Sun Skin SafetySkin damage from sun exposure is a serious health concern. During the summer, that risk rises dramatically with the number of hours spent outdoors. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined over the past three decades. So it’s no surprise that protecting your largest organ is seen as critical self-care.
“The minute you step outside, you increase your risk of skin damage from the sun,” says Julia T. Hunter, M.D., founder of Wholistic Dermatology, in Beverly Hills, CA. “You need a non-toxic yet potent, science-based, daily skin health and environmental shield for protection to help restore, renew, and protect your skin.” Hunter recommends applying broad spectrum SPF 30 sun protection (with zinc oxide) 30 minutes before sun exposure, and reapplying every two hours, or sooner if you’re sweating or in the water. But here’s a scary truth: Some ingredients in your regular sunscreen may be doing you more harm than good.
Go natural—not au naturel
Some sunscreens are loaded with harsh chemicals that bring along sneaky (and serious) side effects. Since these harsh chemicals are molecularly small, they can seep into your body quickly. Red-flag ingredients to avoid: avobenzone, oxybenzone, homosalate, octisalate, and octocrylene—especially if you’re pregnant, nursing, or trying to conceive. “These UV filters belong to a broader group of endocrine-disrupting chemicals like pesticides, BPA, and phthalates. The World Health Organization provides scientific data showing these chemicals’ links to adverse effects in humans,” says Denis K. Dudley M.D., F.R.C.S. Possible issues include skin irritation, infertility, certain cancers, ADHD, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s disease.
To form a cleaner shield against damaging sun rays, look for sunscreens with ingredients like zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, and encapsulated octinoxate. These provide protection without the negative side effects, says Dudley. “The best approach: Find sunscreens that contain at least 20% concentration of zinc oxide,” he adds, or go with products that combine a lower percent of zinc oxide (15%) with another safe filter like titanium dioxide or encapsulated octinoxate (7.5%). Not only are these safer choices but they also help repair your skin faster than products with more harmful ingredients, according to Hunter. “Non-toxic skin-care products and peels are a foundation of skin health and beauty, plus they help revitalize and repair skin.”
What’s with the rays?
Make sure your sunscreen has UVA protection, because though all UV rays are damaging, UVA rays are longer than UVBs, which means they can penetrate deeper and contribute more to skin aging and wrinkling. “Most products prevent UVB effects like sunburn to some degree, but offer little or no protection against skin cancer or photoaging, where UVA rays play a major role,” says Dudley. “This incomplete protection contributes to rising annual skin cancer rates.”
To stay well-protected, keep in mind that ultraviolet radiation is reflected from water, sun, and buildings, says Hunter. “Consider wearing sun-protective clothing and hats on both sunny and cloudy days,” she adds.
1. Neutrogena Sheerzinc Dry-Touch SPF 30
The words sheer and zinc don’t often appear together, but Neutrogena was able to put them in the same word, and live up to it. This mineral sunscreen is oil-free and hypo-allergenic, so it’s perfect for both face and body. (neutrogena.com)
2. Devita Naturals SPF 15 Volumizing Lim Balm
This multitasking lip sunscreen offers SPF 15 protection and a volumizing effect to keep lips looking hydrated and healthy. It goes on clear and hydrates long-term, making it a perfect lipstick primer. (devitaskincare.com)
3. JĀSÖN Facial Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 20
Grape seed extract helps protect the skin and improve its appearance. The formula is lightweight and translucent, so you can wear alone or under makeup. (jasonpersonalcare.com)
4. Alba Botanica Cool Sport Spry SPF 50
The non-aerosol spray bottle makes application easy, and the atomized formula goes on quick and clear. It keeps skin protected for up to 80 minutes, whether you’re sweating or swimming. (www.albabotanica.com)
5. Aveeno Natural Protection Sunscreen Lotion
This oil-free, fragrance-free, and hypoallergenic formula is perfect for those with sensitive skin. It’s formulated with mineral sun protectants, and contains oat extract to sooth every skin type, providing serious hydration and nourishment. (aveeno.com)
6. Burt’s Bees Linden Flower After Sun Soother
If you’ve slipped up and are feeling the burn, this after-sun lotion is just what your sun-damaged skin needs to recover in a flash. Aloe vera and linden extract soothe damaged skin; and coconut oil, bee pollen, and glycerin keep it from drying out. (amazon.com)
7. All Good Sport Sunscreen Butter Stick
All Good takes natural skin care seriously, and the SPF 50 formula contains just five ingredients that get the job done. Zinc oxide protects, while organic coconut and jojoba oils keep skin moisturized and radiant. (allgoodproducts.com)
8. Bare Republic Clearscreen SPF 30 Sport Sunscreen Gel
Oily skin? This new gel by Bare Republic is lightweight and totally transparent, so your skin won’t feel greasy or look pasty. The formula easily blends in, and its coconut-mango scent will remind you of a tropical getaway. (barerepublicnaturals.com)
9. Ilia Tinted SPF 15 Lip Conditioner
Organic avocado, sesame, cranberry, and passionflower oils are key antioxidants in the SPF 15 formula, while cocoa and shea butters keep lips soft. It comes in various colors, but mauve is trending and Kokomo is the perfect shade to complement any skin tone. (iliabeauty.com)
10. Jurlique Sun Specialist High Protection Cream PA++
This lotion doesn’t just block rays, its antioxidants, botanicals, and plant-derived oils protect against any environment. The Superberry Complex adds extra vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants. (jurlique.com)