SPF: What Is It and Does It REALLY Protect Me?

What Is SPF?

What Is SPF?


Article by Heather Jadus  
Photo Credit: Halley Elefante

Before I learned about sunscreen, the ingredients in it and how it works I did this...  I used it every day and every night on my face.  It was in my moisturizer and guess what?  If I took a shower at night, I still put it on.  And if I took a shower at night after I was at the beach all day, I would put it on my face and my skin would burn and my thought was.... wow, I got some good sun today. Yay!  

Oh man, I had no idea.

I will not pretend that I have all the answers but I will tell you some points I have seen from a well-respected entity called The Environmental Working Group (EWG). (www.ewg.org). 

 EWG is a non-profit group trying to help sort through the enormous levels of toxicity in many of our foods and products.  

I'm going to take their points and turn them into terms I understand.  I hope you will understand them too as they are extremely important!

Here's some things I have learned:

1| SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor

And higher SPF may not actually be better for you or "more protection".  You have to reapply the stuff every two hours no matter what the SPF is for it to protect you from the sun (waterproof or not).

2| Rates of Melanoma

The most deadly form of skin cancer, have tripled over the past 35 years. Most scientists and public health agencies, including the FDA itself, have found very little evidence that sunscreen prevents most types of skin cancer.

3| The Common Sunscreen Additive, Vitamin A

May actually speed the development of skin cancer. The sunscreen industry adds a form of vitamin A to nearly one-quarter of all sunscreens. Retinyl palmitate is an anti-oxidant that slows skin aging. But federal studies indicate that it may speed the development of skin tumors and lesions when applied to skin in the presence of sunlight. EWG recommends that consumers avoid sunscreens, lip products and skin lotions containing vitamin A, often labeled “retinyl palmitate” or “retinol.” And yes..that is the same stuff you might be putting on your face for wrinkles so take heed my friends!

4|  Sunscreen does not protect skin from all types of sun damage.

The sun’s ultraviolet radiation generates free radicals that damage DNA and skin cells, accelerate skin aging and may cause skin cancer. Sunscreens can reduce these damages, but not as effectively as they prevent sunburn. Consumers can run into problems if they pick a sunscreen with poor UVA protection, apply too little or reapply it infrequently.

5| Some sunscreen ingredients disrupt hormones and cause skin allergies.

The ideal sunscreen would completely block UV rays that cause sunburn, immune suppression and damaging free radicals. It would remain effective on the skin for several hours. It would not form harmful ingredients when degraded by sunlight. It would smell and feel pleasant so that people would use more of it.  No sunscreen meets these goals. Americans must choose between “chemical” sunscreens, which have inferior stability, penetrate the skin and may disrupt the body’s hormone system, and “mineral” sunscreens, made with zinc and titanium, often “micronized” or containing nano-particles. (I'm still learning about the nano-particles thing.....but it seems to be bad)

6|  If you avoid sun, check your vitamin D levels.

Sunshine serves a critical function in the body that sunscreen appears to inhibit — producing vitamin D. The hormone is enormously important. It strengthens bones and the immune system and reduces the risk of breast, colon, kidney and ovarian cancers, and perhaps other disorders.  About one-fourth of Americans have borderline low levels of vitamin D, and 8 percent have a serious deficiency. Breast-fed infants, people with darker skin and people who have limited sun exposure are at greatest risk. Many people can’t or shouldn’t rely on the sun for vitamin D. Check with your doctor to see if you should get a vitamin D test or take seasonal or year-round supplements.

Isn't that amazing information?  I'm not going to say that I did full research and answered all the questions or solved all the problems but the key here is some knowledge to get you to ask questions about what you are putting on your skin to protect yourself from the sun.

I now only use spf or sunscreen products if I am going to truly be "in the sun" for a lengthy period of time.  And there are some safe choices out there!  Check out EWG’s 2014 Guide to Sunscreens.  It was just released this past Wednesday.  Hope it helps! 

What did you learn?

Be Informed.  Be Safe.  Be Healthy.

Holistic Fashionista Recommended!

Beautycounter introduces its two newest products just in time for the summer! Protect Broad Spectrum SPF 30 All Over and Protect Broad Spectrum SPF Face are now available for purchase.  Both products are rated by the Environmental Working Group as one of the safest on the market. Please message Heather if you have any questions.

Buy it now >>

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