Every summer, confusion swirls about sunscreen: Is it hurting the oceans? Should babies wear it at all? How about those chemicals?? What about SPF 30? SPF 50? SPF 100?? Well, we hear you. And we’ve got answers.
“What is the difference between a physical (mineral) and chemical sunscreen?”
Mineral (aka, physical) sunscreen protects against UV light by creating a barrier that deflects UV rays away from the skin’s surface. This keeps the UV rays from penetrating into the skin where damage occurs. A chemical sunscreen, on the other hand, penetrates into the skin and absorbs the sun's rays, where they are converted into heat and then released. This reaction can be irritating to sensitive and delicate skin, especially kids’ skin.
“Which is safer for kids?”
We find chemical UV blockers far too risky. Not only can they irritate kids’ (and adults’) delicate skin, some clinical studies suggest they may be hormone disrupters. That’s a hard no in our book. Mineral sunscreen is simply better all around.
“I heard sunscreen’s bad for coral reefs. Is that true?”
Yet another strike against chemical sunscreens: Some chemical UV blockers like oxybenzone and octinoxate have been shown to bleach and damage coral reefs. These sunscreen chemicals are found in many sunscreen products on the market and have a detrimental effect on the coral population and the ocean’s ecosystem as a whole. That’s why Hawaii has banned the use of these sunscreen chemicals—and why we only use mineral non-nano zinc oxide in our reef-friendly Mineral Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50.
“What does non-nano mean?”
“Non-nano” means we don’t use nanoparticles of zinc oxide in our formula. Nanoparticles are extra-teeny micronized particles that help make zinc even more transparent. The issue with zinc nanoparticles, though, is that they also have an adverse effect on coral reefs, since the particles are small enough for the coral to ingest. Non-nano particles are larger than 100 nanometers and are not ingested by aquatic life.
We obsessively vetted all ingredients in our SPF, and ban over 2000 suspect ingredients to make sure our formula is supremely gentle and non-irritating.
“What, exactly, does SPF stand for and what do the numbers mean?”
SPF stands for “sun protection factor” and it is a relative measure of how much and how long a sunscreen product will protect you from UVB rays (the culprit of sunburn, skin redness and damage). The SPF number signifies the amount of UVB that the sunscreen blocks. For instance, SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB rays, SPF 30 blocks 97%, and SPF 50 blocks 98%. It also refers to the amount of time you can theoretically spend in the sun before burning. For instance, SPF 15 would mean it takes 15 times as long as it would without sunscreen before your skin burns (assuming you apply enough, don’t go in the water, or sweat it off!). So why not just wear SPF 100? Some studies suggest people have a false sense of security the higher numbers go: they apply less, and may forget to reapply. The ratio of UVA protection also decreases as your SPF increases beyond 50 (we’ll get to importance of protecting against UVA rays in just a moment). We think SPF 50 hits the sweet spot of serious, long-lasting protection.
“What’s the difference between UVA and UVB rays?”
An easy way to remember the difference between the two is that UVA is aging and UVB is burning. UVA rays may not burn you, but they penetrate deeper into skin, causing a host of longer-term skin damage issues including wrinkling, brown spots, and an increased risk of skin cancer. UVA rays are also sneakily able to pass right through clouds—so even though you might not burn on a cloudy day, your skin is still absorbing those skin-damaging UVA rays. Not only that, UVA rays also pass through most windows, so you can be exposed while you’re driving, on an airplane, or even sitting inside your house. (All the more reason to put sunscreen on no matter what!) Chemical sunscreens need a cocktail of chemicals in order to provide both UVA and UVB protection, but zinc oxide has been shown to be an effective filter against both types of rays since it acts as a barrier on top of the skin. When you see the words “Broad Spectrum” on a sunscreen, it means it’s been designed to protect against both UVB and UVA rays.
“Is sunscreen safe for babies?”
Because of their vulnerable skin, pediatricians and dermatologists recommend infants be kept out of the sun as much as possible for the first 6 months. After that, it’s still important to watch their sun exposure, though they can start wearing sunscreen for extra protection. We obsessively vetted all ingredients in our SPF, and ban over 2000 suspect ingredients to make sure our formula is supremely gentle and non-irritating.
“What is the best way to apply sunscreen?”
The most common sunscreen fail is not using enough, followed by not reapplying often enough.
Here are some tips to getting the best protection out of your sunscreen:
- For adults, use about a teaspoon for the face and neck, and about an ounce or so for the entire body (about the size of a shot glass).
- For kids, there is no recommended rule of thumb, just make sure to apply to any areas exposed to sunlight and reapply often.
- Apply before you go in the sun.
- Reapply every two hours (more on those especially sweaty days) and after swimming.
- Pay special attention to cheeks, nose, ears, tops of feet, and shoulders.
- Use on cloudy days (remember, those UV rays are still coming through!).
- Apply if you’re sitting near a window (when you’re driving, for example, or taking a plane flight). UV rays can pass through many types of glass.
- Cover with clothing whenever possible.
- Try to stay out of the sun between 10 am and 4 pm, when the rays are the strongest.