Best sunblock

How does one possibly decide on what is the best sunblock when there are so many anomalies involved? Walking into any store that sells sunblocks and being confronted with such a huge variety can be very confusing.

I believe there are 3 key aspects to consider when choosing the best sunblock...

  • Know your skin type
  • Depending on your skin type, know how to choose a sunblock that protects at the right level against both of the sun's UVA and UVB rays
  • Then, make sure to choose a sunblock as natural and organic as possible

Skin Type

How susceptible is your skin to sun damage and related conditions like age spots, liver spots, and skin cancer? Your skin color has a significant bearing on how much natural protection it gives you from the sun and therefor on deciding what is the best sunblock for you. eg. Black skin offers 30 times the protection than pale skin.

The following 6 skin types were described after extensive observations by Dr. Thomas B. Fitzpatrick of Harvard medical school in 1975 and are still very valid amongst the variety of classifications used today.

  • Highly sensitive to the sun, almost always burning, never tanning. Usually very pale white skin, or highly freckled or albino. People with red or blond hair and blue/hazel eyes are usually type 1
  • Very sensitive to the sun, will easily burn, very little if any tanning. Most people with fair skin and blue eyes are type 2
  • Usually sensitive to the sun, sometimes burning, slow tan that becomes a light brown. Skin usually a darker shade of white. eg. European mix and darker Caucasians
  • Minimally sensitive to the sun, usually have minimal sun burning, will tan to a medium brown. Usually light brown in skin color. eg. American Indian, Hispanic, Mediterranean, Asian or European
  • Usually not sensitive to the sun, will very rarely get sun burns, will tan very well to a medium or dark brown. Usually brown in skin color. eg. Hispanic, African, Middle Eastern or Afro-American
  • Not sensitive to the sun at all, never gets sunburnt, skin will turn a darker brown when exposed to sun. Skin has a very dark pigmentation. eg usually from Afro-American, Middle Eastern or African heritage

UVA and UVB protection

From a labeling point of view, much lobbying by various bodies has been done against the term 'sunblock' being used, as it implies the sun's rays will be blocked completely. The same logic is applied to arguing against 'waterproof' and 'all-day protection' labels, both of which should not be interpreted literally.

So, it is best to assume that the best sunblock for you can only offer the protection it has been certified for and will never block out the sun completely. SPF (sun protection factor) certification is recognised globally, informing you what sun protection is offered against the UVB rays. There are a variety of certifications for UVA rays, which include Boots Star, UVA-PF (PPD) (Persistent Pigment Darkening), Critical Wavelength or UVA/UVB ratio and Australian Standard.

SPF measures the length of time a product protects against skin reddening from UVB, compared to how long the skin takes to redden without protection. If it takes 20 minutes without protection to begin reddening, using an SPF 15 sunscreen theoretically prevents reddening 15 times longer - about 5 hours. But remember, it may take up to 24 hours after sun exposure for the redness to become visible. To maintain the effectiveness of the SPF, reapply the best sunblock for you every two hours and immediately after swimming or sweating a lot.

The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends SPF's of at least 15, which block 93 percent of UVB. While SPF's higher than 30 block only 4 percent more UVB, they may be the best sunblock for sun-sensitive individuals. However, note that even a sunblock of SPF 100 does not block out the sun completely.

UVA certifications vary. Boots Star is quite simple in that protection is certified from 1 star to 5 star, where 5 Star provides the best coverage. It is based on the UVA/UVB-ratio as illustrated below:

Boots Star Chart

Can 'natural, organic' provided the best sunblock?

Being exposed to the sun is not just about suntanning, as so many of us today look for some good time outdoors either for leisure purposes or sport, or even in our work. Sunblock manufacturers are typically not going to lecture you on whether or not suntanning, or being outdoors exposed to the sun, is a healthy practice or not.

Being in the sun in a healthy way or not can also be a choice.

There are some sunblock product manufacturers who are endeavoring to create the best sunblock so that you can enjoy the sun and all of the benefits it brings without any harmful health outcomes.

One needs to become aware of and wary of an increasing number of suspected carcinogens as well as endocrine disruptors present in many popular sunscreens or sunblocks. Carcinogens are substances capable of causing cancer in living tissue. Endocrine disruptors are synthetic chemicals suspected of causing declining sperm counts and cancer of the testicles, prostate, and breast.

The following are some of the suspected ingredients contained in sunblocks even those commonly perceived to be the best sunblocks:

Suspected Carcinogens:

  • diethanolamine and related ingredients (DEA, TEA)
  • padimate-o
  • cinnamates
  • titanium dioxide

Suspected Endocrine Disruptors:

  • benzophenone (oxybenzone)
  • homosalate
  • octyl-methoxycinnamate (octinoxate)
  • parabens (methyl, ethyl, butyl, propyl)

It is also of interest to note that while these are suspected of being extremely toxic to people, they are also suspected of being harmful to the environment when we swim, as the chemicals then enter the water. eg. Diethanolamine has been found in waterways, and benzophenone has been found in the water, air and soil.

In addition, one needs to be aware that some sunscreens can create skin irritations. Chemicals such as avobenzone, benzophenone, octyl-methoxycinnamate, and PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid) are said to be ones to avoid if your skin reacts negatively.

If we acknowledge that it is extremely difficult for there to be legislation for absolutely everything, is it not beneficial to take the ownership upon oneself to become well informed and do your own sleuth work to understand what is healthy or not healthy to put on your body? In other words find the best sunblock for you after you've become better informed.

Actually, you could go so far as to question whether or not the legislative bodies that exist already, act in your best interests. For example, the US's Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has an approved list of what they regard as the best sunblock ingredients some of which are alleged to be carcinogenic!

Choosing the best sunblock containing a physical, mineral sunscreen of Zinc Oxide and no other chemical sunscreens, together with wholesome natural, organic ingredients for the rest of the ingredients, is going to provide you with the healthiest option.

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