How to protect your skin from sun damage

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Wearing an effective sunscreen on a daily basis is something that not only can  prevent burning, but is proven to help prevent skin cancer. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, more than 3.5 million people are diagnosed with some form of skin cancer each year. In addition to skin cancer, a majority of skin’s premature aging and damage can be linked to sun exposure.


If you get an up close look at the skin of those who do not wear sunscreen or who go to tanning beds (please don’t!), you most likely will notice brown spots, uneven texture and tone, more noticeable fine lines and wrinkles.

I know so many people equate a tan with good health, but this is false. People will argue that having a tan will make you look thinner, younger, healthier, etc. A tan, though, is evidence of skin damage rather than good health. I am super fair. I burn very easily. Any natural “tan” I get comes a couple weeks after a painful sunburn.

I am all for having a bronze glow. I don’t want to put on shorts or my bathing suit and see porcelain legs anymore than most of you do. I wear sunscreen and any tan I have comes from a bronzer or self tanner.

Applying a natural sunscreen is one of the single most important things we can do for our skin. There is so much credible evidence out there that advocates the importance of wearing sunscreen.

I live in Upstate New York where it is cloudy for much of fall through spring. I wear my sunscreen even in January’s cloudiest days–and there are many of those days in this neck of the woods.

Avoiding harmful ingredients when it comes to sunscreen, though, can be very difficult. There are some harmful ingredients used in sunscreens and it is up to the consumers to read the ingredients list and know what it good and what is not. I want to provide you with a simple guide to choosing the best sunscreen for your family.

Here are some tips that I recommend:

*Making sure that a sunscreen’s UVA protection is sufficient is very important. Both UVA and UVB rays are harmful, but UVA rays are generally more harmful because they penetrate deeper into the skin and can cause the cell changes that are linked to cancer.

*Do not choose powders or sprays. While I realize that a spray can be quick and convenient, you end up inhaling what is in the product and this can be harmful to your health. Yes, it may take a bit longer to apply and thoroughly blend in, but you do not want to sacrifice good health and adequate sun protection by choosing the wrong formula.

*If you see a product with a label of higher than SPF 50, be suspicious. I have seen products at the store claiming to be “SPF 100+.” That sounds super protective, doesn’t it? It isn’t. The FDA says that numbers beyond SPF 50 are misleading. This gives people a false sense of safety and often makes them think they can stay in the sun all day long.

*Mineral sunscreens are best. Look for products with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.These are generally a safer option because they are what is known as a physical sunscreen. They provide a barrier and reflect the UV rays. These ingredients are not absorbed into the skin.


Myth #1: Natural sunscreens are all thick and hard to rub in.

Yes, natural sunscreens generally are thicker than their counterparts. However, the bulk of natural sunscreens are fortified with natural emollients such as argan oil, jojoba oil, hyaluronic acid and more. These not only moisturize the skin, but they absorb beautifully into the skin.

Myth #2: Natural sunscreens leave a white film behind on the skin.

This is not always the case. When these products first came on the market, they were usually formulated solely around zinc oxide. This is the ingredient that blocks the sun’s rays, but it also can leave that white residue. Products are being formulated to still protect the skin naturally, but also be more user friendly nowadays.
For example, ZENMED SPF 40 Mineral Sunscreen goes on clear and leaves no residue.

Myth #3: Natural sunscreens do not protect your skin as well as traditional sunscreens.

Not true. As long as you use the recommend amount, natural sunscreens will work just as well as chemical sunscreens. By the way, this applies to all sunscreens. If you’re not using the proper amount, they won’t work as well.

Myth #4: Natural sunscreens are too expensive.

Natural sunscreens generally are more costly than drugstore chemical-filled and potentially harmful sunscreens. This is true. What is so important to remember, though, is that a good sunscreen is going to be one of the best skin cancer preventing, anti-aging products you can buy. Since much of aging can be attributed to UV damage, sunscreen usage is imperative. Most people will not hesitate to spend quite a bit of money on a night cream or serum or on a handbag or shoes. In fact, I know of people who will spend $250 on a handbag, but do not want to spend the money on an effective natural sunscreen. Think of it this way: you only have one skin. It should only make sense that you take care of it. Sunscreen can help prevent skin cancer AND help prevent the signs of aging. Not many products can say that!


*Some people falsely believe that if one is olive-skinned or very dark that they won’t burn. This couldn’t be more false. Yes, these people will show a tan rather than a burn, but a tan is a key sign of sun damage at the cellular level. A tan is unhealthy. No ifs, ands or buts. In fact, many people who only tan and never burn are more likely to develop skin cancer because their skin is unprotected.

*Many people also think if they apply sunscreen, they won’t get the Vitamin D they need for their health. I know of people who skip the SPF because they claim they are “getting Vitamin D”. In reality, the NIH states that just 5 minutes of daily sun exposure is what is required for the synthesis of Vitamin D. Think of how much you get while sitting by the window or driving your car alone. Between food sources, supplements, and LIMITED exposure to the sun, you should be getting what you need.

*Men don’t need sunscreen. This is another myth. Is that man in your life applying sunscreen each day? Mine isn’t. Once a year or so, my husband will get a bad sunburn. He rarely applies sunscreen unless I nag him into it. He always says that since his burn evolves into a tan, he’ll be ‘just fine’. Many people believe this. The issue, though, is the fact that more men than women will be diagnosed with skin cancer. Men are also less likely to use sunscreen. Advertisers also spend MUCH MORE MONEY marketing sunscreens to women. GET your man to wear sunscreen! It just may safe his life.

*I also hear many people saying they only need sunscreen on their faces. Your arms and legs need it, too. All exposed skin is susceptible.

When you’re shopping for new sundresses, shorts, flip flops and other summer items, be sure that you add a sunscreen to your must-have list. It just may save your life — at the very least, it will prevent some of the visible signs of aging.



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