At Modern Kids Design, we like to stay on top of the latest research when it comes to healthy products, but sometimes it feels a bit overwhelming. So, recently when we looked for the latest on sunscreens, we thought, we should just write a post called - SPF and Sunscreen Decoded. There are so many opinions out there about sunscreen that it can be hard to tell what’s fact and what’s fiction. We’ve done some digging to make sure you can have fun in the sun while protecting your skin—and the planet.
Who needs to apply sunscreen?
Do you slather up the little ones and then skip applying sunscreen on yourself? According to the American Academy of Dermatology, that’s a no-no. Everyone needs sunscreen to protect their skin from harmful UV rays. Apply sunscreen liberally and treat it as part of your self-care.
Is a higher SPF better?
Decoding sunscreen can be tricky. To begin with, SPF (sunburn protection factor) has no correlation to, well, anything. An SPF 15 sunscreen will block 93% of UVB rays, while an SPF 30 will tackle 97% and a 50 will tackle 98%. Dermatologists recommend everyone use SPF 30 or higher.
Sunscreen means more sun time, right?
Unfortunately, no. Seeking shade is still a smart move. While sunscreen has inadvertently lead to people spending more time in the sun, that isn’t necessarily healthy for our skin. Vitamin D from the sun is good for us, but the sun isn’t the best or safest source. Make sure to seek shade when the sun’s rays are strong.
If it’s cloudy, can I skip sunscreen?
It’s tempting, but no. The clouds may hide the sun from us, but those pesky UV rays are still sneaking through.
Does sunscreen expire?
Sunscreen should be good for up to three years, however, if you are applying appropriately, you’ll go through a bottle much faster.
Beyond SPF: Finding the Right Sunscreen
SPF isn’t everything. There are other factors to consider when picking a sunscreen. We already know we need SPF 30 or higher. Here’s what else you’ll need:
- Water resistance: You’ll still want to reapply after swimming or sweating, but a water-resistant sunscreen will stand up better to outdoor activities.
- Broad spectrum coverage: Tackle both UVA and UVB rays at once for maximum protection!
- One product: Tempted to get that insect repellant/sunscreen? Don’t! You’ll need to put on sunscreen more frequently than you’ll ever need to apply insect repellent.
We check the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Sunscreen yearly to learn about what’s on the market and what current research has to say about the effects of sunscreen on our oceans’ health. Here’s what we learned this year:
- If it has oxybenzone, put it back. This chemical can be an allergen and hormone disruptor. Plus, it’s bad for coral and marine life. Octinoxate, parabens, and triclosan are also harmful to marine life. If you’ll be near a reef, make sure your sunscreen is coral reef friendly before diving in!
- Sunscreen with retinyl palmitate is a no-no. This Vitamin A variant can harm skin when exposed to sunlight—the exact opposite of what a sunscreen should do.
- Consider mineral-only sunscreens, which are now more readily available on the market.
- Sunscreen sprays are still undergoing testing by the FDA and aren’t proven effective yet, though they’ve become more popular. Spray sunscreens may also hurt the Earth as they can more easily leach into sand.
If you’re looking for a skin and earth-friendly sunscreen, current EWG recommendations are for a mineral sunscreen (zinc oxide based) with an SPF of 30 or higher that is water resistant. Hope this helps! Feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have feedback on this post or suggestions for future ones. And, as always, thanks for reading!