How to Choose the Best Sunscreen
There are two types of sunscreens: physical and chemical. Physical sunscreens rely on tiny particles of zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to deflect ultraviolet rays so they can’t get beneath the layers of your skin. These are arguably the safest of sunscreens. They don’t penetrate the skin, or react with it chemically.
• Broad-spectrum protection
To be truly effective, a sunscreen must offer protection from all wavelengths of ultraviolet radiation. UV light is divided into two wavelength ranges (UVA and UVB). Both types are thought to cause DNA damage within skin cells; both can trigger skin cancer. Older sunscreens failed to screen out UVA rays. UVB rays are more likely to cause burns, but UVA rays penetrate deeper, and they’re just as dangerous. Look for sunscreens labeled “broad spectrum”. • Avoid any sunscreen that lists retinal palmitate as an ingredient. This vitamin A derivative is a surface antioxidant, but when exposed to sunlight it may actually encourage skin cancer!
• High-SPF is Hype
Avoid spending extra money on sunscreens that claim to offer SPF greater than 50. The FDA has called high-SPF products “inherently misleading,” because they encourage people to take unnecessary risks and do not offer the incrementally greater protection that high SPF numbers imply.
• Buy European, if you can.
European products offer better UVA protection than products currently available in the United States. The FDA has dragged its feet on approving newer ingredients that have been benefiting Europeans for years. These superior ingredients, such as mexoryl (ecamsule), are available in a handful of imported products, such as La Roche-Posay’s Anthelios line. I’ll warn you; they’re pricey. But given that a good-quality, safe, reliable sunscreen may be the single biggest beauty investment you ever make (keep the youthful skin you have longer), it’s arguably worth it.
• Mineral sunscreen ingredients are probably safest
Nanoparticle technology means that today’s zinc oxide is not your grandfather’s white warpaint. By miniaturizing this type of mineral, or physical, sunscreen agent, manufacturers are able to offer a product that blocks UV while going on more or less invisible. These products do not interact with the body or penetrate the skin.
• Daily sunscreen use has been proven to prevent or at least delay the development of wrinkles and saggy skin.