The ever so popular controversy of what sunscreens or sunblocks are good and what are bad. Here is a breakdown of ingredients you need to know (especially if you live in the Caribbean).
First, you need to make sure your sunscreen is a TRUE broad spectrum. In other words, just because a sunscreen has on its label "broad-spectrum" doesn't mean it covers the Full Spectrum.
Secondly, there’s SPF and UV Protection. Many think SPF, which is always followed by a number on the label of virtually every sunscreen or sunblock, is the measure of the product’s shield strength. This is both correct and incorrect.
SPF, or Sun Protection Factor, is the estimated maximum “amount” of UV radiation that the product can protect your skin from. As for UV protection, there are 2 UV rays we will focus on;
1) UVA - also known as the 'aging' rays and are the culprits to dark spots and skin cancer. These rays burn skin from the bottom layer, coming up. They are very prevalent when it's overcast so it's important to always wear sunscreen even when you are not (knowingly) in direct sunlight.
2) UVB - also known as the 'burning' rays. They are less harmful than UVA because they burn the outer layers of the skin which eventually shed. These rays are responsible for your overall tan or sunburns.
And lastly, sunscreen and sunblock (there’s a difference). Technically, the word “sunscreen” is a loose term that can be used to describe either a physical or chemical sun protectant —but “sunblock” is always used to describe physical UV protection. In other words, sunscreens are usually in lotions or daily moisturizers and can easily be washed off with sweat or water, whereas a sunblock tends to be thicker and has water resistant properties.
Therefore SUNSCREENS are NOT for beach wear. Your first dip in the ocean, or first bead of sweat, and your UV protection is gone! Always make sure your sunblock says ‘Water Resistant’.
PHYSICAL VS CHEMICAL PROTECTION
A physical block is when the UV rays are reflected off of the product (like a mirror) whereas a chemical block is when the UV rays are absorbed into the product.
INGREDIENTS AND COVERAGE
ZINC OXIDE and TITANIUM DIOXIDE
The only ingredient that covers the full spectrum of UVA rays in zinc oxide.
The second best ingredient is Titanium Dioxide which is a physical block. These are both 'Active Ingredients' and should state the percentage on the label.
OXYBENZONE - The coral killer
Small amounts of this ingredient is linked to killing our slow growing coral. Make sure to avoid using sunscreens with this ingredient. Want to learn more (article - https://www.badgerbalm.com/s-35-coral-reef-safe-sunscreen.aspx )
This ingredient absorbs a small amount of UVA rays and is a chemical block. It is linked to aspirin so anyone sensitive to aspirin may have a skin irritation or reaction to sunscreens containing it. Some people also get a stinging sensation if the sunscreen is too close to the eyes.
The most common ingredient in sunscreens that are labelled "Broad-Spectrum", however, it's usually about 3% and only covers a very small section of UVA rays. Not ideal for constant Caribbean sunny weather.