It’s that time of year again, and after so many snowy days this winter it is great to see that sun shining bright! As we all know, along with increased sun exposure comes an increased risk for cancers of the skin; the fastest growing form of cancer. Since there are so many different sunscreens available, I wanted to break it down and answer some of the most frequently asked questions we hear at Grass Roots Natural Foods.  What are the differences between all these choices and how do they work?  What are the safest sunscreens?  What should I look for when selecting a sunscreen?  What’s the real deal with SPF?

Which do I choose, a chemical active or mineral active ingredient sunscreen? To answer this question, we need to explore how both work to protect and affect the body.

Chemical active ingredients are taken into your skin to deflect the UV rays before your skin has a chance to be affected. Because of this, they need to be applied at least 15 minutes in advance to allow complete absorption.  Although they do protect the skin from UVB rays, most chemical sunscreens do not have the ability to protect against UVA rays, which penetrate even deeper into the skin, leaving you exposed to potential premature aging.  These types of sunscreens also have a higher risk for allergic reactions and skin irritations.

Mineral active ingredients create a layer that sits on top of your skin and reflect the UV rays away to prevent penetration into the skin’s dermal layers. Mineral active sunscreens are effective immediately. The most common mineral sunscreen ingredients, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, both provide broad spectrum protection, which includes both UVA and UVB blockage. Since the mineral actives sit on top of the skin there is more need for reapplication. You’ll want to do this after playing in the water, sweating, or wiping the skin.

Without a doubt, mineral based sunscreens are much safer than any chemical based option, there is no absorption into the skin and no chance for entry into the bloodstream.   

What labeling should I be paying attention to when choosing a sunscreen?  On packaging, there seems to be endless words, pictures, badges, and explanations that may seem overwhelming.  Here is what we like to pay attention to on our products:

FDA FACTS – Seeing this means that the sunscreen in hand has undergone testing to ensure it meets the current standards for safety and effectiveness set by the FDA.

SPF- This stands for Sun(burn) Protection Factor. The number of SPF is how long you can stay in the sun before your skin begins to burn.  SPF 15 blocks 93% of rays. SPF 30 blocks 97% of rays. SPF 50 blocks 98% of rays.

BROAD SPECTRUM- Includes UVA and UVB ray protection. The SPF number only refers to UVB protections so it is important to decide with this designation in mind.

WATER RESISTANT- These types of products specifically tell you how long you can be in the water or sweat before reapplication. All sunscreens need to be reapplied after 2 hours but if you’re engaging in water a