When it comes to sunscreen, one of the first things people look for is the SPF (skin protection factor), as well as the spectrum of coverage that the product offers. The SPF indicates how long the product will protect you from getting sunburned, while the spectrum of coverage tells you if the sunscreen absorbs/blocks UVA or UVB rays.
UVA rays are more likely to lead to premature aging of your skin, while UVB rays are more likely to cause sunburn. For this reason, your best sunscreen option is to find a product that offers “full spectrum” protection from both UVA and UVB rays.
Once you’ve found a full-spectrum product with a higher SPF, you need to take great care in reading the sunscreen ingredient list. More and more research is showing that many of the top sunscreens available may be great at protecting you against external damage from the sun, but are causing damage internally.
There are several questionable sunscreen ingredients, but the five worst offenders are:
PABA is one of the most common ingredients in sunscreen, but can cause and itchy rash for many people. If you have sensitive skin or if you get a rash after applying some skin products, avoid any product containing PABA.
The next four ingredients on the list (benzophenone-3, OMC, homosalate and 4-MBC),have all been found to contain estrogenic properties when absorbed through the skin.
This means that they not only disrupt hormone production, but they can also negatively affect brain development and reproductive function. Of the four, 4-MBC is the worst offender in this regard.
And get this: These chemicals — particularly 4-MBC –have been found in fish from lakes where hoards of sunscreen-slathered people also swim. This means that the fish on your plate could contain the very same harmful chemicals you just put on your skin.