Safe sunscreen is one of the products that concerned consumers ask about most. We want to protect our skin from the damaging, possibly carcinogenic rays while enjoying time outdoors, in nature, getting sun-kissed without having to worry about chemicals. Sadly, sunscreen is complicated. Sometimes the chemicals that are designed to protect skin can be harmful to our health in other ways and harsh to other elements in nature, particularly aquatic life such as fish or coral reefs.
Does this mean we should skip the sunscreen?
Sunscreen is a vital summertime tool that protects humans from UV light—specifically UVA and UVB. UVA light is associated with premature aging of skin (think A: Aging). UVB is associated with sunburn and damage to the skin (think B: Burning). It is important to protect our bodies against both.
When you buy sunscreen, you are usually just searching for SPF: Sun Protection Factor. The number that accompanies the SPF on the package indicates the level of protection against UVB rays only, meaning that SPF numbering is not straightforward.
SPF 30 doesn’t mean you are protected from 30% of UVB rays. In fact, the SPF number isn’t equated with the amount of protection or coverage one receives. SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB rays. SPF 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays. SPF 50 is expected to block 98% of UVB rays. And SPF 100 blocks 99% of UVB rays.
If you’re wondering about protection from UVA rays as well (since SPF doesn’t measure protection for UVA), you want to search for a “broad spectrum” sunscreen, as that provides protection against both UVA and UVB rays.
In addition to checking sunscreen for the term “broad spectrum,” remember to avoid sunscreen with added fragrance, scent or parfum. Hidden under “trade secret” protections, the chemical concoctions can be composed of dozens, even hundreds, of ingredients — most unnecessary, and many potentially harmful.
Fragrance is just one example of harmful substances found in conventional sunscreen. For more information on ingredients to avoid when selecting sunscreen this season, check out the MADE SAFE Sunscreen Fact Sheet.
Find safe sunscreen on our MADE SAFE® Certified Personal Care products page.