The best sunscreen advice seems to get updated every year now.
But don’t let the changes go over your head. Here’s the latest of what you need to know to keep yourself safe on your next beach vacation.
The Sun is Not Your Enemy!
Believe it or not, people who tan well are actually the most susceptible to developing a deficiency of vitamin D. Some people can get enough vitamin D from just a couple of hours of sun on their arms every week – even though they don’t always feel like it.
But beyond depression, a lack of Vitamin D has been linked to osteoporosis, prostate cancer, breast cancer, and even obesity and diabetes. But there are still serious risks to too much UV radiation from the sun. Most of us need between 10 and 15 minutes unprotected sun exposure, twice weekly, to get adequate vitamin D.
So getting some sun is not only healthy, it’s good for your entire system. But know how to do it safely and without damaging your sensitive surface. We think you’ll be glad you did.
The New Rules
Recently, changes to the rules governing the labeling of sunscreen products were issued by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and these highlight some of what you need to know. The labels won’t be changed until December of 2012, and a year later for smaller companies, but it never hurts to get yourself ahead of the game.
Today’s best sunscreen practices led the FDA to declare that manufacturers of sunscreen with SPF ratings above 15 can declare in their packaging:
“If used as directed with other sun protection measures, this product reduces the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging, as well as helps to prevent sunburn.”
The new rules cover the testing and labeling for protection against both ultraviolet A (UVA) rays and ultraviolet B (UVB) which are together called “broad spectrum.”
Importantly, many sunscreens don’t actually block UVA radiation. While you may be protected from sunburn, some lotions will actually increase your risk for melanoma and photodermatitis. The newer broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreens will protect against the threats of radiation – but only if they say so on the label.
Sun tanning lotions will actually intensify UV radiation, so you want to use them with extra care, and only if your skin type really allows it.
Best Sunscreen Tips for Today!
Here’s what else we hope you’ll keep in mind before your winter trip to the beach.
- A sunscreen needs to have an SPF of 15 or better to claim that they protect against skin cancer.
- Below that SPF, the new rules actually make them spell out a warning that the sunscreen won’t help prevent skin cancer or early skin aging.
- While the words “sunblock,” “sweatproof” and “waterproof” are hereby banished from the world of sunscreen labels, the manufacturers can claim to be “water-resistant,” but they need say whether it’s for 40 or 80 minutes of swimming or sweating. And if they’re not water-resistant, they need to instruct you to use a water-resistant sunscreen when you’re swimming or sweating.
- The best sunscreen advice we can give you is to be sure you’re getting broad-band UVA and UVB protection. If you go in the water, put it back on when you come out. Apply in the shade and wait 15 minutes for the lotion to soak in.
- Every exposed part of your body needs to be covered.
- Remember, the closer you go to the equator of the Earth, the higher the risk of damaging UV radiation. The best sunscreen manufacturers will warn you prominently that distance from the equator as well as altitude affect the strength of the radiation you’re exposed to.
- Don’t be fooled by super high SPFs. Above 50+ is essentially impossible. Monitor your condition and move to the shade when necessary to re-apply.
- Avoid products with vitamin A, often listed as an ingredient called “retinyl palmitate.” Available in about 25% of sunscreens on the market, many studies have shown that products with vitamin A additives can aggravate or possibly cause tumors and skin lesions.
- The best sunscreen products contain active ingredients like zinc, titanium, avobenzone or Mexoryl SX which remain on the surface of the skin without soaking in. Ingredients like the synthetic estrogen, oxybenzone, can produce free radicals. Studies aren’t conclusive about the harmful effects but why not just avoid them?
Lastly, get a vacation in. Hitting the beach in the dead of winter has other-worldly benefits for everyone we talk to. Pack your sunscreen, and your common sense.