The summer season is in full swing and you’re probably looking back at your old sunscreen tube from last year and wondering if you can still use it. You’re also probably wondering if what you are using is effective and truly protects you. With all the talk in the media about sunscreen these days, it is hard to know what to do or not do to.
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, according to a review published by the American Cancer Society. Among all the forms of skin cancer, 80 percent are basal cell carcinoma, 16 percent are squamous cell carcinoma and 4 percent are malignant melanomas, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Today many experts believe that both UVA and UVB exposure may contribute to the melanoma risk. Sunscreens on the market have blocked UVB, but may not have protected the skin against UVA. Not only do we need a product that protects against the rays that burn, but also the ones responsible for the long-term outlook of our complexion. It is those rays that may actually cause more damage to the skin in long term. So what is the best solution?
The best sunscreen is a hat and a shirt—I know that is not what you want to hear. When exposed to the sun, use a sunscreen that provides broad-spectrum protection, avoiding the formulas with hazardous chemicals like Octyl Methoxycinnamate, PABA and Benzophenone-8 which penetrate the skin. The EWG, Environmental working group, is a non-for-profit organization that studies and tests cosmetic ingredients. The organization just released a guide to the sunscreen based on their results after testing 500 sunscreens on the market. The result? They only recommended 39 of them.
My recommendation is to stay away from a chemical sunscreen and look for a physical sunscreen that contains Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide. These moderate-to-low risk ingredients are probably the safest on the market at this moment. The FDA is in the process of approving new ingredients, while working on a different system to rate sunscreen, which would rate both UVB and UVA protection.
Keep in mind that mineral sunscreens can leave a whitish film on the surface of the skin and may not look so appealing. Avoid formulations that contain Oxybenzone or benzophenone 3, as it has been shown that those ingredients can trigger an allergic reaction, is a potential hormone disruptor and can penetrate the skin in relatively large amounts.
On the other hand, Mexoryl SX is a relatively low risk and effective ingredient that provides UVA protection, but it is sold in very few formulations. Tinosorb S and M also appear to be both safe and effective but are not yet available in the US. The best option for now is sunscreen containing avobenzone.
Though no ingredient is without hazard or perfectly effective, I tend to prefer the mineral sunscreen because of their low probability to penetrate the skin and a better UVA protection.
Here are some of my recommendations:
Badger SPF 30: I like the lightly scented version and it feels very moisturizing. It is also water-resistant, so it is great for kids or vacation.
Skin2 skin: What is great about this brand is that the sunscreen is tinted so you won’t look like a ghost. They formula is a bit tightening, so it’s best suited for an oily skin.
Priori Mineral powder: This product is great for casual sun, such as in and out of the car or office. Although they are causing a bit of controversy because of their powder form and the possibility of inhaling them, I still find them very appealing — especially for people who are working indoors. This should never be used in place of a sunscreen at the beach
And NO you should not use the sunscreen you had last year, it is less effective and probably was contaminated by bacteria from the sand or other outside elements. It’s time to toss and get a new tube.