As the 4th of July approaches, many people are making plans to spend the day at the beach, on the boat, or otherwise enjoying the great outdoors. While spending time outside is arguably the best part about this time of the year, we hope you'll remember to protect yourself and your family from the dangers of sun damage. There are a couple of major things to consider before selecting a sunscreen for your family this summer.
- UVA and UVB rays are light rays from the sun that we cannot see, but that can damage our skin even on cloudy days and in spring, fall, and winter, too.
- The harshest hours of sunlight are between 10 am and 2 pm, but it is still possible to get a sunburn before and after these hours.
- SPF (Sun Protection Factor) only measures how well a sunscreen will protect your skin from burning, which happens when a person is overexposed to UVB rays. SPF does not measure a product's ability to protect you from UVA rays.
- UVA rays cause skin to tan rather than burn, however, the long term effects of UVA exposure can include skin damage, wrinkling, and skin cancer.
We don't want to scare you with these points, but rather to remind you how easy it is to acquire skin damage without even realizing it. To protect yourself, dermatologists recommend using sunscreen with UVA protection that is between 15 and 30 SPF. Why not higher? Sunscreens above 30 SPF don't offer much more protection, but do give a false sense of safety that can keep people from reapplying or otherwise protecting their skin.
Sunscreens labeled "broad spectrum" or "UVA protection" have been tested to make sure they protect you from more dangerous rays. But don't forget that wearing light layers and staying in the shade are also great ways to protect yourself from the sun. It's wonderful to get a little Vitamin D from sunshine, just don't overdo it.
So, once you have selected a sunscreen between SPF 15 and 30 that includes UVA protection, flip it over and look at the ingredients. Does it contain Oxybenzone (benzophenone3), Butylparaben, Octinoxate (Ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate), or 4-methylbenzylidene camphor (4MBC)? Avoid it if you can! These ingredients have suspected human health effects. Remember: the skin absorbs whatever is put on it, chemicals included.
After finding a sunscreen that protects you, it's time also to consider the product's impact on the environment. Usually, when an ingredient is safe for humans, it is also safe for the environment. For example, all Badger brand Sunscreen Creams, their Sport Stick, and their SPF 30 Sunscreen Lotions are safe and also certified biodegradable. The materials they are made from will biodegrade and return to nature within a reasonably short period of time. This means that our bodies and the earth will know how to break it down again after it's done doing its job!
In recent years, chemical ingredients found in many common sunscreens have been found harmful to coral reefs and other aquatic life. While swimming, sunscreen does wash off the human body and into the water, damaging the environment if certain chemicals are used. Although we don't know if any similar tests have been conducted here in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire, we love our lakes so much and don't want to contribute to their pollution or harm. So, we encourage you to choose a biodegradable sunscreen to avoid this!
Here at Sunflower we have a variety of natural sunscreens for the whole family. One of our favorite brands is Badger - a company local to New Hampshire! Stop in soon to peruse our health and beauty section and select the right sunscreen to keep your family and the earth safe.
* To learn more about UVA/UVB rays, and how you can protect yourself, visit Badger brand's informational page. Post by Julia Berry