Sunscreens absorb specific wavelengths and act like filters to prevent a certain amount of UV rays from penetrating your skin, which means you still absorb a certain amount of the sun’s harmful rays. Although sunscreens protect you to a degree, they don’t protect you from getting a tan, and, in fact, what they really do is lower your risk of getting a sunburn. Sunscreens have SPF ratings, which stands for Sun Protection Factor, and the SPF of a product refers to its effectiveness or ability to screen or block the sun’s rays. The suggested SPF is usually at least 15, and you can find sunscreens in lotions, gels, creams, or sprays.
If you’re curious about the safety of sunscreens, there have been numerous studies. Researchers have found sunscreens tend to be absorbed into your bloodstream, and for that reason, many critics claim their not good for your health because they cause everything from allergic reactions to the release of skin-damaging free radicals to the disruption of hormones. Additionally, a recent report by the Environmental Working Group found that “4 out of 5 sunscreen products offer inadequate protection from the sun,” and another study showed a “higher rate of melanoma among men who regularly use sunscreens and a higher rate of basal cell carcinoma among women using sunscreens.” One more precaution about sunscreens. They usually contain such things as Benzophenones, Cinnamates, and Salicylates, as well as PABA, which, by the way, results in an allergic reaction in nearly 40% of all people.
Sunblocks, in comparison to sunscreens, are much more protective. That’s because a sunscreens’ effectiveness comes from its reflective ingredients that scatter UV rays and from it’s ability to provide a barrier between your skin and the sun. Sunscreens cannot do that. Sunblocks also protect you against the ultraviolet rays that reach the earth, known as UVA and UVB rays, and you can find sunblocks in sprays, creams, lotions, gels, and oils.
As far as sunblock safety, there have also been several studies. Sunblocks usually contain either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which are the elements that deliver its reflective and light-scattering abilities, and its those ingredients that have nano-sized particles. Researchers are now saying small nano-sized particles can penetrate the skin, so purchase sunblock products with ingredients larger than 100 nanometers. If it’s not indicate on the package, you may have to call the company to confirm their nano-particle size.
The Bottom Line
Despite the risks associated with sunscreens, and despite the fact researchers are unsure about sunblock’s nano-sized particles, doctors still recommend you use something to protect you from the sun. According to the American Cancer Society, more than one million people are diagnosed with sun-related skin cancer each year. If you don’t want to be statistic, keep in mind another 59,940 new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed every year, and one of the best ways to prevent skin cancer is to use sunscreens or sunblocks. To discover more about skin cancer and how to protect yourself, visit Skin Cancer Facts.