I’ve recently been shocked by the news about aerosol sunscreens catching people on fire. Five people literally burst into flames last year from being near fire, like a barbeque or campfire. This was after they had applied the aerosol sunscreen, not while they were applying it.
Even though it shouldn’t be, sunscreen can be tricky business. It is hard to keep track of what to buy, how often to apply and all the changing regulations that seriously affect your health when it comes to sun protection.
Unfortunately, many use their sunscreens incorrectly, ineffectively and unsafely. Given the news about people accidentally burning themselves, I was inspired to share my top tips to help keep you and your family safe.
- Get Physical
The difference between chemical and physical blocks is that light is either absorbed into the sunblock material or reflected away from the body back into the atmosphere similar to a mirror. A chemical block has the ability to be absorbed by the skin, sunlight is rendered invalid upon contact. A physical block sits on the skin’s surface and does not have the ability to be absorbed into the skin. I recommend the use of ONLY Zinc and titanium as active ingredients. These are the physical mineral blocks. Physical blocks provide both UVA and UVB protection, and they are non-irritating as well as non-allergenic. If your sunscreen has an active ingredient other than zinc or titanium, try something new.
- Apply Yourself
All sunscreen applicators are not alike. Although wipes, sprays and even powdered sunscreens have flooded the market in recent years, the most effective way to apply sunscreen is to liberally use a lotion-based one. Sprays are typically not a good choice for several reasons. Have you ever watched your friends or kids spray themselves? Usually what happens is most of the sunscreen blows away in the breeze, leaving the skin with hardly any coverage. Sunscreen sprays nearly always use skin-absorbing chemicals, many of which are flammable and/or contain known endocrine disruptors. Wipes are problematic as it’s difficult to tell how much you’re applying. In fact, you may be wiping just as much sunscreen off as you’re wiping on. There’s even a powdered sunscreen on the market that you use a brush to apply but not only does powder not stay on your skin, it can also be dangerous to breathe in.
Combination products like all-in-one sunscreen and bug repellent also have their foibles. Sunscreen should typically be reapplied at least every two hours or sooner and bug repellent typically requires reapplication every 60 to 90 minutes. This means you’re either applying too much sunscreen or too little bug repellent. Even though sprays or other forms of application can seem faster or more convenient, they simply aren’t worth the risk. Use a little elbow grease and spend a little extra time to rub yourself and your loved ones down with a classic lotion sunscreen.
- Bigger is Not Always Better
SPF is an acronym for “Sun Protection Factor.” Protective products typically range from an SPF of 2 to an SPF of 60. An increasing number of products have been on the market claiming an SPF of 100 or more. In theory, a higher SPF product provides more protection; however, that is marketing and not reality. Once you get to SPF 35, that is essentially the end of the road.
Additional SPF beyond 35 does not provide additional meaningful protection. Also, remember that product wears off with sweat, water, drool, and also when the skin comes in contact with clothing, food, sand, dirt and so on. If water is involved, check the label to see if your product is water resistant to 40 minutes or 80 minutes or not at all. Remember also that a great deal of UV exposure comes from reflected light off the ground, water and other objects so a hat or umbrella is not a substitute. Use an SPF 35. Reapply when you get out of water, when in doubt, when exposed to reflected rays, and at least every 2 hours.
Kim Walls is the founder and creator of Episencial BabyTime.