To sizzle or not to sizzle: Choosing the right sunscreen

With the status of our ozone lay­er, we sadly can­not afford not to wear sun­screen in the sum­mer. While we have been crav­ing the sun for Vitamin D and per­haps the improve­ment in gen­er­al skin tone, we need to pro­tect our epi­derm­al lay­ers ( or for some, the motiv­a­tion is simply to avoid increased freckles ! ) to pro­tect against the devel­op­ment of cer­tain skin can­cers like squam­ous cell car­cinoma ( SCC ) or actin­ic car­cinoma ( for those who are unaware, car­cinoma is a med­ic­al term to describe can­cer in tissues ).

Sunscreen protection, sunscreen

Having sens­it­ive skin myself, I have always been aware of the extra addit­ives and ingredi­ents in sun­screen because when the skin can­not breathe, it can be irrit­ated and thus choos­ing the right sun­screen is important.

More con­cern­ing how­ever are the chem­ic­al “ pro­tect­ants ” used to for­mu­late sun­screens which have recently been called into ques­tion with the abil­ity to pen­et­rate our skin bar­ri­er, influ­en­cing hor­mone sig­nal­ing and can even be linked to can­cer-related risk. The agents sup­posed to be pro­tect­ing us from burns and can­cer may now actu­ally be caus­ing it.

Scary, yes?

Ingredients you should be concerned with

Oxybenzone—In anim­al mod­els, shown to influ­ence estro­gen and increase uter­ine weight. In humans to date, no sig­ni­fic­ant abil­ity shown to influ­ence hor­mon­al sig­nal­ing how­ever the research is still pending.

Two ingredients that are considered safer

Zinc and Titanium oxide — Inorganic metals that we know can pro­duce a white appear­ance to the skin, can be fairly dry­ing. Newer for­mu­la­tions reduce the size of these molecules to nan­o­particles ( basic­ally very, very small ), and have shown to pro­tect and not pen­et­rate the skin bar­ri­er. Some sug­ges­tion that UV expos­ure to these nan­o­particles can change them devel­op­ing free rad­ic­als. However, no data thus far is supremely conclusive.

Who is right, and what do you choose ?

The frus­trat­ing part is experts in sun­screen for­mu­la­tion and test­ing all dis­agree. When there is no evid­ence, it is always good sense to lean on the side of cau­tion. Currently, I would lean towards the chem­ic­al sun­screens ( zinc, titani­um oxide ) until fur­ther evid­ence is revealed.

My favour­ite sun­screens are Pure + Simple and Green Beaver.

If you’re still not sure, the old favour­ites ring true : stay covered, and min­im­ize your sun expos­ure dur­ing the peak hours from 11 – 4 pm, wear a hat and sunglasses. Track the UV index each day with the Weather Network, which today indic­ates is high. Knowledge is pro­tec­tion itself !

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