ABCD's of skin care sunscreen A. APPLY sunscreen generously and reapply frequently.

It’s important to apply sunscreen generously to the skin and to reapply frequently in order to ensure protection. Even if a burn does not form, skin can still be damaged by harmful UVA rays that penetrate the skin more deeply and lead to harmful free radical formation.

B. BEWARE of sunscreen products that may offer deceptive protection. 

The sunscreen products to avoid are aerosol sprays, loose powder sunscreens, combined sunscreen bug repellant, and sunscreen towelettes. These product forms are difficult to ensure full coverage and adequate protection or have increased risk of toxicity.

C. Be CHEMICAL savvy

When you choose a sunscreen the first decision is whether to select chemical or mineral based protection. Here are the basics of what you need to know.

The chemical scoop: Avobezone is the safest active ingredient used in the US. It has demonstrated ability to block the UVA rays that cause skin damage and aging.  However, this chemical (which is much weaker that the ones used in sunscreens in Europe) tends to break down quickly unless compounded with a stabilizing agent. The problem with many sunscreen stabilizing agents and other chemicals used as active ingredients in sunscreens, the most notorious of which is oxybenzone, is that they may mimic hormones and increase the risk that the hormone regulating systems in the body are disrupted.  Avoiding retinyl palmitate (vitamin A) in sunscreen is also a good idea because it can be damaged by sun. Instead, reserve this vitamin additive for night time use.

The mineral scoop: Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are mineral based sunscreen ingredients that protect against both UVA and UVB rays.  In addition, they do not deteriorate when exposed to sun and they do not cross the skin’s natural defenses into the blood stream. However, it is important not to inhale these minerals in the small particle sizes used for sunscreen formulation. This means one should avoid all aerosolized mineral sunscreens.  It is also important to recognize that mineral based sunscreens that apply clear on the skin tend to offer less UVA protection that the ones that appear white.  In this case, it is true that the protection you see is the protection you get.

D. Vitamin D production by the body requires the Sun

While UVB rays can cause skin to burn, they also have a beneficial role in the body: helping to form vitamin D. Vitamin D has many important roles.  Specifically, it helps maintain healthy bones and supports healthy immune system function.  Here in Seattle and in the northern states of the US, it is rare to get enough sun exposure to produce the amount of vitamin D we need between the months of November and early March.  This means that it is important to work with a doctor to make sure that you are not deficient, and to take steps to correct this problem if you are.

 Ara Walline, Doctor of Naturopathy at Unravel Therapeutics

Ara Walline, ND

  • Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sport Stick SPF 30
  • Episencial Sunny Sunscreen SPF 35
  • Goddess Garden Sunny Baby Natural Sunscreen SPF 30
  • Badger Kids Sunscreen Cream SPF 30