Friday, April 26, 2013

Spring's in the air (and on our skin)

The sun is out more and more every day, and the spring has definitely (and finally!) arrived. This means that it’s that time of the year where we should look in busting out that sunscreen (at least for the pasty pale folks such as me)!

Most people have a bottle or two from last summer, hanging somewhere around the house. But before you slather yourself and your kiddies with that, there are few things that you should keep in mind:

(1) Always check the expiry date - why? The active ingredients in the cream/lotion/spray lose their protective properties after the date stamped on the bottle, so using expired sunscreen would be like applying a pretty useless moisturizer.

(2) Try to steer clear from OXYBENZONE and OCTINOXATE. These chemicals and absorbed by our skin and penetrate the lower layers of the skin; this may cause allergic reactions (in my case, severe - and this is very recent!), disrupt your body’s hormonal balance and produce harmful free radicals. Basically, as my daughter puts it, they are "yucky!"

(3) Better options are sunscreens instead containing AVOBENZONE; best - TITANIUM DIOXIDE and ZINC OXIDE. The latter two are inert fillers that help protect against UV rays by light scattering and physically blocking the light pathway into the dermal layers.

Now onto the various brands available at your neighbourhood pharmacy/store… I consider one of the biggest offenders to be NEUTROGENA! Oxybenzone and octinoxate added in every single sunscreen product, even their children’s options. :( Of course, this is the brand I used when I broke out into a wicked rash almost all over the upper half of my body, so I reeeeeaaaaaaally look down on this brand now. Similar story is with brands like BANANA BOAT, HAWAIIAN TROPIC, some of the AVEENO products, etc.

Better option is OMBRELLE. They add Avobenzone. AVEENO SENSITIVE SKIN seems to only contain titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, so kudos for that as well. BUT - READ THE LABEL PEOPLE - AVEENO BABY sunscreen still contains the nasties that I mentioned above (I’m outraged at that!)

Moving on… My recent allergy outbursts (“you’re never too old to develop an allergy” - words of my dermatologist) got me thinking about how I treat my skin. I consider myself lucky to have fairly problem-free and clear complexion. I never had to follow a regiment, so facial allergic rash came as a shock! I am much more careful now about the things I put on my face.

If like me, you are willing/ can afford to spend a bit more on a better sunscreen (at least for your face and you children) I suggest looking into brands like VICHY (we use their children’s sunscreen for the entire family), LA ROCHE-POSAY, AVÈNE, and other higher-end brands. Most, if not all, are paraben-free, fragrance-free, oxybenzone- & octinoxate-free. Of course, there are other brands that you can find in various baby boutiques (GREEN BEAVER brand comes to mind, though I have not seen their ingredient mix) or other health stores.

A little tip, choosing children’s sunscreen for everyone is a great option - it’s usually made to be less harsh on your skin and is often water-resistant as well! Also think this when you read a label: chemical = absorbtion, mineral = reflection (this refers to the way in which a particular sunscreen protects our skin).

All this to say, whatever brand of sunscreen you choose, read the label, use your judgement and stay safe. And of course, don’t forget to have some aloe vera gel on hand or other after sun care product! :) My personal favourite - Vichy’s After Sun Cellular SOS Repair Balm (hyloallergenic and paraben-free).

Got a few extra minutes - browse some of the articles available here: EWG's Sunscreen Guide


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