Beauty and the Sunscreen

Since we're talking about getting outdoors this month, PLEASE don't forget the sunscreen. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article about sunscreen for a parenting blog because a lot of folks still aren't using sunscreen on their kids. But it turns out that a lot of adults are stepping into the sun's rays without adequate sun protection on themselves. That's where I come in, with some tips on preserving the health of your gorgeous skin. Sure, we hardly used any sunscreen at all back in the day (no, my darlings, cocoa butter doesn't count - I wish I did). But with global warming and the dwindling ozone layer the sun is a whole different thing right now. You can enjoy it, but you've got to play it safe.

So what should you look for when you're ready to buy a sunscreen? First of all, not all sunscreens are created equal. In fact, some barely live up to the name. But here's one thing all the experts agree on - an effective sunscreen must protect against both UVA and UVB rays. That's because while UVB rays get most of the blame for sunburn, both kinds of rays contribute to skin cancer.

I won't lie. As an African-American, I've had to go through a few tubes of sunscreen before I found ones that didn't mess with my sensitive skin or make me look like the white shadow. Much could be written about the challenge of finding an effective sunscreen for darker skin. But find one you must. Despite what you might have heard, people of all races can indeed develop skin cancer. VERY dark skin can have a natural SPF of about 13. (Don't be fooled, most of us do not have SPF 13 skin.) But dermatologists say you need an SPF of at least 15 to be protected. They recommend wearing sunscreen daily. But if you're going to spend any significant time outdoors, it's important to not only slather on sunscreen before you leave the house, but also to reapply it after a couple of hours.

My personal experience is that anyone with sensitive skin should avoid most sunscreens with the ingredients avobenzone or oxybenzone. I wore a sunscreen with these ingredients during a trip to the zoo on Father's Day and got an itch on my legs that is just now starting to fade. If you're a Sensitive Sally like me, don't do it. Unfortunately the chemicals avobenzone and oxybenzone are in most of the broad-spectrum sunscreens found in your neighborhood drugstores and grocery stores. If you're trying to avoid them, that leaves you with natural/mineral sunscreens. Natural suncreen contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide (or both), which used to leave a slight white cast to the skin. But nowadays many companies have discovered ways to get those particles very small - not nano sized, but- small enough to wipe-out or dramatically cut down on the ghastly tinge. For now I like and use:

Jason Mineral Based Sun Block SPF 30+
COOLA Face SPF 30 Matte - Cucumber
BurnOut Eco-Sensitive Zinc Oxide Sunscreen SPF 32
Loving Naturals Clear Vegan SPF 30+ Sunscreen Non-Nano Zinc Oxide UVA/UVB 4.3 oz.
Aubrey Organics SPF 15 Saving Face

You can find more options on the EWG list and on similar sites on the internet.

But now it's your turn. Please sound off. Did I leave anything out? What is YOUR experience with sun exposure and sunscreen? Or lack of?? Do tell!


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