Screen Test: Reading the Micro-Fine Print

sunscreenWhat to do to avoid harming the skin from the sun’s rays during summer?  Which product is best applied to face when going outdoors in the morning? The answer is sunscreen. We are all constantly bombarded with advertisements showing the essence of sunscreen in our daily life. But is it really needed? You may say, yes, of course! The horrible number of 1 million Americans being diagnosed with skin cancer has been a steady rate for the last few years, and without sunscreen, it may even increase. Unfortunately, given the chemicals in every sunscreen bottle, we can simply say that in the world of medicine, the cure is almost as horrible as the problem itself. While there is no doubt that the sun’s ultraviolet rays are dangerous, there is also no question that sunscreen, which is supposed to protect us from these rays, has the potential to alter natural body processes. To understand the harm that sunscreens bring, let’s see how it works and what it contains.

Firstly, let’s be informed that there are two types of sunscreens namely, chemical and mineral sunscreens. From the name itself, we could already tell that chemicals sunscreens pose danger to the human skin by absorbing the sun’s rays. Most of these products are too transparent and gets absorbed by the skin in no time and it makes wearing it totally invisible as it provides the feeling of being protected from the sun’s rays. However, when the rays get into the skin it energizes each molecules of the chemical sunscreen, and this is when danger comes in. The excitement of the chemical underneath your skin and the contact of the sun’s rays can leave a by-product known as free radicals, which is also dubbed as the secondary effect of sunscreens. When free radicals buildup in the inner dermis, it means only one thing – premature aging, and, worse, skin irritation and skin cancer. Picture the scenario; it’s horrible, right? What about mineral sunscreens?

On the other note, you could try to look at the benefits of opting for mineral sunscreens. Mineral sunblocks generally contain Titanium dioxide or Zinc oxide, which has the capacity to block the entrance of UV rays into the skin. It works by reflecting the rays instead of absorbing it into the skin, thereby, reducing the former’s contact with the inner parts of the skin and the occurrence of free radicals there as well. Such type of sunblock is actually more preferred by most people who are mostly exposed to the sun during the day like lifeguards. However, one of the apparent downfalls of mineral sunblock is its incapacity to stay on top of the skin, leaving the applied part whiter than the rest of the unapplied portions. Well, it could be unsightly sometimes if you don’t apply it on your skin very well. Sad to say, manufacturers of mineral sunblock products are becoming more competitive and are creating sunscreens with Titanium oxide and zinc oxide in nanometers. A particle this size is equivalent to one billion in one meter. Imagine this; a single human hair is about 80,000 nm in diameter. They’re using these particles to avoid achieving a white mask look since very small sizes of these minerals don’t just settle under the skin; it also goes into the bloodstream. When in the bloodstream, it can pass through the different parts of the body including the brain. In this event, brain cells are affected and damaged when it’s constantly exposed to these chemicals. So, what’s the difference between a nano-sized TiO2 and a bigger version? Well, the brain could detect the bigger version and the blood-brain barrier can stop it from entering its premises, thereby, protecting its cells from damage. Meanwhile, the barrier could not detect these foreign pieces when it’s already in nano sizes. Should you settle for the white mask, then? Not yet. Luckily, an Australian organization claims that such particle size is not capable of entering the bloodstream yet. Nevertheless, further studies are still ongoing about this issue. For the meantime, while it’s still not yet proven that these are entirely safe, start your choices with these greener alternatives.

Firstly, realize that no sunscreen is perfect and that either one of the chemicals is present in it. However, you still have the option to choose a greener and safer one by opting for a product that can protect both UVA and UVB rays from the sun. To distinguish the two types of rays, UVB is the culprit for skin cancer and skin irritation while UVA is the culprit for premature aging. In this line, you need to know how much UVB protection you need by considering the SPF rate of the product. Normally, dermatologists and experts recommend a sunblock with SPF 15 if you plan on staying under the sun for a couple of minutes. However, if you have fair skin, which is more prone to sun damage; has history of skin cancer in the family or lupus; and has sensitivity to the sun’s rays, it is recommended that you grab a sunblock with SPF30 for higher rate of protection against UVB rays.

Secondly, don’t forget that there are UVA rays to shield your skin against. As mentioned above, UVA is the primary cause of premature skin aging when it’s exposed to the sun’s rays regularly. To find a sunscreen that could help in this matter, choose one that’s made with any of these ingredients: ecamsule, oxybenzone, avobenzone, and Titanium dioxide or Zinc oxide. You can find Ecamsule in most of L’Oreal’s Anthelios SX products while Active Photo Barrier Complex and Dermaplex contain stabilized avobenzone. The term stabilized is highlighted because non-stable avobenzone ingredients can cause adverse effects to the skin when exposed to sunlight. Meanwhile, TiO2 or Zinc Oxide is present in Alba Botanica’s Sun Fragrance-free Mineral Sunscreen. All-time favorite like Avalon Organics Baby Avalon Natural Mineral Sunscreen is also a good choice.

Thirdly, remember to get a water-resistant or sweat-resistant sunscreen if you plan to dip into the water or get sweat under the sun for a long time. Regular sunscreens wear off when you’re wet with either water or sweat. On the one hand, consider sunscreens with special formulations if you have allergies or if the user is a baby, especially those under 6 months old. Make sure to read ingredients, specifications, and application procedures before using sunblock. While it’s formulated to protect skin from the sun’s harmful rays, its purpose can only be optimized when used properly. Remember, too, that it should be applied at least 30 minutes before sun exposure to allow time for its efficacy.

Finally, there are a lot of ways on how you can protect your skin from the sun’s UV rays. Avoiding the sun’s rays as much as possible is a very sensible option. Unless you work at the beach or at the field where you are exposed almost all hours in the day, you can always keep away from the sun’s UV rays if you want to. Another method is to shield your skin from products other than sunscreens like wearing rash guards, summer hats, and the likes. Using an umbrella protects you while walking or running your way to the office or school while a good pair of sunglasses can keep the skin around the eyes and your eye area protected, too.