The dog days of summer have arrived for most of us and that means lots of time spent out in the sun having fun. It can also mean a painful sunburn if you are not careful. Too much time, unprotected in the sun can lead to premature aging and damage to your skin. While there are a plethora of types of sunscreens to choose from, you must be careful not to make sunscreen mistakes that will end up doing more harm than good.
While it is a good idea to protect the skin from the damaging impact of UV radiation from the sun, you need to know the in’s and outs of sunscreen so as to avoid costly mistakes. Remember, we need the sun to help our bodies make vitamin D3, the nutrient that boosts our immune system, elevates our mood and fights cancer. The key is to stay safe and still get enough sun to keep your vitamin D levels in a healthy range.
Here is a look at the top seven mistakes you might be making when it comes to sunscreen.
Mistake #1: Using chemical sunscreen instead of natural sunscreen
Sunscreen is a huge market and everyone wants to get a share of it. This means that some sunscreens are actually just a toxic cocktail of chemicals that could end up hurting you. The number one mistake you might be making when it comes to your sunscreen is which type of sunscreen you actually purchase and use.
Surprisingly, some studies have indicated that risk of malignant melanoma was highest amongst those who used the most sunscreen. This is undoubtedly due to the chemical makeup of the sunscreen.
According to a 2014 Environmental Working Group guide to sunscreen, over 75% of all sunscreen sold contains toxins capable of increasing the risk of cancer. Here is what they had to say:
“Our review…shows that some sunscreen ingredients absorb into the blood, and some have toxic effects. Some release skin-damaging free radicals in sunlight, some act like estrogen and disrupt hormones, and several can cause allergic reactions and skin irritation. The FDA has not established rigorous safety standards for sunscreen ingredients.”
Here is a list of just some of the toxic ingredients you might find in conventional sunscreen:
- Para amino benzoic acid
- Octyl salicyclate
- Menthyl anthranilate
Natural sunscreen products or mineral-based sunscreen products generally contain zinc or titanium. They do not break down in the sunlight and are not absorbed by the body. To stay safe, it is best to choose a natural, or mineral-based sunscreen that will not disrupt hormones, are not allergenic and offer effective protection.
Our recent round-up of the best natural sunscreens led to the conclusion that these were the best:
- Badger All Natural Sunscreen
- Tropical Sands Natural Sunscreen
- Beauty By Earth Facial Cream
- Kiss My Face Mineral Sunscreen
- Suntegrity 5 in 1 Natural Sunscreen
Mistake #2: Using spray-on sunscreen
Although they go on easy, spray sunscreens have hidden dangers. According to safety experts at Consumer Reports, spray on products contain some potentially dangerous ingredients that could be damaging if inhaled, especially to children.
According to Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst at Environmental Working Group, “These high-alcohol formulas could irritate the lungs, and their ingredients could be absorbed into the bloodstream.”
Mistake #3: You wait to apply sunscreen until you arrive at the beach or the pool
Take the time to apply sunscreen before you head outside. This will allow you to be sure that you are well-covered. Too many people wait to get to the pool or the beach to apply their sunscreen and end up missing spots because they are in a hurry to get in the water or engage in other activities.
Mistake #4: You only use sunscreen when you are headed outdoors
It is a good idea to use some form of natural sunscreen year-round, not just when you are headed to the beach or out on a boating trip. According to Cheryl Gustafson, MD, a chief dermatology resident at Emory University,”The sun’s rays can still reach your skin, for example, while you drive or sit by a window.” There are a number of natural moisturizers that contain some sort of sunscreen. It is a good idea to get into the habit of using these daily, no matter what you are doing.
Mistake #5: You apply sunscreen with your clothes on
It is always best to apply sunscreen to your entire body when you are naked. According to Noelle Sherber, MD, a consulting dermatologist for the Johns Hopkins Scleroderma Center it is best to apply sunscreen naked in front of a full-length mirror because this “helps ensure you entirely cover tricky spots like the mid-back and backs of the legs.”
Mistake #6: You pass over your lips
Many people do a good job of protecting their body and face from the sun but neglect their lips. Lips are highly sensitive to the sun and require special TLC from the sun. However, don’t use the same stuff you put on your body. It is best to purchase an organic lip balm with SPF protection (such as these Organic Lip Balms from Sky Organics) and apply it frequently when exposed to the sun.
Mistake #7: You rely too much on sunscreen
Too many people rely on sunscreen for complete protection from the sun. There are a number of things that you can do to enhance your protection including:
- Wear long sleeve shirts, pants, and a hat when participating in outdoor activities. There are many options available for lightweight clothing that offers protection. In addition, always wear a hat when outdoors in the sun.
- Stay indoors or in the shade during the hottest time of the day. The sun is hottest during the hours of noon and 3 pm.
- Eating foods that offer sun protection and build UV resistance can also help protect you from the sun. These foods include green and white tea, blueberries, red grapes or wine, salmon and fish oil, almonds, asparagus and pumpkin seeds, bell peppers and carrots.
Yes, the sun is fun, yes, we need the sun for vitamin D production, but we have to be very careful during the hot days of summer not to overextend our time in the sun and to always think of ways to stay safe and prevent sun damage, but if that sun damage does occur, here are the best ways to fix it.