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Things I didn’t know about sunscreen

Posted Aug 26 2008 11:36pm

Reading an article on sunscreen, amusing found in the Seattle Post Intelligence, (Seattle is one of the least sunny cities in the country) I was appalled at how little I actually know about sunscreen.

Raised in another one of the cloudy capitals of the U. S., in an era when the sun/ skin cancer connection was less well understood, sunscreen was not something on my radar. Soaking our skin with tanning oil, baby oil and various tan enhancers was the norm, even for fair-haired Northern European types like me.

Things have changed. Sunscreen is a regular part of our day now. “Come on, brush your teeth, comb your hair and put on your sunscreen; it’s time for school!” So, I thought I knew what I was doing. Apparently few of us do.

A little research though, can change your life, or at least your daily routine. These facts changed mine.

1. Both UVA and UVB rays can be harmful. Read your bottle carefully as many manufacturers use marketing mumbo jumbo that doesn’t really indicate SPF for UVA and then SPF for UVB rays. You can check your sunscreen here.

2. Use enough sunscreen - a shot glass full for adults; a tablespoon full for kids.

3. Don’t use sunscreen on infants younger than 6 months – keep- ‘em inside or in the shade. (This advice seems to be of the verge of being reneged, though.)

4. Use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15.Using a higher SPF can make up for using too little. Do they even make sunscreen in these low SPF versions anymore? I’m waiting to see SPF 375 on the market.

5. Make sure you apply sunscreen more than ½ hour before going out of doors and limit exposure between 10:00am and 3:00 pm. You knew that, didn’t you?

6. Reapply sunscreen every two hours…really! Not only does it wear off after that amount of time, neglecting to reapply sunscreen every two hours can do more harm than good! Something scientific here – read more here.

7. For better protection, buy sunscreen with the ingredient, Mexoryl. In the US, this is generally available only in moisturizers with sunscreen added.(Great, now I can share my $50/oz moisturizer with my DS.) In regular sunscreen look for, Helioplex.

8. The reflection off of both water and snow and ALTITUDE can significantly increase sunburn danger.

9. Avoid sunscreens containing, Benzophenone (benzophenone-3), homosalate, and octy-methoxycinnamate – they can disrupt hormones impacting brain development.

10. Look for biodegradable sunscreens, especially when swimming in an ocean or stream – as they wash off they can wreck havoc on the environment. Some resorts overseas now require them.

11. A hat and long sleeves can work wonders – choose protective clothing in addition to sunscreen for better results. Be aware though that sun-protective clothing and fabrics are not regulated by any government agency." – so the extra money spent on clothing touted as protecting against harmful rays, may not be worth it! Apparently there is one brand of clothing, Coolibar, from Australia, that is endorsed by the Skin Cancer foundation.

12. One trick for high UV protection is to use a new laundry product, SunGuard, made by the folks that make Rit Dye. The chemical Tinosorb absorbs harmful rays.

13. Consider Natural sunscreens which tend to contain fewer chemicals. The most effective natural sunscreens are more or less pure micronized zinc oxide, a physical ray blocker, rather than a chemical one – you know, that white stuff lifeguards put on their noses? UV Natural, seems to be the best one available in the US, though a number of natural brands are available in Europe.
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