Are All SPF30 Sunscreens Created Equal?

With summer in full swing and temperatures topping record highs, sunscreen is becoming one of the most valuable weapons in your arsenal to fight against harsh rays. The basics are a given– sunscreen should have a high SPF, should be applied liberally before going outside, and should be waterproof to avoid sweat and water washing it off. According to the American Melanoma Foundation, sunscreen should also be “broad spectrum”, protecting against both UVB and UVA radiation, as both types of rays can cause cancer.

Choose the Right SPF

Now that you know what should be in your sunscreen, you might be wondering about the importance of a sunscreen’s SPF. An SPF of 30 or higher is safest, and most sun safety requirements leave sunscreen protection at that, prompting people to only check for the SPF then snatch the bottle off the shelf without any further looking. But are all sunscreens with the same created equal? You might be surprised to find out the answer.

Some Sunscreens Contain Harmful Chemicals

Sunscreens with a high SPF are designed to protect your skin from the sun. But some of them, despite having the same high SPF, can do more harm than help. The recommended SPF is 30 or higher, and sunscreens with an SPF above 50 are not necessary or even effective. One common ingredient that harmful sunscreens have is para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) or PABA esters such as glycerol PABA, padimate A and padimate O for people with skin and clothing that are sensitive to PABA.

Watch for UVA-Screening Chemicals

Harmful UVA-screening chemicals also find their way on the ingredient list, including sulisobenzone and Parsol 1789 (also called avobenzone). Even worse, sunscreens that contain a form of Vitamin A known as retinyl palmitate can actually be incredibly harmful, as the aforementioned ingredient can actually speed up the development of cancer when exposed to light.

Other Chemicals to Watch For

Commonly found ingredients such as parabens, octinoxate, oxybenzone, cinnamate and camphor have all proven to be harmful once absorbed into the skin, even negatively affecting hormone levels and damaging ocean life. Some doctors have raised concern that aerosol sunscreens and sunscreens with nanoparticles that are absorbed by the skin can dangerously penetrate the deep tissues and even be absorbed into the bloodstream.

Choose Sunscreens without Nanoparticles

Instead, look for sunscreens that include non-nanoparticled zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which does not penetrate the skin but still blocks the sun’s rays– both UVB and UVA. The SPF should be no higher than 50, but no lower than 25. It’s easy to see that, upon further inspection, all sunscreens with the same SPF are definitely NOT created equal. Some of them are downright dangerous to use! With these tips, you can choose the right sunscreen that will protect you as you go out and soak up the sun this summer.

  • CC images from WikiMedia

A long-time fan of blogging and sunbathing, Peter Wendt makes frequent trips to California. While Peter always uses sunscreen at the beach, he noticed a few sunspots on his skin. Peter’s dermatologist examined the sunspots, and affirmed Peter’s suspicions–the sunspots were pre-cancerous. After discussing the matter with his wife, she recommended he consider electronic brachytherapy treatment at the California Skin Institute.