Might your sunblock be hurting you?


‘Tis the time for holiday vacations once again!  Before you get packed for your next beach holiday, take some time to find out if your sunblock is good enough to protect you from the sun’s harmful UV rays.

Is SPF enough?

SPF is a measure of how much longer you can stay under the sun without burning.  When your sunblock reads SPF 30, it means that it takes 30 times longer for your skin to burn under the sun than if you weren’t wearing SPF protection.  An SPF rating is based on the average time it took test subjects to burn with the product on versus without SPF protection.

What many of us aren’t aware of is that SPF only measures the UVB protection your sunblock provides.  So, if you want UVA protection too, always look for “broad spectrum” protection on the labels.

How your sunblock may be hurting you

The sunblock,  which your mom probably trusted way back when you were little, can do you more harm than good.  According to the Environmental Working Group’s “The Trouble with Sunscreen Chemicals”, most sunblock or sunscreen products are made from toxic ingredients that can lead to immediate and long-term adverse effects to your skin and overall health.

Among the chemicals mentioned in the report, Oxybenzone and Octinoxate, which also happen to be the most common ingredients found in our most trusted and best sunblocks, have been found to  be highly toxic.  Along with the more moderately graded chemical, Homosalate, Oxybenzone and Octinoxate have been proven to disrupt normal hormone-regulated body processes.  These have also been shown to easily get transfered from mother to child.  Therefore, expectant and breastfeeding mothers ought to be extra careful not to be in contact with these chemicals.

Other chemicals which are also commonly infused in face sunblocks and sunblock lotions are Octisalate, Octocrylene, Titanium Dioxide, Zinc Oxide, Avobenzone and Mexoryl SX.  These have been reported to cause skin allergies in varying frequencies, from common to rare.

Tips to find the best sunblock

There are generally two types of sunblocks.  One category includes chemical sunblocks which work by transforming the harmful UVA and UVB rays into non-harmful forms like heat.  To do that, these sunblock creams use powerful, synthetic chemicals in their formulation.  The other class of sunblocks are mineral, which work by forming a physical barrier between your skin and the sun.

If you have sensitive skin, stay away from chemical sunblocks, most especially the highly irritating ingredients, Avobenzone and Oxybenzone.  Your best sunblock must be those that contain Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide, which happen to be the only mineral sunscreens from the active sunblock ingredients mentioned above.

There are also several other botanical-based sunblocks available in the market today but,  there are very limited studies available to back up their claims.  Also, the access and distribution of these types of all-natural sunblocks remain limited.

If in case, you finally wake up to the truth that your sunblock is not quite the best you expected it to be and decide to shift to another brand, remember to always test for allergies by applying a pea-sized amount of the product on a small patch of your face.  Leave it on for until the following morning and see if a rash developed.  If you experience itching, swelling and redness, forget that product and try something else.

You should also steer clear of sunblocks that have Vitamin A or retinol in them.  These only cause your skin to become more reactive to the sun.  Keep the retinols part of your night time skincare routine.

Beyond applying your best sunblock

In the US, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.  The Skin Cancer Foundation has projected that at least 1 in 5 Americans will suffer from skin cancer during their lifetime.

Filipinos are fortunately taught not to go out into the sun too much (after all the kind of sunlight we get can be so much more intense!).  Isn’t that why whitening soaps and whitening creams remain to be such big hits in the local market?  And while vanity is the main reason why we take cover, it is good practice to stay under the shade when you absolutely do not need to be out in the sun.

However, if and when you do need to get out there, for whatever reason and, sometimes, to have fun as well, keep in mind that even the best sunblock cannot protect you from the intense summer heat.  So, follow the tips below for your added protection:

  1. Put on your broad-brimmed hat!  It does not only protect a larger area of your skin but also adds femininity, style and grace to your summer outfit.

  2. Wear your sunglasses.  Doing so protects your eyesight too.

  3. Dress up in your long sleeves and long pants.  If you are expecting to get sun soaked for a considerable period, get those long blouses and pants on.  Keep yourself cool by choosing sheer fabric.

  4. Darken up those car windows.  If you will be spending a lot of time driving, consider getting your windshield and your car windows tinted with a darker shade.

  5. Reapply your sunblock every two hours or after sweating or soaking in water.


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