Last June, we sat down to discuss frequently asked questions about SPF with Dr. Marina Udowenko. Now that the warmer months are upon us and we’re spending more time outside, I’d like to revisit the facts and studies that influence New Heights Naturals’ dedication to offering the safest and most effective sunscreen for children.
UV radiation from the sun plays a major role in the development of skin cancers, acceleration of photoaging, and the exacerbation of photodermatoses (Wang et al., 2013). The biggest way to combat the effects of radiation? Effective and timely application of SPF (in addition to staying out of the sun as much as possible!) Historically, sunscreens were made to do one thing: prevent a sunburn. As time has progressed, chemists, scientists, researchers, and medical professionals have collaborated to further understand the harmful effects of UVA and UVB radiation and how to provide protection. Modern-day sunscreens have shown to reduce the development of actinic keratosis, decrease the number of abnormal moles in children, prevent the development of squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma, and reduce the signs of photoaging (Wang et al., 2013).
Another thing that has changed is the FDA’s rules regarding how SPFs are marketed. Nowadays, it’s much easier to know exactly what kind of protection you’re getting. In 2012, the FDA decided to only allow sunscreens to be labeled “broad spectrum” followed by an SPF number if they met specific criteria (Strausfogel, 2012). They must protect against both UVB rays (which cause sunburn) as well as UVA rays (which contribute to skin cancer and cause wrinkles). You might notice that any sunscreen under SPF 15 has to carry a warning that reads: “This product has been shown only to help prevent sunburn, not skin cancer or early skin aging” (Strausfogel, 2012).
Don’t be fooled by a number--while the FDA has considered prohibiting SPF claims higher than 50, regulations have not been issued at this time. The problem with the number defining your SPF? It oftentimes gives you a false sense of security. As Dr. Marina explained,
SPF 15 protects against 93% of all rays, SPF 30 against 97%, and SPF 50 against 98%. Nothing provides 100 percent protection.
At New Heights Naturals, we carefully chose to craft a non-nano zinc oxide sunscreen. The active ingredients in sunscreens can be divided into two categories: organic and inorganic filters. In another words, chemical and physical sunscreens. While chemical sunscreens create a thin barrier and absorb UV radiation before it enters the skin, physical sunscreens are insoluble particle that reflect UV rays away from the skin. The ingredients of chemical sunscreen can be absorbed into the blood and are linked to toxic effects, such as causing free radicals to form. Mineral filters (inorganic filters) such as zinc oxide are less chemically active and do not penetrate as far into the skin as traditional chemical sunscreens, which makes them ideal for sensitive and baby skin (Byren et al., 2017). Both in vitro and in vivo testing show that sunscreens containing zinc oxide has significantly higher UVA protection factor than other leading mineral filter sunscreens (Byren et al., 2017).
Sunscreens with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide generally score better in the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) ratings because:
They provide strong sun protection with fewer health concerns.
They don’t break down in the sun.
They offer good protection from UVA rays (EWG, 2017).
Zinc oxide is the EWG’s first choice for sun protection. Because it is stable in sunlight, it provides greater protection from UVA rays than titanium dioxide or any other sunscreen chemical approved in the U.S. (EWG, 2017). It is also approved by the FDA for use in diaper rash cream as safe for infants under 6 months.
The International Organization for Standardization defines a “nanomaterial” as a material with a dimension between 1-100 nm. A double strand of our DNA is approximately 2 nm think. Because of this fact, nanoparticles have the ability to travel throughout the body, including into cells and cell nuclei, in addition to across the blood-brain barrier (Kessler, 2010). Unfortunately, the FDA is not required to ensure the safety and effectiveness of sunscreen minerals. There is no regulation by the government to enact regulations, guidelines, or recommendations on particle characteristic that would maximize sun protection and minimize health risks (EWG, 2017).
New Heights Naturals’ products are non-nano, meaning the size of the zinc particles in our products are too large to cross into the bloodstream, which we take very seriously. Our transparency as a brand and dedication to your safety will always be our first priority. For additional reading on the Skin Cancer Foundation’s guide to sunscreens, click here.