Summer is finally here, and that means it’s time to review our sun care products once again. I’m always amazed at how easily I forget the differences between sunblocks, sunscreens, UVA versus UVB light damage, etc. So, let’s quickly recap everything. I hope you find this recap both useful and informative.
At the end of the post, find my recipe for “all natural” sunblock, and if you have time and energy to do it, go for it – at least you will know all the ingredients.
Sunblock (Physical screen)
Imagine your sunblock like a shield ON TOP of your skin – blocking and deflecting sun rays. Its main ingredients are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, which physically block ultraviolet radiation (UVR). Other names for it are mineral sunscreen, physical blocker, and physical sunscreen. I know, it’s a bit confusing that they call it sunscreen, but it is a sunblock.
The benefits: It protects against both UVA and UVB (with more zinc oxide). It starts working instantly as soon as you apply it.
The downsides: It is harder to apply on the skin, messy, visible, and not easy to wash off. While it may offer potentially high sun protection, it cannot be quantified in the same manner as sunscreen SPFs. Therefore, be careful and do not forget to reapply it.
Imagine your sunscreen as a big sponge IN your skin, converting sun rays into a less damaging form of radiation. Other names for sunscreen are chemical sunscreen or chemical absorber. To me, anything with the term ‘chemical’ in its name does not sound too attractive, but hey, it explains its mechanism of action.
The benefits: It is smooth and easy to apply, colorless, and most newer versions provide coverage for both UVA and UVB. Make sure you choose the one with both types of coverage.
The downsides: It takes about 20 minutes to start providing protection once you have applied it. Since it contains multiple active ingredients, reports of skin reactions and irritation may be higher. Here are the main problematic components: sunscreens with oxybenzone, retinyl palmitate, any spray-type sunscreens (which can lead to inhaling toxins or missing spots), and those with SPF over 50.
SPF stands for sun protection factor. But, how does it work, again? Well, the SPF number tells you how many times longer you can stay in the sun before you burn (before it stops screening or blocking the sun’s harmful rays). The tricky part is that you have to know how long it takes you to burn in the sun in the first place.
Let’s say you use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15. This means you can stay in the sun 15 times longer than without sunscreen before burning. However, the crucial point is that SPF 15 does not offer the same level of protection for you and me, as our skin types react differently to the sun. We all have varied sensitivity and tolerance to sunlight. The problem with higher SPF is that people tend to become too relaxed, assuming they are protected for an extended period, and may forget to reapply the sunscreen as needed.
means it maintains its SPF level after 40 minutes of water exposure.
means it can maintain its SPF level after 80 minutes of exposure to water.
UVA and UVB
UVA rays can cause cancerous mutations and also break down the vitamin D formed in your skin. This is nature’s way of ensuring that you don’t receive an excessive amount of vitamin D when exposed to the sun for too long. One significant difference is that skin redness resulting from UVA exposure is often noticed much later than the redness caused by UVB light, making it more challenging to realize the extent of skin damage caused by UVA. As a result, UVA can potentially inflict more damage to the skin over time.
UVB rays stimulate the production of vitamin D. Unlike UVA, UVB penetrates the skin less but causes faster sunburn. This means you have a better chance to seek shade or reapply sunblock if you’ve forgotten it, minimizing potential damage compared to UVA light. In summary: UVB offers easier opportunities for protection.
UVA – A for Aging, and Absolutely skin damaging
UVB – B for Burning, Better than UVA
Which Sun protection to use?
Get the one with less chemicals! Instead of me boring you with very long names of chemicals, you need to search for in the list of ingredients ( possibly using a big magnifying glass), simply click here and type in the search box name of your sunscreen and check its rating and ingredient list (in big letters).
What About Babies?
It is not recommended to use sunscreen or sunblock for babies less than 6 months of age. With this being said, if you find sunblock with all natural ingredients, containing only zinc oxide as your UVA and UVB shield, you may use it. Still be careful and limit sun exposure to early AM hours and late PM.
The best sun protection remains seeking shade or using UV-protective clothing and hats, especially those with large flaps to cover ears and shoulders.
Homemade Natural Sunblock
½ cup almond or olive oil
¼ cup coconut oil (natural SPF 4)
¼ cup beeswax (for water resistance)
2 Tablespoons Zinc Oxide (non-nano version)
(wear a mask when pouring Zinc so you do not inhale it)
1/2 tsp vitamin E oil
1/2 tsp red raspberry seed oil (SPF 25)
1/2 1 tsp carrot seed oil (SPF 35)
2 Tbsp Shea butter (SPF 4-5)
Combine all of the ingredients, except zinc oxide, in a glass mason jar. Fill a medium saucepan with a couple inches of water, and place over medium heat. Put a lid on the jar loosely, and place in the pan with the water.
As the water heats, the ingredients in the jar will start to melt. Shake or stir occasionally to incorporate. When all of the ingredients are completely melted, add the zinc oxide, stir in well and pour into whatever jar container you will use for storage. It will not pump well inside a lotion pump.
Stir a few times as it cools to make sure the zinc oxide is incorporated. Apply it as you would regular sunscreen. Best if used within six months.
This sunscreen should be reapplied after sweating or swimming. It currently has an SPF of 15, but you can increase the SPF by adding more Zinc Oxide. To make it thicker, add more beeswax, or add less for a smoother consistency. For a pleasant fragrance, you may include vanilla extract or lavender essential oils. However, avoid using citrus essential oils as they may cause skin discoloration.