A glorious kiss of vitamin D can do wonders for your epidermis. The sun’s warmth can fight against disease, boost your mood, and even strengthen your immune system. You just have to make sure to protect yourself while basking in it.
UVA rays penetrate deep into the dermis, the second major layer of the skin (deeper than UVB rays) and can contribute to the development of cancer by increasing reactive oxygen species, which can, in turn, damage your DNA. UVB rays penetrate only the epidermis, the outermost layer of the skin, and increase your risk of cancer by direct photochemical damage to your DNA. This contributes to wrinkling and aging of the skin by degrading elastin and collagen, which is why it’s so important to choose a sunsceen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays.
What’s in Sunscreen?
Sunblocks are mineral-based (always) and sit on the surface of the skin. The active ingredients are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Sunscreens are generally chemical-based and must be absorbed into the skin to be effective via a chemical reaction with the UV rays.
Ingredients to Avoid
Before you run out and grab the first bottle of Bain De Soleil for the St. Tropez tan, here are a few ingredients that I recommend you steer clear of:
- Parabens may increase the rate of breast cancer and interfere with the male reproductive system. Basically they can wreak havok on your body’s hormones.
- Oxybenzone has been linked to allergic reactions and commonly causes hives on the skin.
- Retinyl Palmitate has been shown to increase the rates of cancer in combination with UV-A rays.
What to Look For
The most effective ingredient that protects against both UVA and UVB is zinc oxide—it acts as a physical barrier that sits on the surface of your skin (kind of like wearing a long-sleeve shirt). It’s great for the kids, but it’s not a very appealing option unless you are going for Elle MacPherson in the ’80s.< p>
Micronized zinc oxide has the safety profile of traditional zinc oxide sunscreen but is a bit more aesthetically appealing (read: won’t turn you into a white blob). Good to know: When micronized zinc is applied in lotion form, it does not enter the bloodstream and has no dangerous side effects.
Wading through the multitide of options may seem daunting, but I’ve rounded up three of my all-time favorite sunscreens to help you choose the right one for your skin. All three are great for both body and face.
Badger Balm All Natural Sunscreen in Lavender, SPF 30
This FDA-certified organic sunscreen is extremely effective. It is lightly scented with lavender (which some say keeps bugs at bay) and has a moisturizing base of sunflower oil, beeswax, and vitamin E. It’s definitely my top choice ($15.99, badgerbalm.com).
KINeSYS Alcohol-Free Performance Sunscreen, SPF 30
I love a spray-on screen, and this one covers all your bases. It’s easy to apply (essential for ring bearers and flower girls!) and covers a lot of territory in one spritz, making it easy to get your back and shoulders shielded—whether you’re out for your morning run or spending the day at the beach. Bonus: it’s hypoallergenic and fragrance-free ($19; kinesys.com).
La Roche-Posay Anthelios Sunscreen, SPF 60
For a more high-end option, I love this sunscreen because it’s got a great dry finish. It’s not greasy at all. It also works well on even the most sensitive skin. It’s PABA-free, fragrance-free and non-comedogenic. Because it has such a high SPF factor and excellent absorbancy, it’s great for daily use or for more concentrated sun-exposure times ($29.99; laroche-posay.us).