Nowadays you often hear that you should be wearing sun-screen all year round, regardless of weather or location. Wearing sun-screen is certainly very important when you are going to be exposed to higher amounts of UV-radiation (which will reach you even when you seek shade) and you should always choose an spf-factor to suit your skin-type, that is, ideally higher rather than lower.
But there are some doubts whether it is really necessary or advisable to wear sunscreen at all times, even in a climate where UV-radiation is low, or when you are only going out for short periods. Your skin needs regular exposure to natural light in order for your body to produce vitamin D, which is vital for your overall health, including mental health, the immune-system and bone-density. In fact, people who live in northern climates don't tend to produce enough vitamin D in the winter even without wearing sunscreen.
The daily exposure to chemicals that our skin is subjected to via moisturizers and cosmetics already tends to be quite high. Most people wash their faces at night, taking off residues of skincare-products and make-up, only to add a new layer of moisturizer before bed. Think of your skin as an organ, because indeed, our skin is the largest organ we have, protecting us from external threats of all kinds. Your skin absorbs practically everything you apply to it and every chemical that is absorbed has to be dealt with by the body and by the skin itself. An overload can be unhealthy. Our skin is not meant to be plastered in several layers of chemicals each day. And it did not evolve to be covered in sunscreen at all times.
So some suspicion with regards to all-year-round, every day sunscreen-use is justified, considering that the promotion of it is in the interest of the industry that produces sun-care products.
But, whether or not you choose to wear sun-screen all year round and in all weather-conditions: what if your sun-screen doesn't do what it says on the box? In recent years, studies have shown that many sun-screens don't provide the protection they claim to offer. What's more, some ingredients commonly found in sun-care products can actually have adverse effects. These substances protect your skin from UV-rays only as long as they stay on the surface of your skin, but once they are absorbed, they will actually increase the effect UV-rays have on your skin, including premature ageing and the risk of skin-cancer. So it is very important to choose your sun-screen wisely. The following is a list of substances that have been shown to have adverse effects, opposite a list of ingredients that have been shown to block harmful UV-rays effectively.
What to avoid
Retinyl palmitate & retinol
What to look for
Zinc or Titanium
There are also some all-natural ways to provide your skin with sun-protection, although these should not be relied upon if you are going to be exposed to a high amount of UV-radiation.
- Aloe Vera gel affords some protection against UV-rays and is an excellent healing agent to be applied to skin after sun-exposure or when it is burned.
- Increasing the amount of Beta-Carotene in your diet increases your skin's own resistance to UV-radiation. Beta Carotene is found in most orange fruit and vegetables, such as carrots and pumpkins. You can also take it as a supplement.
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