What Parents Need to Know about Sunscreen
We all know how important sunscreen is for protecting our families, especially in sunny Southern California. But with the overwhelming number of brands and SPFs on the market, making a decision on what to purchase can be complicated. Sunscreen labels are packed with information, but not all of it is crystal clear to the average consumer. What does SPF stand for? What are “mineral” vs. “chemical” sunscreens? What are UVA and UVB rays? There are significant differences between formulas and the way they protect your family from those harmful rays.
The sun is incredible, however, it is important to be aware of the damage it can do to our bodies, and what kind of products are best for preventing burns. I don’t want to discourage anyone from spending time outdoors, but I do want to emphasize how harmful the sun can be without the right protection.
As a father of four children, I’ve devoted my life to helping families make healthy choices and nurture happy children. In my experience as the former CEO of Healthy Child Healthy World (a national nonprofit empowering parents to protect their children from toxic risks) and now co-founder of The Honest Company, I’ve learned that the best way to prevent families from using potentially harmful products is through education.
When selecting a sunscreen, we must be mindful — we can’t just grab the best looking bottle on the shelf and expect it to provide the right kind of protection. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S., with more than 8,500 people diagnosed every day. With this in mind, protecting our skin from ultraviolet (UV) light that can potentially lead to this devastating and deadly disease is no small matter.
Here’s some advice on how to make sense of sunscreen labeling so you can make informed decisions before buying.
CHEMICAL VS. MINERAL SUNSCREEN
There are two categories of active ingredients in sun protection: chemical absorbers and physical barriers.
Chemical absorbers, such as oxybenzone and octinoxate, work by absorbing the energy of UV rays and converting it to heat that is then dispersed in the skin. These types of sunscreens are also known as “organic” sunscreens – not because they were raised without pesticides – in chemistry, that means the chemical is built from carbon molecules.
Physical barriers (mineral sunscreens) reflect the UV rays, bouncing them away from the skin. They are also known as “inorganic” sunscreens because they do not contain carbon molecules.
Here are a couple very important factors that set these two apart:
Photostability is the ability of a product to retain its integrity upon exposure to UV light. If a sunscreen is not photostable, UV rays will break down the active ingredients and leave skin vulnerable to UV rays. Unfortunately, photostability testing and labeling is not mandatory, making it difficult for consumers to know what they’re getting.
Chemical sunscreens vary widely in their photostability. Oftentimes manufacturers include more than one type of organic active ingredient in their formula to enhance photostability for a wider range of the UV spectrum. Preservatives and other ingredients can also impact photostability – sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. Photostability is one reason sunscreen has to be reapplied repeatedly. The Skin Cancer Foundation Seal of Recommendation is reserved for sunscreens that have met their photostability standards.
Mineral sunscreens are generally photostable.
Comedogenicity refers to the possibility that an ingredient or formula can clog pores, potentially leading to whiteheads, blackheads and pimples.
Chemical sunscreens tend to be more irritating to skin.
Mineral sunscreens are generally thought to be gentle , which is why they’re the active ingredients typically used in baby sunscreens.
For help finding safe and effective sunscreens, I urge buyers to look for products with the Seal of Recommendation from the Skin Cancer Foundation. They require manufacturers to submit studies proving their products are photostable, not a contact irritant and don’t cause phototoxicity.
At The Honest Company, we’re proud to say our Honest Mineral Sunscreens passed the Skin Cancer Foundation’s rigorous review and are recommended as effective, broad spectrum sunscreens. Our all-new SPF 50+ sun protection is specially formulated to be non-irritating and ideal for babies and sensitive skin. Made with Shea butter and coconut oil, our mineral sunscreens help keep skin feeling soft and hydrated, without leaving a heavy residue. They simply have everything you need, and nothing you don’t. www.honest.com.
By: The Honest Company’s Co-Founder Christopher Gavigan
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