By Daniel Cardwell and Leon Scott, MD
Spring time is here and summer is coming! That means weekend tournaments are getting underway. It also means that it’s time to protect yourself and your young athletes from excessive sun exposure on the field. Protection from the sun is vital, and should always be a top priority in your summer routine.
On your next trip to the supermarket you might find yourself scratching your head at the endless selection of sunblocks, tanning lotions, and moisturizers. What will protect my family the best? What does the SPF number indicate? Are there natural options?
Lets consider the SPF number (Sun Protection Factor). Commonly associated with the “strength” of the lotion, this number actually indicates the time the sunblock works to block the UVB rays that can burn skin. If you reach a particular level of redness after 10 minutes in the sun, and you have a lotion with an SPF of “2”, then it would take you 2X as long (20min) to get to that same point.
Even if a sunblock claims to be waterproof, sweat and water can shorten the duration of the SPF rating. Re-apply often especially if your kids burn quickly and you only have a lotion with a low SPF.
Some lotions will advertise as “broad spectrum” lotions. These lotions will provide the best level of protection from different types of sun rays. They’re two different kinds of sunlight you should take into consideration while protecting yourself, UVA rays and UVB rays. UVB rays hardly penetrate through the skins surface; these rays have the most significant role in the production of vitamin D, tanning, reddening, and burning of the skin. UVA rays, on the other hand, make up 95% of the sun’s rays and are the main contributors to skin cancer because they can penetrate the skin. Some of the chemicals in sun protection lotions that help protect against UVA rays include avobenzone, ecamsule, zinc oxide, and titanium dioxide. So make sure your sun protection has these ingredients, as well as a high SPF rating.
Sunblock vs Sunscreen
“Sunblocks” traditionally have zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which reflect UVA rays. ”Sunscreens” often have azobenzone or ecamsule which absorb UVA rays and turn them into heat energy before the rays can penetrate to the deeper skin. There is no guaranteed better product between sunblocks and sunscreens. The ingredients are all generally considered safe, but many families choose to avoid oxybenzone or retinyl palmitate because of distant links to hormonal changes and cell dysfunction.
Watch out for sneaky labels
So, while you are trying to decide which lotion is the best for you remember to rule out all of the things you don’t want. Watch out for words like “Bronzers, dark, tan extenders”. They likely contain zero protection from burns nor cancer-causing rays. Also, they often also contain subtle hints of fake tanner that will bronze your skin.
Homemade vs Store-bought
Did you know you could make your own sun-screen? Absolutely! The natural mineral, Zinc-oxide, can be added to other natural oils to add a broad spectrum coverage with an additional SPF protection of up to 20. Some of the natural bases people will use include beeswax (4-5 SPF), coconut oil (4-5 SPF), raspberry seed oil (30-50 SPF), shea butter (6-10 SPF), and carrot seed oil (30 SPF). With these ingredients you could even make your sun-block right at home! That’s what this mom did.
Also, remember to find a good chap-stick with added sun-block. Keep aloe-Vera handy in case of over-exposure. Aloe is extremely hydrating to the skin, relieves itching, and acts as a local analgesic for burns.
Protect yourself from sun exposure using canopy tents, umbrellas, hats and cool refreshments too.
If you found these tips useful, then let us know below. If you have your own home remedies, then let us know so we can share them with the community!