It is officially summer! If you are like us, then you are so excited for warmth, sunshine, family beach trips, and so much more. However, with summer comes the need to take extra precautions for the health of our skin. Did you know that each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer combined? That makes skin cancer the most common cancer in the United States. The rates of melanoma have been rising rapidly over the past few decades and this year, it is American Cancer Society that about 99,780 new melanomas will be diagnosed in America, with 7,650 expected to die from it.
According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, a person’s risk for melanoma doubles if he or she has had more than five sunburns, so it is incredibly important to wear sunscreen whenever you are outside. Just by wearing SPF 15 or higher when you are outside, you can reduce the risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma by 40% and you can reduce the risk of developing melanoma by 50%.
Tips for Preventing Skin Cancer
- Wear sunscreen whenever you are outdoors.
- 10am-2pm are the peak burn hours, so whenever possible, plan your activities for the morning or evening to avoid being exposed during this time.
- Wear protective clothing such as shirts with UPF protection, sunglasses with UV protection, and a hat.
- Spend time in the shade. If there is not shade available, bring and umbrella or a tent to create your own.
- If you are out in the sun, reapply sunscreen frequently.
- Avoid tanning beds, sun lamps, tanning pills, or any tan enhancing products.
Choosing the Best Sunscreen
There are so many different brands of sunscreen, and more are being added to the shelves every year. Not to mention that inadequate regulations governing the safety and efficacy of sunscreens means store shelves will be filled with sunscreen products that either offer inadequate production or use potentially hazardous ingredients, or both. This can make nearly to pick the best sunscreen for you and your family. Luckily, EWG’s 2022 Guide to Sunscreens shared these tips for choosing the safest, most effective sunscreen:
- Don’t Assume Higher SPF is Better: According to the FDA, high-SPF labeled products are misleading and give a false sense of protection. They are also made with higher concentrations of chemicals and some of these ingredients penetrating the skin in high doses may pose health risks, including tissue damage and hormone disruption. Sunscreen with values of 30-50 SPF will offer adequate sunburn protection if applied correctly, even for people most susceptible to sunburn.
- Avoid Sunscreens with Oxybenzone: Alarmingly, research shows that just one application of chemical-based sunscreens allows those chemicals to be absorbed by the skin for days after the application. The most common sunscreen chemical, oxybenzone, is an allergen and a hormone disruptor that is a hazard to human health and has negative effects on the environment.
- Avoid Sunscreens with Vitamin A: A form of Vitamin A contained in sunscreens, retinyl palmitate, may actually speed up the development of skin tumors and lesions when applied to the skin exposed to direct sunlight.
- Look for Mineral Sunscreens: Mineral sunscreens are made with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These types of sunscreens rank higher in safety than chemical-based sunscreens and are generally recognized as safe and effective, as well as more stable in sunlight.
- Look for Fragrance Free: Fragrance free sunscreens contain less chemicals and are gentle on the skin.
- Scan the Inactive Ingredients: Avoid sunscreens that list “methylisothiazolinone” as an inactive ingredient or preservative. It is a skin sensitizer or allergen, and has been linked to causing severe skin allergies, especially in children exposed to the ingredient.
- Avoid Spray and Powder Products: There are concerns about the effectiveness of spray and powder sunscreens and it is believed that they may cause irreversible damage if inhaled deeply into the lungs. Until further testing is done on these products, it is best to avoid them all together.
It is important to note that sunscreen regulations have not been updated since 2011. That is why we highly recommend reading through the EWG’s 16th Annual Guide to Sunscreens before choosing a sunscreen, moisturizer, or lip balm to ensure you and your family remain protected and healthy! If are looking for a specific product, EWG has created lists with the best products in each category. Click here to view them!