Turns out you should be wearing sunscreen in the summer.
I realize that this is not news in anyone’s life. However, basic knowledge doesn’t mean that we listen to it, in the same way that we might overconsume wine and lie to our doctors about how many drinks we have per week.
I currently sport a striped foot curtesy of an oft-worn pair of sandals and the fact that my feet seem to be an area I forget with my baby formulated sunscreen. I used to never have a tan, sporting my pastiness with Victorian-era pride.
I thought it was time to learn more, because learning more means we do better and also because I have seen far too many people cooking themselves on patios. It’s 2018. Let’s get sun smart with the new science of skincare.
First things, first:
We all need it.
Yes, even if you have beautifully dark skin. Yes, even if you have never had a burn. Yes, even if your family members are leathery and skin cancer-free. Board certified dermatologist Dr. Fayne Frey says, “There is not one anti-aging product, anti-wrinkle product, firming, toning, any other product on the market … that can compare or compete with the benefits of sunscreen.” (1)
Hard to argue with that.
Label reading is not just for food.
What we put on our skin is as important as what we put in it. Broad spectrum (2) is what you are looking for in a sunscreen, as UVA rays can pass through windows. UVA rays do not have the power to burn or tan you, but can age you and stop the joy that is being carded over the age of 30. UVB rays are the ones that cause skin to color and can cause cancer.
There are a lot of terms that you might feel ensure the safety of the product, but many of them are not government regulated, including Sport, Natural or Mineral and even Dermatologist-Recommended. (Yikes.)
There is a consumer report sunscreen guide that discovered that 67% of sunscreens have potentially harmful ingredients or just simply don’t work. They suggest not using a sunscreen with oxybenzone, which can be a hormone disrupter, even though The American Academy of Dermatology recommends the same ingredient. They have a list of sunscreens they recommend, if your time to research individual sunscreen ingredients is limited. (What? You don’t have that kind of time?)
Looking for a truly hypoallergenic sunscreen? Visit Skin Safe Products which came out of the Mayo Clinic. If they declare something to be TOP Free, it is considered gentle on your skin. (4)
Burns can happen because we simply aren’t using enough sunscreen. Many people buy SPFs that are higher and higher, but then don’t apply enough of it, providing 40% of the expected protection, as discovered by King’s College London in the Journal Acta Dermato-Venereology. (5) We are all prone to skipping parts of our bodies (ahem, feet) and need to slather sunscreen on thickly and then reapply it throughout the day.
Sunscreen isn’t the only step.
The other day, I went for a nice long walk with a friend. We were shade worshippers, skipping to the side of the street that was darkest. She explained that staying in the shade was her main sun protection, along with long clothing and hats. She was in the “UPF” camp, ultraviolet protection clothing.
Dr. Jennifer Lin, an assistant professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School and co-director of the Melanoma Risk and Prevention Clinic at Brigham and Women's Hospital, agrees, “There's a danger in assuming that putting on sunscreen is by itself enough to protect you against the sun. Many studies have demonstrated that individuals who use sunscreen tend to stay out in the sun for a longer period of time, and thus may actually increase their risk of skin cancer.” (6)
Being sun smart means avoiding the sun as much as you can, kind of like how you avoid your ex-boyfriend at parties.
I already feel as if I will do better. More sunscreen, more shade and better choices of products.
Side benefit? No more zebra feet.
1. LifeHackers Essential Science-Based Guide To Skincare. Vitals - LifeHacker. Retrieved 1 August 2018. https://vitals.lifehacker.com/lifehackers-essential-science-based-guide-to-skin-care-1824029261
2. What Those Words On The Sunscreen Bottle Really Mean. The Washington Post. Retrieved 1 August 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/what-all-those-words-on-the-sunscreen-bottle-really-mean/2018/06/29/30104b2a-64d3-11e8-99d2-0d678ec08c2f_story.html?utm_term=.f46cdae99272
3. Sunscreen Ratings. Consumer Report.
4. Sun Care. Skin Safe Products. Retrieved 1 August 2018. https://www.skinsafeproducts.com/sun-care
5. Sunscreen users receive less than half the sun protection they think, study finds. Science Daily. Retrieved 1 August 2018. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180724193649.htm
6. The Science of sunscreen. Harvard Health Publishing. Retrieved 1 August 2018. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-science-of-sunscreen