if they are safe or not. But, the FDA and EWG are particularly concerned with the substantial skin absorption of oxybenzone and its potential to significantly disrupt hormones. Other common active ingredients sunscreens such as oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate function are chemical UV filters; there isn’t enough information yet to determine these ingredients are safe.

As far as other ingredients go, you should also avoid:

  • Nanoparticles
  • Parabens
  • Sulfates
  • Formaldehydes
  • Formaldehyde-releasing agents
  • Phthalates
  • Mineral oil
  • Retinyl palmitate
  • Coal tar
  • Hydroquinone
  • Triclosan
  • Triclocarban

Your Sunscreen Should Have Broad Spectrum Sun Coverage

Ultraviolet radiation consists of two different types of skin-damaging rays: UVA and UVB. UVB rays cause burns and tans – it’s the type of radiation you tend to be most focused on when thinking about sun protection. UVA rays, however, are most likely to cause aging and skin cancer, even if the damage is not visible.

SPF stands for sun protection factor, a measure of how well a sunscreen can protect you against UVB rays. UVA protection actually isn’t rated.

Shop for products that are listed as broad spectrum to make sure you are protected from both UVA and UVB rays. In order to be listed as “broad spectrum” the FDA required sunscreen protects to go through a series of tests to prove they protect against both types of radiation.

Opt For A Product With SPF Higher Than 30, But Lower Than 50

Experts have found that an SPF 30-50 tends to be the sweet spot. Sunscreens that are listed above 50 only provide a very small increase in protection, yet provide a greatly increased sense of protection. The EWG and FDA suggest that it’s better to choose a sunscreen with a lower SPF and reapply often, than opting for a high SPF and hoping one application for a day outdoors is sufficient. Furthermore, you should look to reapply your protection about every two mores or more if you are sweating or go in the water.

Avoid Sprays If Possible

Spraying sunscreen often fills the air with a cloud of tiny particles that may not be safe to inhale. Sprays also increase the likelihood you will miss spots.

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