Everything You Know About Sunscreen is a Lie.{Part 1}


Well, only most of it... Ok...mostly some of it. But there are some untruths that I'd like you to know before you head out to the beaches of Hawaii or that bike tour in Bordeaux (YES, please.), or to your neighbor's backyard BBQ (don't forget your CLOAK for that one). It could save your skin, today, and twenty years from now. And then you could come back and thank me with a free bike tour to Bordeaux.

Credit: Clos Montmartre/ Son of Groucho  

Allons- Y!

  Skin cancer, sun damaged skin,  and premature aging are what we are trying to avoid when we wear sunblock and sunscreen. So, to begin, lets talk about (as much as science knows) how we get skin cancer from the sun. I'll be brief-ish.

 The sun has three types of rays:

UVA: These rays penetrate slowly and deeply. They won't get ya red on the day of exposure-their damage results in melanoma years later. They occur from sun up to sun down, even on cloudy days, and can penetrate through glass, too. Look for the term "Broad Spectrum" on the product label when fighting these guys. (Hint: Zinc Oxide can handle these guys easily)
UVB: These are the short and hard rays- they cause sunburn immediately, squamous cell and basil cell carcinoma later, and contribute to melanoma as well. They are filtered through clouds, and are  strongest during the day, from 10am-4pm. Most sunscreens and sunblocks target these rays. (Hint: Zinc Oxide can handle these guys easily, too.)
UVC: Unless you are an astronaut or the ozone layer becomes completely depleted in the apocalypse, you don't need to think about these guys. They can't reach Earth's surface  
There are three types of Sunblock/ Sunscreen:
  • Chemical Sunscreens/ Sunblocks: These are the conventionally produced products you find in most grocery stores. They absorb UVB (and sometimes UVA) rays, and dispurse them through the body as heat. Most US chemical sunscreens use Oxybenzone, PABA, Octisalate, or Avobenzone as the active ingredient for protection. If choosing chemical protectants, stick with broad spectrum products that contain  Avobenzone. (Be aware that these are known endocrine disruptors, as well as free radical producers, however. More on this in the NEXT post.)
  • Physical Sunscreens/ Sunblocks: These are usually labeled as "natural", though not all ingredients within the product are necessarily natural. (Check the label.) They reflect UVA and UVB rays very effectively. The active ingredients in these types are Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide, naturally occurring minerals. Zinc Oxide alone offers broad spectrum protection, but Titanium Dioxide must be combined with Zinc Oxide for full efficacy.
  • UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) Clothing: These are specific types of clothing that are designed for blocking ultraviolet rays. Regular clothing works for protection as well, but with limitations: darker shades are better than lighter shades; tighter woven knits are more effective than loosely woven knits.

And now, for the untruths:

  • (1) How long you can stay in the sun before you burn: Determine how long you can stay in the sun before you begin to burn (usually 10-15 min.). Multiply that by the number on the sunscreen bottle. That's (theoretically) how long, in minutes, you are protected in sun before rays penetrate past the barrier. Keep in mind that most people don't apply enough product in the first place, AND they sweat or rinse it off with activity and water.
  • (2) What percentage of the UVB Rays the product can diffuse.   
  • •SPF 15- 1/15 of the UVB rays penetrate your skin, but blocks about 93%.

    •SPF 30- 1/30 of the UVB rays penetrate your skin, but blocks about 97%.

    •SPF 50- 1/50 of the UVB rays penetrate your skin, but blocks about 98%.

    Note that this number pertains ONLY to UVB rays, NOT more insidious UVA rays.

    Any number higher than SPF 30 yields negligible results, as seen in the percentages above.

  • Applying sunscreen once a day will provide sufficient protection for the day. FACT: Sunscreen/ Sunblock need to be reapplied every two hours or less to be effective- the active ingredients degrade rapidly upon application. That SPF 15 in your foundation- it degraded around 10 am...and it left some free radicals behind, which promote cellular mutation...and then cancer.... (Don't worry...we'll show ya how to minimize that damage...in the NEXT POST ;)
  •  And now, there's a crazy myth going around the interwebs on using coconut oil for sunscreen. DON'T do it. There's a tiny bit of truth to the idea, but not enough for full protection. Tell ya why NEXT post...)
  • Water Resistant Sunscreens won't wash off in water. FACT: "Water Resistant" means that the product remains active for 40 minutes, and "Very Water Resistant" means that it must remain active for 80 minutes. Any time after that is on YOU.

Now that we are all thoroughly depressed, let's go hide in a closet.

    (Actually, don't...that causes Vitamin D deficiency, which causes cancer...)  

But there's HOPE yet!

  Nature has provided us with some really cool, counterintuitive measures to fight against sun damage the old fashioned way...




And I'm gonna tell ya what they are... in my NEXT POST ;) But in the meantime, here are basic tips on minimizing your risk of UVB sunburn/ damage and UVA absorption/ damage.

  1. Wear a physical sunscreen (they really do work better in the long haul...I'll tell ya why...in the NEXT post), and reapply every 90 minutes or so.
  2. Choose shade as much as possible during extended exposure.
  3. Drink lots (and LOTS) and lots of veggie and fruits daily. (I'll tell ya why...in the NEXT post ;)
  4. Get 10-15 minutes of unprotected sun exposure 2-4 times a week for Vitamin D synthesis. (This one's tricky...more on it in the NEXT post...)
  5. Apply sunscreen liberally- not too thin. Remember: you are creating a physical barrier between you and the sun. Make it full coverage.
  6. Avoid burning- actually, all "sunning" whether it's a tan or burn is damage to the skin that shows up later in life.(I'm not just saying that because I'm jealous that I can't tan! ;) 
  7. Avoid extended sun exposure between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm.
  And, as for tanning beds: over and over and over again, in my countless weeks of research on this topic, AND in spite of what my buddy Dr. Mercola says on tanning beds (I'm gonna disagree with him just this once), It's a no.

Nuh-uh. Nah.

Too much conflicting science for the risk. That's just my deeply researched opinion on the subject. Take it for what it's worth. (Ps...I'm not a doctor, nor is any of this considered medical advice.)   Stick around for the NEXT post on HOW we can amp up our UV protection NATURALLY, so that we aren't relying on sunscreen alone to keep us from sun damage!

And in the meantime...Juice up and grab your oils!  'Cause that's where we're headed!

  Ps...To receive the NEXT post, and updates from Savvy Bohème, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter! You'll get them before anyone else does!
Keri Lehmann
Continue shopping
Your Order

You have no items in your cart