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READING SUNSCREEN LABELS

Tara
Founder of Greenify Organics.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Have you ever checked your sunscreen label? 

Most of us may be curious but if you live on your own principles and preferences and are conscious about the products you use, checking a label will be a part of your shopping.

Figure 1 sunscreen vs. no sunscreen skin effects. Source

What Does SPF Mean? 

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. 

The number indicates the level of protection against UVB rays. 

A higher SPF DOES NOT mean the amount of coverage jumps up significantly. 

  • SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB rays. 
  • SPF 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays. 
  • SPF 50 blocks 98% of UVB rays.
  • SPF 100 blocks 99% of UVB rays.

What Does Broad Spectrum Mean? 

SPF is a measure of protection against UVB rays only. But remember that protection against UVA rays is important too, so choose a “broad spectrum” sunscreen, which protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Read more about it here.

Does Mineral Sunscreen Expire?

Sunscreens are required by the FDA to remain at their original strengths for at least three years. This means that you can use leftover sunscreen from one year to the next. Read more here.

Mineral sunscreen contains the active mineral ingredients zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide, which offer protection against UVA and UVB rays by reflecting and scattering the rays from the surface of the skin. Because they are minerals, Zinc Oxide, and Titanium Dioxide do not change over time and remain effective. 

However, when put into a sunscreen cream or lotion other ingredients can spoil the texture or be separated, meaning that although the sunscreen itself may be effective, it may not be very pleasant when applied to the skin. Read more here.

Nano vs Non-Nano Sunscreen

At the nano level, it is virtually impossible to ensure that a product is 100% nano-particle free because the shapes of the particles make them hard to measure.

A nano-particle is a piece of material that is so small it has to be measured in nanometers. 

Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide can be manufactured at nano sizes, and are used in sunscreens to avoid using hormone-disrupting chemicals while providing sun protection.

Do Non-Nano-Particle Sunscreens Work Differently?

It turns out that nano-particles do work differently from non-nano-particles. Zinc is a good example. One of the reasons that nano-particles are more visible and sheer is that they reflect less and less visible light as the particle size becomes smaller and smaller. Thus nano-particle zinc may not be as good as blocking the blue light. 

Nano Zinc vs Non-Nano Zinc

Para Amino Benzoic Acid was introduced in the 1970s as a UVB filter. More recently, its use has declined due to allergic dermatitis,

Non-Nano Zinc

  • Advantages | Broader coverage against UVB, UVA, and blue light
  • Disadvantages | Whiter and visible

Nano Zinc

  • Advantages | Broad coverage and less visible on the skin
  • Disadvantages | Coverage is not as broad and may not cover every long-wavelength UVA and blue light
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