Get your glow on: Tips for sun safety

Hi, it’s me with your annual summer sun safety post.  Technically, summer is here in the Pacific North West but it’s still on the chilly side.  But in other parts of the country (I’m looking at you, Houston) summer has been raging for months.  Summer is so fun.  It’s hot out, there’s water fun, hiking, camping, and SUN.  Having been in the PNW for the last 10 years, I have come to appreciate all that the sun offers in the way of health and mood benefits.  As a doctor, I’m also keenly aware of the dangers of too much sun.

Lets be clear: we need sun light.  Exposure to sun is necessary for the production of 25-hydroxyvitamin D or vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential for the mood, healthy stress response, hormone health, immune system, bone health, brain functioning, and prevention of chronic illnesses.  Studies show that short ‘doses’ of sun exposure consistently are helpful for producing vitamin D.  Think 5-10 minutes in direct sun, less for babies and kids.  After that, sunscreen can help protect your skin from aging and skin cancer in conjunction with other measures.

The Environmental Working Group puts out an annual report with a list of common sunscreens rated best to worst.  It’s a very helpful resource.  They have ton of information you can find it here.

Things to know about sunscreen:

  • Sunscreen alone will not prevent skin cancer.  Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s all you need. It helps for sure but most melanoma is found in non-sun exposed places on the body.  It’s important to have a healthy diet, lifestyle and to use your common sense with in the sun.  Use all your resources: sunscreen, limited time in direct sun, protective clothing, shade, water, healthy foods, etc.

  •  Higher SPF does not equal more protection. Even the FDA agrees that anything over SPF 60 is misleading.  Stick with SPF 30-50 and you’ll have all the benefits you need.

  • Sunscreens held to European standards are better with fewer harmful chemicals. That is all.

  • Some sunscreen ingredients disrupt hormones and allergies.  This is includes the harmful non-active ingredients such as parabens, oxobenzone, retinyl palmitate, retinol (and any vitamin A based ingredient), avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate.  Even the FDA agrees with this.  **Note: the FDA “grandfathered” some ingredients like those listed above into their new guidelines even though they are known endocrine disruptors and allergens**.  Thanks, FDA.  

  • Vitamin A derived ingredients increase aging.  WHA?! Yes, this is because vitamin A and it’s derivatives accelerate skin cell turn over.  That’s how they work to improve skin appearance. During this process the skin is more sensitive and subject to damage.  When you add sun to the mix it will damage the skin causing more rapid and more intense aging.  The rule is: using retinol? Stay out of the sun.

  • Sunscreens protect against UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays, more common than UVB, damage the skin invisibly causing premature aging, wrinkles, and damage to the immune system.  UVB rays are responsible for sunburn.  BOTH UVA and UVB contribute to skin cancer. Using a broad spectrum sunscreen  

  • Get your vitamin D levels checked if you never go into the sun. Actually, have them checked anyway.   Vitamin D is essential for overall health (see above)


5 Steps for using sunscreen like a boss:

1) How to choose your sunscreen

There are hundreds of sunscreens on the market.  However, the ingredients do matter. This product is going on your skin or the skin of your loved ones.  Look for an reef safe, organic mineral based sunscreen with non-nano zinc oxide. This is called a physical sun block.  Zinc oxide covers the full UV spectrum and offer the best protection.  In addition, choose a sunscreen without harmful ingredients.  Even more preferable is one with other nutritive ingredients so that you’re protecting and nourishing the skin at the same time. 

2) Wear sunscreen daily

Especially on your face. No, really, do it.

3) SPF matters

SPF is the level of protection from UVA2 and UVB rays.  SPF 30 is twice as protective as SPF 15.  SPF 30 is recommended for most people on a daily basis. Remember, you don’t need anything over SPF 50 (it’s all marketing after that).

4) Timing is important.

For maximum protection it is recommended to apply sunscreen 15-20 minutes before prolonged time in the sun.  For example, I put my sunscreen on over my moisturizer but under my makeup.  It goes on before I dress in the morning.  For my kids, I put theirs on when I’m dressing them as well. Then reapply as needed throughout the day.

5) Reapplication

Reapply sunscreen every 1-2 hours when in the sun for prolonged periods and more frequently when sweating or when swimming.  A good rule of thumb is to reapply when you get out of the water each time.  **Remember using a reef safe, mineral block will also help you protect the aquatic life.

6) Additional ways to protect yourself from sun

Sunscreen is helpful but ought not be your only form or sun protection.  Wear protective clothing (light colors, covering as much skin as you can stand), wear a wide brimmed hat, choose shady locations for play and leisure, and take breaks from the sun. 



·      Get some sun daily but only a little to help produce vitamin D

·      Wear sunscreen daily but also stay covered and wear a hat

·      Choose a nonnano zinc oxide, broad spectrum, water resistant SPF30 sunscreen

·      Reapply every 60-90 minutes


**If your curious what I use I have 2 favorites: Sunlight from Crunchi for my face, under my makeup (psst, they are having a sale on this one July 3-4 only! Purchase here)  And Sun-Kissed Protector for my body and my kids (they willingly put it on) by Willamina Modern Apothecary.  I love them both.  They cover well and absorbs into my skin well without leaving that “I’m wearing sunscreen” feeling.  Also, the ingredients are very nourishing for the skin and add to my skin health while protecting it.  Now, go play outside!

Photo by  chen zo  on  Unsplash

Photo by chen zo on Unsplash