But do I still wear sunblock myself and recommend it to others? Absolutely. Here’s why...
Even if the sun gives us a great boost of much needed (and cancer-fighting) Vitamin D, if we get more than we need, sun exposure can absolutely contribute to premature aging: lines, crepey skin, leathery dull skin with hyperpigmentation, and loss of elasticity. I really appreciate the idea that the sun is not inherently bad for us. It is actually very restorative for our health to be recharged by a bit of its energy. But if we overdo it, it’s going to age our skin. So finding the balance is important for our health and for cultivating our beauty.
If you have to be outside without shade or protective clothing or accessories for a long period of time, then sunblock is going to be essential if we want healthy luminous skin. Notice that I said SUNBLOCK, not sunscreen.
What’s the difference?
Sunscreen contains chemical ingredients that convert light energy, mainly UVA rays, from the sun into imperceptible heat energy in an effort to prevent damage to the skin. However they do not block UVB rays and they can act as hormone disruptors in the body. Remember that your skin absorbs what you put on it, so chemicals like sunscreen ingredients applied liberally throughout the day can accumulate in the body and could have mutagenic and carcinogenic effects. To make matters worse, some chemical sunscreen ingredients actually break down when exposed to SUNLIGHT. Wtf? Yes, it’s true. Apart from chemical sunscreens being hormone disruptors and sensitizing allergens for many people, they may not be as effective as we hope they are as we’re sitting otherwise unprotected in the sun.
Sunblock, which contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, actually physically blocks the sun’s rays from the skin and reflects them away. Sunblock protects against both UVA and UVB rays, with zinc oxide being the most protective form of sunscreen (the most broad spectrum protection). These two protective mineral ingredients also create less of a chemical burden in the body. A zinc oxide sunscreen is what I wear personally and suggest to others. They are not invisible on the skin like the chemical sunscreens are, but they are safer, more effective, and I love that zinc oxide is anti-inflammatory and redness reducing (ever checked what the active ingredient in diaper rash cream is?). My suggestion is to try a variety until you find one that you like best.
I often hear from clients that they want the higher NUMBER of SPF and that sunblocks only reach SPF 30 so thy pass these products up. But here’s the thing: You’re getting broad spectrum, anti-inflammatory protection from a sunblock with an SPF 30, whereas you could be getting lopsided and incomplete protection plus a dose of chemicals from a sunscreen of SPF 70. And the higher the SPF, the longer your skin is tricked into not burning, leaving you feeling like you can be exposed to the sun much longer than perhaps you should be.
With that said, sunblock is not enough. Here’s why you need other forms of protection:
Sun protective skincare, even the safer mineral types (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide), can give us a false sense of protection. We apply a thin layer to exposed areas and we often feel like our skin is now invincible as we head outside for work, leisure, commuting, or exercise. We feel overly confident about our imperviousness to the sun’s rays. So we stay out for hours thinking we’re protected just because we aren’t getting burned as quickly. Our skin knows how much sun it actually needs. For many of us, it’s just a few minutes. Enough time to get our vitamin D and that’s it. After that point, we should be seeking shade and protective clothing.
Also, it is a very common mistake to not apply a heavy enough layer of sunscreen sufficient to actually achieve the level of sun protection stated on the product label. When was the last time you applied an entire recommended teaspoon of sunscreen to your face for example? So already we’re heading outdoors with possibly much less protection than we think. Bad news.
Further, it has been found that our body’s own antioxidant stores (which fight free radicals) can be used up by as little as 15 minutes of sun exposure! So if we are out for hours without replenishing our antioxidant levels, then oxidation and damage are winning that fight.
Additional ways to protect your skin:
As alluded to above, we need to be consuming antioxidant-rich foods everyday and especially while we are enjoying a sunny day. Berries, colorful vegetables, and unsweetened green or white tea are great choices for replenishing your antioxidant stores while you’re outdoors.
Airy, loose layers are important to have around for when you want to cover up outdoors. I like to keep a long sleeved collared shirt in my car to protect my arms and chest while driving when I don’t really care what I look like. Even the smallest car trips can add up to a lot of exposure over the course of a year.
Cute accessories like big UV protective sunglasses and floppy hats are day-out essentials and my favorite is a pretty parasol for when I’m walking around town and don’t want to overdo my sun exposure quota for the day.
Bring your own shade to places like the beach by setting up a big umbrella or canopy so that you always have the option of escaping the sun.
Always remember to reapply your sunblock every few hours to ensure adequate protection from it.
To sum up, if we can use common sense when it comes to sun exposure, plus a high quality mineral sunblock and an influx of antioxidant-rich foods, we’re setting ourselves up for glowing, healthy skin without bathing in chemicals or avoiding the sun entirely and missing out on its benefits.
Summer may be drawing to a close in some places but these tips should be practiced year round!
Share your favorite mineral sunblock brand or sun protective accessory in the comments below!