Gents, it’s time to be clear on summer skin. Since humanity blew a hole in the earth’s ozone layer, it is now dangerous for us to go outside without a protective barrier between us and the sun’s rays. This is why we need to use products that contain SPF, or Sun Protection Factor – sunscreens that reflect and/or absorb the sun’s harmful rays. Any dermatologist I’ve ever spoken to has stressed the importance of using an SPF in our skin care regimen because of the effects of sun exposure – accelerated aging and the possibility of skin cancer.
A frightening statistic from the Canadian Cancer Society states 5500 people will diagnose with melanoma this year and of these, 950 will die. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Getting into the habit of using a moisturizer with sun protection is a great insurance policy.
This summer, you may notice some changes in the wording on your sunscreen bottles. In 2011 in the U.S., regulation changes require sunscreen products to follow a standardized labeling system to specify products that have the best protection from harmful solar rays. The system will also ban the words “sunblock” (the word gives the false impression of protection), “sweat-proof” and “waterproof” (also false claims – products claiming to be water-resistant must indicate how long the product remains effective when exposed to water). See this CTV piece for more information.
Under the new standardized labelling system, only sunscreen products that protect against both UVB (causes sunburn), and UVA (leads to premature aging) radiation and have an SPF of 15 or higher, will qualify to be labelled as “Broad Spectrum.”
Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation in the U.S., says “sunscreen that is not broad spectrum or is broad spectrum but is lower than SPF 15 will have to carry a warning statement saying it has not been shown to prevent skin cancer or early skin aging.”
This is good news. Below is information to help educate you about sunscreens and the nasty chemicals that are present in many. Following this, I’ve added some links to help you make wiser, natural choices in sunscreen.
Info and options
I spoke to Sara Schlatter, an Arbonne Consultant who educated me about her ethical, premium, green, Swiss-formulated brand of personal care products. The Arbonne line uses botanicals and antioxidants in their sunscreens, as opposed to some of the toxic stuff we’re offered on store shelves in North America. I learned that in Switzerland, ingredients must be proven safe before used in products. Conversely, ingredients can be added until proven harmful in Canada (what’s wrong with this picture?).
Arbonne does not contain preservatives (products are fresh!) and their literature explains hazardous ingredients to stay away from, so fellas, do read your product labels:
- PABA: Though rarely used now in sunscreens, beware of products that contain the ingredient. Forty percent of the population is sensitive to it, experiencing red, itchy skin;
- Parabens (butyl-, ethyl-, methyl-, and propyl-): Parabens are used as preservatives. They may cause skin rashes, redness, and pain, or, after inhalation, irritation of the eyes and the mucosa of the nose and throat. Parabens may also mimic estrogen, but because they are common in sunscreens, avoiding them may prove difficult.
–>When reading your product ingredient list, parabens will be found close to the end. When you look at your labels, you’ll find that parabens are in almost everything you buy in a drug store – shaving products, shampoo, deodorant, and moisturizers, so think about investigating a local health food store and trying an alternative brand that does not contain parabens.
- Padimate-O and Parsol 1789 (2-ethylhexyl-4-dimethylaminobenzoic acid and avobenzone): These two chemicals have the potential to damage DNA when illuminated with sunlight. On the skin’s surface, these chemicals do protect from UV damage; however, once absorbed into the skin, these same chemicals can prove destructive;
- Alcohol, Isopropyl (SD40) dries up the skin, promotes brown spots and premature skin aging;
- Propylene/butylene glycol is derived from petroleum. Causes skin irritation, dermatitis, may inhibit cell growth, can cause liver and kidney damage.
If this isn’t scary enough, the chemicals used as fragrance and filler in many personal care products can affect sperm count and testosterone, and influence the function of the liver, kidney, and lungs. I’m not sure that saving a little money by buying cheap grooming products is worth putting your internal organs, and your general health at risk, but I’ll let you be the judge.
To make your life a bit easier, choose a moisturizer with SPF already in it so you only have one product to apply. Here are some good options:
Keep in mind that the more inexpensive the product, the less pure it’s going to be and undoubtedly, the more chemicals it will have in its formula. Sara says the most effective sunscreen should contain at least 7% zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to protect against UVA and UVB rays, with an SPF of 15 or higher.