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How to Stay Safe in the Sun and Choose the Right Sunscreen

by | May 13, 2022

While we should use sunscreen throughout the year, it is the summer months that we should be particularly cautious about our sun exposure! Just in time, EWG has published the up to date Guide to Sunscreens that provides information on sunscreens that offer adequate protection with ingredients that are safe.

WHY ARE INGREDIENTS IMPORTANT, BEYOND PROTECTING AGAINST UVA AND UVB?

Sunscreen ingredients can be detected in blood for up to 21 days after last application of sunscreen. This is why we recommend using sunscreens with ingredients generally recognized as safe (GRAS), as designated by the FDA. 

  • Commonly used sunscreen ingredients that are generally recognized as safe are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.
  • There is insufficient safety data for other common ingredients including: avobenzone, homosalate, octinoxate, octisalate, octocrylene and oxybenzone.
  • PABA and trolamine salicylate, which are rarely used in sunscreens, are considered unsafe based on available scientific literature.

The good news is that the FDA is proposing further testing of some of the ingredients. I recommend cross-referencing the new sunscreen guide, EWG’s Skin Deep database or EWG’s Healthy Living app, before purchasing your sunscreen.

Additionally, follow these safety tips to reduce your risk of skin cancer, sunburn and premature skin aging:

Dr. Bojana’s SUN SAFETY TIPS

  • Avoid going out in the sun between 10am and 2pm.
  • When you go out, apply sunscreen generously to all sun-exposed areas at least 15 minutes before going outside to allow enough time for your skin to absorb the sunscreen.
  • Choose a sunscreen that has an SPF of 30 or higher and provides coverage from UVA and UVB.
  • Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours while outdoors and immediately after swimming or sweating.
  • Wear a hat, and/or consider going in the shade, particularly if you are spending a long period of time outdoors.
  • If you work near a window, wear sunscreen! While UVB is mostly blocked by glass, >50% of UVA can penetrate glass (UVA is the main cause of premature skin aging, but also contributes to skin cancer risk).
  • Wear sunglasses and clothes to protect your eyes and skin.

Adapted from the American Academy of Dermatology Association

How Do You Choose Clean Skin Products?

  • Look for known toxic ingredients and avoid products that contain them: e.g., parabens
  • Just because a product claims to be “all natural” doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have toxic chemicals
  • “Fragrance” is a red flag – companies are not required to disclose what is in the fragrance, and this combination of ingredients often includes chemicals that can be toxic to our body
  • Healthy living app, Skin Deep, EWG Verified and other EWG resources such as EWG Sunscreen Guide

Additional references

Disclaimer

Nothing stated or posted in this article is intended or should be taken to be the practice of medical or counseling care. The information made available in this article, including, but not limited to, interviews, text, graphics, images, links to other articles, websites, and other material contained in this article, is strictly for informational and entertainment purposes only. The information in this article is NOT (and should not be used as) a substitute for professional psychiatry, psychology, medical, nursing, or professional healthcare advice or services, nor is it designed to suggest any specific diagnosis or treatment. Please always seek medical advice from your physician or a qualified health care provider regarding any medical questions, conditions or treatment, before making any changes to your health care regimen, medications or lifestyle habits. None of the information in this article is a representation or warranty that any particular drug or treatment is safe, appropriate or effective for you, or that any particular healthcare provider is appropriate for you. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking help from a health care provider due to something you have read or seen in this article. Your reading/use of this article does not create in any way a physician-patient relationship, any sort of confidential, fiduciary or professional relationship, or any other special relationship that would give rise to any duties. This article does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, healthcare providers, procedures, or treatments, and if you rely on any of the information provided by this article, you do so solely at your own risk.

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About the Author

Dr. Bojana

Dr. Bojana

Dr. Bojana (Boy•ana) Jankovic Weatherly is an award winning physician, double board certified in internal and integrative medicine. After completing internal medicine residency, she did a fellowship in integrative medicine, trained in functional medicine, nutrition and mindfulness. Her approach is rooted in evidence-based medicine that is personalized to each individual she works with.

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