Ultimate Summer Sunscreen Guide | Skinny Decaf Latte

Ultimate Summer Sunscreen Guide

By on August 7, 2017

Sun01   It was 81 degrees in Portland this weekend.  It’s unseasonably warm, but it’s a peek of what’s to come.  Summer is definitely on the way.  So, I dove into my drawer, dug to the bottom and pulled out the shorts and tank.  Let’s not forget the flip flops from the back of the closet.  I’m totally ready to sit through the lacrosse tournament from 3:30 to 6:30.  Or am I?  After breathing a sigh of relief that I still fit into my shorts that haven’t been on my body since August of last year, I realized that I literally glowed.   I’m pretty sure I was going to blind everyone at the tournament with my pasty legs and arms.  As a rule, I always wear sunscreen on my face.  It’s in my moisturizer, it’s in my makeup and then I apply it again anyway.  Along with my sun hat, I was going to need some sunscreen on my body.  That’s when I realized that not only have I not worn my shorts since last August, I haven’t bought sun screen since then either.  What to do?  Do I just take my chances?  Or do I run to the store and pick some up?  Probably better safe than sorry, so off to the store I go.  Interesting how the sunscreen section of the store literally takes up an entire aisle.  The choices are overwhelming from creams, to oils to sprays.  What’s good and what’s not?  There’s also a huge range in price from $2.99 to $20.  Is more expensive better?  As I stood there completely lost in the sunscreen aisle, I decided it was time for the Ultimate Summer Sunscreen Guide.

FirSun03st, let’s address how long sunscreen actually stays good.  According to the Mayo Clinic, sunscreen is meant to keep it’s original strength for up to three years.  Well, I guess I could have just used that sunscreen in the drawer last weekend.  Many sunscreens also come with an expiration date.  So, sunscreen should be discarded within three years or by the expiration date, whichever comes first.

SPF Lowdown:  When it comes to SPF, you can buy sunscreen from a 4 to 110.  What exactly is SPF?  It’s an acronym for Sun Protection Factor and refers specifically to how much of the sun’s UVB rays the sunscreen keeps out.  As a frame of reference, SPF 15 sunscreen blocks out 93% of UVB radiation while SPF 30 blocks out nearly 97%.  Once you go over SPF 50 (which blocks 98% of UVB radiation), increased coverage is minimal.  The problem with going higher in SPF is people typically don’t take additional measures to protect themselves from the sun, or they stay out in the sun longer before reapplying.  UVB rays play a key role in skin cancer, but UVA rays should also be considered because those nasty things are the key factor in skin aging and may even initiate skin cancers.  Without UVA screening ingredients you are still susceptible to skin damaging radiation.  Europe and Australia have UVA testing guidelines for their sunscreen to avoid harmful UVA radiation.  Since the U.S. has not adopted such guidelines yet, you need to be aware and make sure you have protections from both.  The good news is that the FDA is making strides to have such regulations in place.  You can read all about it on the FDA Website.  Sunscreen Guide Bottom line:  Never use sunscreen with less than 30 SPF, and anything over 50 SPF doesn’t offer much more protection.  Choose a sunscreen that gives you both UVB/UVA protection.  Source: SkinCancer.org

How much to apply:  The one good argument for using sunscreen with a higher SPF is that most people don’t put enough on.  So, you’re at least getting some higher protection, although maybe not the full protection that SPF will give you. Typically, you need 1 oz of sunscreen to cover exposed areas.  To give you an idea of how far we miss the mark when applying sunscreen, testers apply 2 milligrams of sunscreen per square centimeter of skin when evaluating sunscreen. Typically, people apply only 0.5 milligrams of sunscreen per square centimeter of skin.  Sunscreen Guide Bottom line:  Slather it on!

Harmful Ingredients:   What is in our sunscreen that makes it so effective?  Sunscreen companies use either chemical or natural filters as active ingredients in their sunscreen.  The most common sunscreens contain chemical filters.  While protecting your skin from sun radiation, these ingredients can have a harmful effect on you in other ways.

Common chemical active ingredients:

Oxybenzone – can be toxic to reproductive systems or interfere with normal development by disrupting hormones.  It penetrates the skin and can cause allergic reactions.  It’s best to avoid this ingredient.

Octinoxate – Hormone disruptor.  Thyroid and behavioral alterations in animal studies.

Avobenzone – effective in UVA protection




The top two ingredients in this list have higher toxicity concerns, and I’ve listed what those concerns are next to the ingredients.

Mineral Sunscreens contain either zinc oxide or titanium oxide and rate better than chemical sunscreens.  When choosing a mineral sunscreen, it’s good to know that zinc oxide protects better against UVA rays than titanium oxide.

Sunscreen Guide Bottom line:  Read the labels folks.  Just like you do for food, do it for your sunscreen.  Our skin is the largest organ in our body and we should be just as concerned with what we put on ourselves as we are with what we put in ourselves.

For all the information you ever wanted to know on the ingredients found in sunscreen, visit ewg.org.

Sunscreen for Baby:  Typically, it is inadvisable to apply sunscreen to infants under 6 months old.  If baby is going to be spending a lot of time in the sun (also not advisable) make sure you give your pediatrician a call first.Sun04

Sunscreen for kids:  One of the benefits of using a sunscreen labeled specifically for kids is that they tend to not contain fragrances and other harsh ingredients that can cause skin irritation.  Don’t get lazy, however, about reading the labels.  Some companies just switch the labels between their adult sunscreens and kid’s sunscreens.  When choosing a children’s sunscreen, try to stick with mineral based sunscreens vs. chemical based sunscreens.  Mineral based sunscreens can be challenging, however, when you have a squirming 6 year old dying to build a sandcastle on the beach. If you do use a chemical based sunscreen, avoid sunscreens with Oxybenzone or Octinoxate.  Both are known hormone disruptors, as mentioned above. Click here for a list of safer sunscreens.

By far, your best sunscreen resource is EWG.org.  A lot of the information for this post came from here.  Summer is on the way along with fun times!  No need to ruin it with nasty sunburns.  Plus, moms, we don’t want to see any new wrinkles at the end of the season so don’t forget to protect against both UVB and UVA rays.

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