When I was living in Scotland applying sunscreen was at the bottom of my to do list even on rare hot days. Pregnant and breastfeeding women are encouraged to take Vitamin D supplements due to the lack of sunlight. Apparently Scots only get enough sunlight of the right wavelength for their bodies to make Vitamin D during roughly half the year. Life with a child with Albinism would perhaps be a lot easier there than here, with regards to sun exposure, but then maybe all that grayness would be harsh on the eyes. The grass is always greener, right?
In Houston sunscreen has become an absolute must, the sun shines almost every day, it is hot for 6 months of the year (at least) and the sun feels like it is boring a hole in your body during those months. I wear sunscreen everyday during the summer and so does my oldest son but since we are both olive-skinned and never burn if we forget it when we are heading outside for a little bit I generally don’t worry. Nash on the other hand is a different story, I have to grease up his whole body and his head since he loves to throw his hat around. Skin cancers are a major risk associated with albinism. Until I had Nash I have to say I didn’t think much about what sunscreen I should buy, I am pretty slap dash about most things in life and don’t spend a huge amount of time on research, I leave that up to my husband. But since I have a child who has albinism and who also suffered from eczema at birth I decided to carry out some research to find out what all the terminology means and what I should be looking for. I know, I know he is already 14 months but it is never too late to learn.
So which sunscreens should we really be using and why? First I wanted to look at the difference between Mineral and Chemical Sunscreens:
- Mineral or Physical sunscreens also known as sunblock, contain mineral ingredients such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide which are naturally broad spectrum (meaning they protect against both UVA or Ultraviolet A, think aging, and UVB or Ultra Violet B, think burning.
- This type of sunscreen works by sitting on the skin and deflecting the suns rays and they work as soon as you put them on.
- Chemical sunscreens are made up of multiple ingredients that need to be combined to get broad spectrum and they also take 20 minutes to fully sink in.
- Many chemical sunscreens in the US use a chemical called oxybenzone.
- EWG recommends that consumers avoid this chemical because it can penetrate the skin, cause allergic skin reactions and may disrupt hormones
Now that we know the difference between the two sunscreens how often should we apply our chosen sunscreen?
- Mineral sunscreens can be applied right before heading out.
- Chemical sunscreens need at least 20 minutes.
- The recommendation is to apply all sunscreens 30 minutes before sun exposure to allow the ingredients to fully bind to the skin.
- Reapplication of sunscreen is just as important as putting it on in the first place, so it is recommended that the same amount be reapplied every two hours.
What is the difference between the SPF’s?
- SPF 15 product blocks about 94% of UVB rays
- SPF 30 product blocks 97% of UVB rays
- SPF 45 product blocks about 98% of rays.
- Sunscreens with higher SPF ratings block slightly more UVB rays, but none offers 100% protection.
A few other tips I picked up were to avoid sunscreens with vitamin A, no insect repellent (oops, we do have one of those but I don’t really use it for sun protection), don’t spray (apparently it sprays the air with tiny particles that may not be safe to breath, oops again) and last but not least men are the worst offenders of failing to protect themselves against sunscreen. I can definitely confirm where my husband is concerned that he has to be prompted to wear it. There was a snorkeling incident with no sunscreen you can imagine how that went.
I am not going to recommend any sunscreens since I am no expert and I am not trying to sell you anything. However if you’re curious on finding the better more highly rated sunscreens here is a link to the EWG site:
You can check out their guide to the best sunscreens and search for your current sunscreen to see if it is full of any nasty chemicals. Good luck!