As we sink deeper into the summer months there is no denying the intensity of the sun. Living in the city creates the paradox of heat but not always direct rays. Finding shade is easy enough but is that a reliable form of sun protection? One of the most debated subjects every summer is whether to use sunscreen or skip it. The growing confusion is partly due to rumors, misconceptions, and a lot of assumption.
SPF is a measurement of sun protection against burning. And that is all. It does not protect skin from getting cancer. I repeat, SPF does not protect your skin from cancer. SPF protects our skin from UVB rays. Ultra Violet B rays are the light that causes burning. A strong enough burn can cause cells to mutate into cancer. This type cancer is isolated and can be removed by a dermatologist. UVA rays on the other hand, damage our cells at a deeper level. These rays are responsible for melanoma cancer cells. Melanoma is a deadly cancer that spreads to other tissue in the body rapidly. SPF does not protect your skin from these damaging rays.
So, when choosing sun protection, keep in mind regardless of the number you choose, the length of time you are in the sun is how long you are exposed to UVA rays. (source)
That brings us to SPF. SPF stands for ‘Sun Protective Factor’. When choosing how much SPF to use, it is important to understand what that actually means. The short answer is- nothing. SPF is determined by how many times less likely you are to get a burn than if you wore nothing at all. So, going from a 30 to an SPF 50 has negligible difference. What does matter is if you burn. Wearing sunscreen or sun block lessens your chances of burning but, you can still get burned. Those with fair skin are the most susceptible to burn regardless of wearing sunscreen or sun block.
More important than how high the SPF, is choosing a broad spectrum sunscreen which protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
That being said, Canadian and European formulations have had the most innovation in recent years over the US. This is due to the FDA controlling the approval of over the counter sunscreens. Recently the Sunscreen Innovation Act was passed to expedite new formulations hitting the US market.
So, let’s look at some of the rumors:
Will using sunscreen or sunblock inhibit Vitamin D absorption?
No, you will still benefit from Vitamin D while wearing sunblock. (source)
Does sunscreen cause skin cancer?
No. There have been studies that show higher incidences of skin cancer among those who regularly wear sunscreen. That is not necessarily a causation link. This could be from a few factors. People who wear sunscreen tend to be those who burn more easily and are already at a higher risk for skin cancer. Studies have also shown that sunscreen can give a false sense of security resulting in people staying in the sun longer. (source)
And, what is the difference between sunscreen and sunblock? Is one better than the other?
Sunblock offers a physical barrier to protect you from the suns damaging rays. Sunscreen protects your skin through a chemical process. Both are effective and more important is which one you will use. There is some controversy regarding the long term safety of using sunscreen that should be considered. (source)
One form of sunscreen that is in the hot seat is aerosol cans. There have been reported fire safety issues as well as environmental concerns. Many experts do not recommend the use of sprays, especially for young children. (source)
There are other ways to protect your skin from sun damage. Limiting sun exposure during mid day is always an option. Finding shade and using hats and light weight but protective clothing helps eliminate sun exposure as well. (source)
Moderation is key. Any sun exposure exposes us to sun damage and cancer causing rays. So, if you will be in the sun, look for a broad spectrum SPF and use it. But, also keep your eye on the clock for how long you are exposed.
Enjoy the summer!
Photography: Yulia Gorbachenko, Make-up: Anastasia Durasova using MAC cosmetics, Hair: Elsa Canedo using Oribe Hair Care, Nails: Seo Aoki using Essie, Retouching: One Hundred Berlin, Photo Assistant: Kana Beisekeyev , Creative Direction: JP, Model: Katrin Thormann @ Supreme Management
- La Roche-Posay Anthelios 50 Tinted Mineral Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid: This super-thin fluid sunscreen can double as a foundation with its tinted mineral formula that is designed to even out minor imperfections.
- Kiehl’s Since 1851 Activated Sun Protector Broad Spectrum SPF 50 for Face & Body: This lightweight lotion leaves skin smooth and dewy, plus it’s packed with antioxidants for additional anti-aging benefits. Good match for dry skin.
- Coppertone Faces Sensitive Skin Sunscreen Lotion: This drugstore pick is friendly for you pocket and is formulated for sensitive skin. Both fragrance and oil free.
- bareMinerals SPF 30 Natural Sunscreen: This sunscreen contains a mineral powder which won’t break down as quickly as liquid formulas do in the heat. So, if you’re constantly on the go or are looking for a reliable sunscreen for your next vacation, this bareMinerals pick will hold up in your purse, glove compartment, or beach bag.
- Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Cream + Broad Spectrum SPF 50+ For Face: This heavy-duty cream is versatile enough to hold up in water and under makeup, plus, it offers a fast absorbing, non-sticky texture.