Sunscreen Protection for Acne Prone Skin: the myths you need to know about

Sunscreen Protection for Acne Prone Skin:  the myths you need to know about

Most of us are led to believe that if we lather on sunscreen in the morning and then stay out on the beach all day long, our skin is protected. Unfortunately, this is incorrect. Learning about proper sun protection and sunscreens will not only keep you and your skin safe, but it will also keep you from getting flare-ups.

Myth 1: The Sun is Bad for You

Fact: No, the sun is NOT BAD for you.

In fact, the sun is healthy if you take precautions. Ultraviolet light from the sun comes in two main wavelengths: UVA and UVB. They are quite different in respect of the risk they create for your health. UVB is the "good" sunlight and UVA is the "bad" one. UVB helps you produce vitamin D that is extremely important for your overall wellbeing, supporting the health of your bones, muscles, skin, eyesight, heart and immune system. UVA can cause free radical damage.

Moderation in sun exposure and using proper sun protection are your keys to safety since long-term, excessive exposure to sunlight can increase the risk of certain types of skin cancer.

Myth 2: All Sunscreens Are Safe & Effective

Fact: According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), 75% of sunscreens in stores don't actually protect you enough.

As sun protection against UVA rays is necessary, you need to be educated and watch for those ingredients in sunscreen that can do more harm than good. The main chemical used in sunscreens is octyl methoxycinnamate (OMC), which was found to kill mouse cells, even at low doses. OMC is present in 90% of sunscreen products. Another common ultraviolet filter, butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane, has also demonstrated toxic properties. Take a good look at your sunscreen label and beware of the following chemicals (they come with names you most likely can't even repeat) that are not really good for you:

  • Para aminobenzoic acid
  • Octyl salicylate
  • Avobenzone
  • Oxybenzone
  • Cinoxate
  • Padimate
  • Dioxybenzone
  • Homosalate
  • Phenylbenzimidazole
  • Sulisobenzone
  • Menthyl anthranilate
  • Trolamine salicyclate
  • Octocrylene

Instead, look for sunscreens that base their protective properties on these two major ingredients:

  • Titanium Dioxide
  • Zinc Oxide

When both of those ingredients are at a level of 6% or higher, you are covered. Green tea extract, aloe extract, shea butter as well as some other botanical humectants (moisturizers) will keep your skin from drying.


Myth 3: The Higher SPF, The Higher The Protection Level

Fact: The level of protection is NOT growing proportionally to the SPF level

SPF (Sun Protection Factor) is a measure of a sunscreen's ability to prevent UVB from damaging the skin. You can look at it in terms of percentages: SPF 15 filters out approximately 93 percent of all incoming UVB rays. SPF 30 keeps out 97 percent and SPF 50 keeps out 98 percent. They may seem like small differences, but if you are light-sensitive, or have a history of skin cancer, or you are a child, or over 60, those extra percentages will make a big difference. And as you can see, no sunscreen can block all UV rays.

In general, an effective recommended SPF is 30. It is also very important that you opt for the sunscreen that actually blocks both UVA and UVB rays. Those types of sunscreens are called "Broad Spectrum". Only sunscreens that pass the FDA's Broad Spectrum test (providing proportional protection against UVA and UVB rays) may be labeled as "Broad Spectrum."

Remember there is NO bearing on the DURATION you can put the sunscreen on and expect protection. No sunscreen, regardless of strength, stays effective longer than two hours without reapplication. In addition "reddening" of the skin is a reaction to UVB rays alone and tells you little about what UVA damage you may be getting. Plenty of damage can be done without the red flag of sunburn being raised.


And please be aware that if you are on a prescription that causes sun-sensitivity, you cannot extend your sun exposure as long as usual. Using an SPF higher than 30 is not proven to provide more protection, but we do know it only has more chemicals, which are not going to help your acne-prone skin. 


Myth 4: Applying Some Sunscreen is Better than Nothing

Fact:  It matters a great deal how much sunscreen you put on. And in this situation - MORE IS BETTER.

To ensure that you get the full SPF of a sunscreen, you need to apply 1 oz. (about a shot glass full) at once and EVERY time you reapply the sunscreen. Studies show that most people apply only half to a quarter of that amount, which means the actual SPF they have on their body is lower than advertised. During a long day at the beach, one person should use around one half to one quarter of an 8 oz. bottle. Sunscreens should be applied 30 minutes before sun exposure to allow the ingredients to fully bind to the skin. Reapplication of sunscreen is just as important as putting it on in the first place, so reapply the same amount every two hours. Sunscreens should also be reapplied immediately after swimming, toweling off, or when sweating a lot. 

YES - it may add up to a quite a number of cans, tubes or bottles, but using a sufficient amount of sunscreen is essential.


Want to know how much protection is in the most natural form of SPF (a t-shirt)?


If you decide that a t-shirt is your sunscreen today, the color BLACK gives you the most protection.


A white t-shirt will only provide SPF 7, and when wet, SPF 3. A dark green t-shirt will give you SPF 10 (when NOT wet); and black t-shirt, especially a thicker shirt, SPF up to 50! It is not so surprising as dark colors absorb sunrays, and thicker materials obviously provide for more barrier.

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