Advice from the Aisles: Sun Protection

Note: These articles are not meant as a substitute for proper medical advice. Please consult with your medical practitioner before using any type of remedy, herbal or otherwise.

By Hailey Neal, Wellness Department

Summer is upon us in the Queen City. Kayak rental shops are opening up their doors, dogs are romping around in the waves on North Beach, and here in the Wellness Department, we’ve already begun ordering our sun and bug staples. Before you spend any more Sundays digging away in the garden, you might want to stop on in and pick up a bottle of sunscreen to kick off your summer season. The only problem is, with almost 30 different kinds of sunscreen at our little store alone, how do you know you’re getting the best one for you and your family?

With this in mind, we’ve assembled a to-the-point comprehensive Q+A to help you know what to look for so that you can spend less time choosing a sunscreen in City Market and more time outside.

What is Broad Spectrum?

Some sunscreens only protect against the UVB rays that cause burns. Broad Spectrum sunblocks protect against UVB and UVA rays, which penetrate free radicals into the skin, causing wrinkling, sun damage, and skin cancer. Currently the US does not require sunblocks to provide UVA damage protection so it is important to look for ‘Broad Spectrum’ or ‘UVA Protection’ on the label.

What SPF provides the most protection?

Most dermatologists recommend a 15 or 30 SPF. Anything higher won’t necessarily provide any more coverage as SPF is simply a measurement of how well your sunblock protects you from UVB rays. Because the scale is not linear, where SPF 30 will block 97% of rays, SPF 50 will only block 98%. Anything higher is really unnecessary and might be much thicker and harder to rub in.

How much sunblock should I apply?

In order to get optimal coverage, it is recommended to apply about one ounce of sunblock to a full adult body approximately every two hours.

Why go mineral?

Mineral based sunscreens (such as zinc oxide) work by sitting on top of the skin and scattering light and UVA/UVB rays. Although they may be a little denser in consistency, they don’t penetrate the skin so there is little worry of toxic particles entering the body like there might be with chemical sunscreens.

Nanoparticles: what’s the fuss?

Although the definition of a nanoparticle can vary, the general understanding is that they are particles ranging from 1 to 100 nanometers in size. Basically, they are very, very small. The main concern with nanoparticles is that their surface area to volume ratio is so great that the actual properties of the substance may change, meaning we can have no way of knowing how they will act in the body. This is especially a concern in cosmetics (and sunscreens) because nanoparticles are small enough that they can be absorbed into the skin and enter the bloodstream.

Most companies won’t address nanoparticles on their label because of legal complications but if you are worried about nanoparticles in your sunscreen, Badger is always a good bet. Many product websites, too, will take the liberty to go a little more in-depth on the subject, if you are interested in learning more.

How are sunscreens harming the coral reefs?

Each year between 4,000 and 6,000 metric tons of sunscreen washes off of swimmers and into coral reef environments. There are four main sunscreen ingredients that have been linked to coral reef bleaching and are worth staying away from: oxybenzone, butylparaben, octinoxate, and 4-methylbenzylidene.


Note: This article is not meant as a substitute for proper medical advice. Please consult with your medical practitioner before using any type of remedy, herbal or otherwise.

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