The Best Sunscreen

Sunscreen Help

As consumers, we automatically believe that if the FDA approves an item to sell on the market, it must be effective and not harmful to human skin. With respect to sunblocks and sunscreens, this is NOT true. Sunblocks and sunscreens are not made equally. SPF 30 products manufactured by different companies will not perform the same. Because manufacturers use different ingredients, it is important to read the entire label.

We spend lots of money on procedures and face products trying to prevent premature aging of the skin and avoiding brown spots. You wouldn’t want to reverse the beneficial effects of microdermabrasion or a Fraxel Laser treatment. Additionally, our skin becomes light sensitive after certain facial procedures. A sunblock providing adequate coverage is essential. Let’s make sure we are being properly protected! After reading this article, you’ll learn to avoid some potentially harmful chemicals and look for the benefits of others.

Quick Lesson on UVA and UVB

Ultraviolet light dispersed by the sun is also known as UV radiation. UV radiation is classified by three different types of wave lengths: UVA, UVB, and UVC. Fortunately, the earth is surrounded by the ozone layer which is a shield of gases. UVC radiation is unable to penetrate the ozone layer, protecting us from these rays. However, UVB and UVA rays are able to penetrate these gases and are hazardous to human skin.

UVB light consists of short waves that have been called the “tanning rays” or the “burning rays.” Because these are the shorter of the waves, UVB can only penetrate the top layer of skin known as the epidermis. Exposure to UVB light can cause skin cancer, sun burn, premature aging and brown spots. UVB rays are stronger in the summer than in the winter months.

UVA rays are longer than UVB and are able to penetrate deeper into the human skin. Exposure to UVA rays affect the dermis, which lies below the epidermis. UVA rays are known as “aging rays.” They contribute heavily to fine lines, wrinkles and the breakdown of collagen in your skin. Unlike UVB, UVA rays are present all year long, having the same damaging effects at 8am in December as they do at 1pm in July. It is important to have UVA protection built into our daily moisturizer throughout the entire year.

Look for a product that has “broad spectrum” or “UV Spectrum” printed on the label. Broad spectrum means that the product protects you from both UVB and UVA rays.

Sunscreens Verses Sunblocks

It is important to distinguish between the terms sunblock and sunscreen. After all the years of scrutinizing what sun protection to buy, I never contemplated the difference between the terms. As far as I was concerned, sunscreen and sunblock were products that would protect me from the potentially harmful rays of the sun. I thought the most important facts about sun protection was the SPF rating and whether or not the product was water resistant or water proof. If the product kept me from burning in the sun and did not cause any break-outs, I was generally pleased with the purchase. Boy, was I wrong!!!

There are 2 basic types of skin protection: sunscreen and sunblock. While both can protect you from sun damage, sun block may be the better choice.

Sunscreens are also known as “chemical sunblocks.” Chemical sunblocks are absorbed into our skin. These sunscreens then absorb the energy of the UV radiation before it causes the skin to burn. Thus, these chemicals serve as a “screen” not a “block.” Most manufacturers use more than one active chemical ingredient because no one chemical is able to block the entire UV spectrum. There are effective chemicals that protect against the sun; however, because they are absorbed into the skin, there may be some potential adverse effects. Listed below are several chemical ingredients to avoid.

Chemical Ingredients to Avoid

PABA (Para-aminobenzoic Acid)

This is considered an effective topical sunscreen; however it may have adverse side effects. The most common effect is causing skin irritation such as redness and itchiness.

Benzophenone, Homosalate, and Octy-Methoxycinnamate

These chemicals are known to disrupt hormones in animal studies which result in altercations to the liver, kidney and reproductive organs.


This chemical is used as a preservative in many cosmetics. However, it can mimic the hormone estrogen which in turn may create endocrine disruption.

Parasol 1789 and Padimate-O

Although these chemicals screen against UVA and UVB light which can lead to wrinkles and skin cancer, once absorbed into the skin, they could damage DNA.

Choose Sunblocks, not Sunscreens

Sunblocks, also known as “physical sunblocks” are the best choice! Sunblocks serve as a shield for your skin. They work by reflecting UV radiation away from your body before it touches your skin. There are 2 types of physical sunblocks available in the US: zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Make sure you are using a product that has zinc oxide or titanium dioxide!

Zinc and titanium-based formulations are among the safest, most effective sunblocks on the market. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are considered “mineral sunscreens” or “physical blockers.” These minerals reflect and scatter UV rays. They lie on top of the skin and are not absorbed by your body unlike chemical sunscreens which are absorbed into your body through your skin.

Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide are safe minerals that cause very few allergic reactions. There is no doubt that zinc oxide and titanium based products offer the strongest UVA protection on the market today. Remember the days of the lifeguards sitting at the lifeguard station with their red bathing suits and white, zinc oxide covered noses. No longer should zinc oxide conjure up such horrid memories. Luckily, there are more discreet (more attractive) options! In fact, products with clear zinc are readily available at most pharmacies.

Please take a look at my list of recommended products. I have reviewed them carefully and believe these products are effective.

What is SPF and How Much Do I Need?

SPF is the acronym for Sun Protection Factor. The SPF number of a sunscreen product represents the product’s effectiveness at stopping burning. For example, if a product is labeled SPF 15, it should provide you with 15 times the sun protection of bare skin. If it takes a person 10 minutes of being in the sun to get a sun burn, a product with an SPF of 15 would provide 150 minutes of protection. The higher the SPF, the longer you can remain in the sun without burning.

Don’t forget, when calculating how long a sunblock is protecting you from burning, you must also take into account sweating or getting wet. The actual time of sun protection is probably less than you thought. Remember, reapplying is key!

Recommended Products

We all have individual preferences on feel and smell of a product. Some people prefer a heavy duty cream that helps to promote moisture and others prefer a light, non-greasy formula that feels as if there is nothing on your face. Below are a list of my favorite products on the market . I have added some personal notes, but the bottom line is that these products are effective in blocking harmful UVA and UVB light and are not absorbed into the skin. Please e-mail me if you have a favorite sunblock I should try!

Terri’s Recommendations

Company: Colorescience Micronized Mineral Make-up
Product: Sunforgettable SPF 30
Description: Powder form applied by a brush; contains Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide; very water resistant; recommended by The Skin Cancer Foundation
Where to find: Go to for a store or physician office locator
Personal note: I like the application by brush. It can even be applied over makeup, which is a nice benefit. Because it is in powdered form, I feel I’m getting a little make-up coverage as well. Colorescience has a great line of products other than sunblock!

Company: Fallene, Ltd.
Product: Total Block SPF 65 and CoTZ SPF 58
Description: Both products contain full spectrum protection; contains zinc oxide and titanium dioxide; oil, PABA and fragrance free; dries transparent
Where to find: Go to or call 800-332-5536
Personal note: I can spend a day at the beach and know that I am protected. My son is blond haired and freckled and does not get any color with this sunblock.


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