Sunshine has always been my friend. A naturally bronze Latina who despises being chilly, I can sunbathe, swim, and garden in the most glaring sunshine and look a luscious golden brown in 30 minutes or under. Carefree slaps of sunscreen and my wide-brimmed sunhat were obviously insufficient sun protection, and my dermatologist recently removed three precancerous lesions from my décolletage. Not pretty. It’s officially time to cover up.
Thankfully, there are ongoing advancements in skincare that make it much easier to protect sun worshippers like me, says Dale Westrom, MD, a clinical professor of dermatology at University of California, San Francisco.
- Researchers are testing a pigment called scytonemin, a natural and stable ultraviolet shield.
- Cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, shows promise in protecting against ultraviolet radiation.
- Biologists are testing new sunscreens made without common microscopic metals that pollute the sea and alter the cells of sea animals, making them more vulnerable to toxic pollutants, according to Environmental Science and Toxicology.
Choose broad-spectrum sunscreens with sun protection factor (SPF 15 to 50) and those that are:
- Reef-safe, humanely tested and cruelty free
- Mostly plant-based ingredients you can identify
- Devoid of strong scents and harmful chemicals
SUNLIGHT & UV RAYS
Too much sunlight and time spent on tanning beds (please don’t!) all cause invisible ultraviolet (UV) radiation, leading to sunburn, accelerated skin aging, and skin cancers. In fact, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S., and according to the American Cancer Society, over one million non-melanoma cases are diagnosed each year.
3 TYPES OF UV RAYS
Excessive ultraviolet (UV) radiation even weakens your immune system and the skin’s natural defenses. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, three types of UV rays exist, though only the first two apply:
- UVA causes skin aging, wrinkling and skin cancer. Long wave rays affect skin more deeply than UVB rays and penetrate clouds, glass and other exteriors.
- UVB causes sunburn and contributes to aging skin, uneven complexions and some cancers. Short wave sun radiation penetrates clouds and is most dangerous between 10am and 4pm.
- UVC rays are deadly but absorbed by atmospheric gases before they ever reach earth.
UV-fighting fabrics disrupt UV radiation and contain the similar SPF spectrum but are called “UPF” for ultraviolet protection factor (UPF), ranking from UPF 15 to 50 for clothing produced with sunscreen built-in.
At REI, the outdoor tour guides offer their exclusive sun-proofing recommendations:
- Wear a large-brimmed sunhat all year long, like the Shapeable Sun Catcher hat with UPF 50. ($49.50) rei.com
- Wear lightweight UFP 50 swimsuits, shorts, and shirts that play double duty to wick moisture and keep you cool and dry. We like REI’s Mountain Hardwear specialty shirts and shorts (UPF 25) with an anti-microbial finish.
Coola’s sister clothing company called Coolibar (“the protection you wear”) has earned the Skin Cancer Foundation’s Seal of Approval and offers UPF 50 tanks, tees, and swimwear. Coola’s preservative-free and 100 percent natural clothing includes protective rash guards, colorful shorts, and sun-proof beach blankets for the whole family. Sun-repellent separates range from $20 to $80. coolibar.com
Your peepers need protecting, too. Since UV radiation increases the likelihood of cataracts, your sunglasses, glasses or contact lenses should offer 100 percent UV protection. For years, versatile Oakley’s and Ray-Bans have offered complete UV protection in all of their sunglasses, and we’re big fans. (bestreviews.com/5-bestsports-sunglasses, allaboutvision.com/sunglasses/spf.htm)
1) Clear Zinc Sunscreen SPF 30
Fragrance-free and geared to sensitive skin, this new collection of hypoallergenic sunscreens are made without dairy, soy, peanuts, almonds, walnuts, SLS, sulfates, parabens, phthalates, fragrances or dyes. Instead, Babo contains rich sunflower and jojoba oils, along with green tea to replenish and soothe dry, damaged skin. ($12 to $22) babobotanicals.com
2) Sunstick SPF 30
Coral-reef safe and completely unscented and vegan, this mineral sunscreen line is biodegradable, gluten-free, and goes on super-clear. In addition to mineral zinc oxide, Elemental Herbs sunscreens contain natural rich antioxidants that help fight the free radicals that cause skin aging and sunspots, including grape seeds, organic rose hip oils, jojoba seeds, and moisturizing olive oils. ($6.40) iherb.com
3) AquaSport Broad Spectrum SPF 30 & 50
Created by a rock climber and adventure athlete, All Terrain was invented for active lifestyles and tested for water- and sweat resistance for up to 80 minutes, All Terrain’s transparent broad-spectrum sunscreen contains grapefruit, vitamin E, sea kelp, and jojoba oils to boost antioxidants. ($16 to $30) allterrainco.com
4) Sunscreen Lip Balm SPF 15
A small, family-owned company in New Hampshire, Badger sunscreens and lip balms blend organic plant extracts (lavender and rose, for instance), and exotic oils and beeswax to make their healing balms and mineral sunscreens. The ultra-moisturizing base ingredients (jojoba, extra-virgin olive oils) provide biodegradable protection from chlorine and sunshine, keeping your pucker plump and worry-free. ($6) badgerbalm.com
5) Lip Balm SPF 30
For chapped lips that need extra attention, try flip-tubes and lip balms containing organic soy and rosemary oils, beeswax, and vitamin E. Waxelene’s raw ingredients are certified organic and have the creamiest texture. Made in California without artificial ingredients, Waxelene’s production facility runs on wind power and their cosmetic boxes and jars are 100 percent recyclable. ($4.99) waxelene.com
6) Face the Day Sunscreen & Firming Primer SPF 30
GODDESS GARDEN ORGANICS
Created as a tightening and lifting sunscreen, this lightly scented cream acts like a firming primer underneath your foundation and other cosmetics. Face the Day sunscreen is a sheer, non-greasy formula made with antioxidants that fight free radicals and aging skin using lavender and coconut essential oils. ($18) goddessgarden.com
7) Unscented Matte Tint Face SPF 30
Naturally calming evening primrose and flaxseed oils deliver omega-3 and gammalinoleic acids to improve skin’s elasticity and help your dermis retain moisture. Natural shea butters smooth and hydrate while Coola’s patented “plankton extract plant protection” rejuvenates sensitive or oily skin with 70 percent-certified organic products. Preservative-free, Coola’s mineral makeup primers with SPF and plant stem cells are water resistant and stimulate cell renewal. ($28 to $68) coolasuncare.com
8) Sun Shield Clear Spray SPF 30
Battling wrinkles, dark spots, and uneven pigmentation, MyChelle’s new Sun Shield Clear Spray (SPF 30) complements their Sun Shield Clear Stick (SPF 50). Mineral-based and PABAfree, both provide coverage for swimmers, surfers, and other outdoor enthusiasts. Made without sulfates or artificial colors, MyChelle’s pretty packaging is 100 percent recyclable. ($20 to $28) mychelle.com
9) BlackBerry Natural CC Cream SPF 30
CALIFORNIA PURE NATURALS
A new and welcome addition, this tinted facial cream has natural pigments and nourishing ingredients like blackberry and argan oil. Rich in zinc oxide and water-repellent, the folks at California Pure Naturals (CPN) offer SPF products that are concentrated with botanicals like rosehip and cranberry oils. Rich in antioxidants and gluten-free, all sunscreens are certified USDA organic. Their baby oils, gentle body cleansers, and creamy after-sun balms are also designed with mommy in mind. ($11) cpnskin.com
10) 95% Organic Aloe Vera Gel
A concentrated and soothing skin balancer, Aromatica’s all-natural ingredients are sourced all over the world and contain deeply hydrating essential oils. This organic aloe is non-greasy—you cannot even tell it’s on— and it soothes sensitive, damaged skin all over face and body, while preserving your skin’s firmness and suppleness. ($11 to $25) peachandlily.com/collections/aromatica