How do I choose a sunscreen?
There are many factors when it comes to sunscreen, but most importantly is finding a good quality product that you will actually wear every day! In our opinion, mineral sunscreen is preferable to chemical filters because they are well tolerated by most skin (watch the video to learn the difference between mineral and chemical filters).
There is good reason to opt for mineral sunscreens. A recent study from the Journal of the American Medical Association found that sunscreen chemicals make their way into the bloodstream and out of caution pediatricians and dermatologists recommend that babies, children, and pregnant individuals opt to use mineral sunscreen over chemical filters .* Other studies are ongoing to determine the effect chemical filters and hormone disruption, which put into question which chemical sunscreen filters should be used.
Mineral sunscreen is also ideal for sensitive skin, causing less irritation, and is the primary recommended by the National Eczema Association for anyone suffering with eczema.
If you’ve made the decisions to use a mineral sunscreen, you may be scratching your head and thinking, now what? What do I buy? Where do I buy it? Does it actually work?
The ABCs of Sunscreen
Follow these ABCs and you’ll be on your way to selecting a good quality and effective mineral sunscreen!
A – ACCREDITATION
Health Canada requires that all chemical sunscreens have a DIN (drug identification number). In the same way, all natural/mineral sunscreens are required to have a NPN (Natural Product Number). When buying mineral sunscreen, check for the NPN which indicates that the product has been regulated as effective sun protection and the SPF is accurate. This number should be located on the side of the bottle.
B- BROAD SPECTRUM
Ensure that the sunscreen you choose has a broad coverage with both UVA and UVB protection.
UVA rays = “Ultra Violet Aging” rays
These rays penetrate deep into the skin causing the signs of aging, like wrinkles and dark spots. Shade and windows do not protect you from UVA rays and it may be years before you notice the damage done.
UVB rays = “Ultra Violet Burning” rays
These rays cause burning, redness, and blisters. Fortunately you can protect yourself from these rays by staying in the shade and covering up.
When choosing an SPF (Sun Protection Factor), a higher number is not necessarily always better. SPF is only a calculation of the effect of UVB rays. It indicates how long it will take the UVB rays to burn the skin when using a sunscreen. For example, in the sun it takes 20 minutes for me to burn, so if you multiply 20 by the SPF number (let’s say 15) then theoretically that will give me 5 hours of protection.
(20 mins x 15 SPF = 5 hrs of sun protection)
A SPF 30 offers approximately 97% coverage from UVB radiation and a SPF 50 offers approximately 98% coverage. While a higher SPF number offer some extra protection, it does not change the amount of time you can stay in the sun without reapplying. You still need to reapply every 2 hours, using the recommended amount of sunscreen, to get the full SPF coverage listed on the bottle.
SPF 30 is always a safe bet. Higher SPF will cost a bit more, include more active ingredients (if it’s a chemical block it can cause more irritation, or mineral block could be more chalky), and could give a false sense of protection. Meaning, if you apply a high SPF, you may be more inclined to think you can stay in the sun longer without reapplying.
Fun fact: Based on Health Canada regulations no product can be called a sun “block”, even if it’s mineral based, because no sunscreen is 100% protection. Similarly no product can be called “sweat proof”.
* It's important to note that further research needs to be conducted on the affects of sunscreen. This JAMA study only looked at the absorption of sunscreen within adults, and did not study any potential harm to the body.