What a hot summer this year! We already told you about the best outdoor swimming options around Stockholm and now we want to share with you everything we know about Sun Protection. Because swimming outdoor this year is so much about to hide from the sun.
Sun protection with sunscreens
Sunscreen is basically a barrier that protects the skin from absorbing ultraviolet (UV) rays. There are two kinds of UV rays that can affect the skin. UVA rays tend to age the skin. UVB rays typically cause sunburn. Sunscreen can be called “broad spectrum” if it protects against both types of UV rays.
In addition to broad spectrum information, the label will also have a number called sun protection factor (SPF). The SPF is a rating of how well the sunscreen blocks the sun. For example, a sunscreen with a 30 SPF rating blocks 97 percent of the sun’s UVB rays. The higher the number, the better it works at blocking UVB rays.
It is important to note, however, that no sunscreen blocks 100 percent of UV rays. Also, no matter how high the number, all sunscreens protect for the same amount of time. An 80 SPF sunscreen, for example, doesn’t let someone stay outside longer than a 15 SPF sunscreen. The 80 SPF just blocks more rays while the person is outside. All sunscreen needs to be reapplied at least every two hours or immediately after swimming or sweating.
Of course, sunscreen lives up to its SPF only when it is applied correctly, and most people don’t apply enough of it. One ounce of sunscreen, enough to fill a shot glass, is considered the amount needed to cover exposed areas of the body, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. It recommends applying sunscreen to dry skin 15 minutes before going outside.
For spray-on sunscreen, an ounce can be hard to estimate, so maybe apply it as if you’re spray-painting, making sure to rub it in with your hands afterward and taking care to avoid inhaling the product.
We are swimmers, so it is important to choose “water resistant” sunscreen. Water-resistant” means the sunscreen will offer protection for 40 minutes, while “very water-resistant” means twice as long, or 80 minutes.
Sunscreens may also advertise “physical” or “chemical” protection, which refers to whether they put a physical barrier — such as with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide — between your skin and the sun, or a chemical one — with oxybenzone or octinoxate, for example. While earlier sunscreens provided purely physical protection (think the white cream that lifeguards put on their noses), most modern ones combine physical and chemical protection for aesthetic purposes.
People with sensitive skin or allergies might want to look for physical sunscreens containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, as they are usually hypoallergenic.
Are sunscreens harmful?
We are not specialist to give you a right answer. New research by the EWG reveals that the chemicals commonly used in sunscreen are endocrine disruptors, estrogenic and may interfere with thyroid and other hormone processes in the body.The most common sunscreen chemical, Oxybenzone, was found in 96% of the population by a recent study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. This is especially alarming since oxybenzone is considered an endocrine disruptor, can reduce sperm count in men and may contribute to endometriosis in women.
Also they say that “most scientists and public health agencies – including the Food and Drug Administration itself – have found little evidence that the use of sunscreens in isolation from other sun protective measures prevents most types of skin cancer”.
If sun exposure is a big concern for you or you have a family history of skin cancers, use the safest form of sun protection: covering up.
Sun protection with clothes
We think that with all the information and mis-information about sunscreen out there, the easiest and safest way to avoid sun damage is to stay in the shade, wear a hat or long sleeves.
More and more clothing and outdoor companies are carrying garments promoting an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF). These clothes are sometimes treated with colorless dyes or chemical UV absorbers that block both ultraviolet-A (UVA) and ultraviolet-B (UVB) rays.
Consider this factors if you choose clothes for sun protection:
- Dark-colored clothing is better than lighter shades, but the real blocking power comes from the type of dye used to color the fabric. The higher the concentration of certain premium UV-blocking dyes, the more rays they disrupt.
- Fabrics that aren’t very effective at blocking UV rays unless treated with an added chemical include: cotton, rayon, flax, hemp
- Fabrics that are better at blocking the sun include: polyester, nylon, wool, silk
- Clothing that stretches may have less UV protection than clothing that doesn’t stretch.
- Clothing manufacturers may add chemicals that absorb UV light to clothing during the manufacturing process. Laundry additives, such as optical brightening agents and UV-disrupting compounds, can increase a garment’s UPF rating. The kinds of UV-blocking dyes and laundry additives can easily be found at retailers such as Amazon.
- Loosely woven fabrics provide less protection than tightly woven fabrics. To see how tight the weave on a piece of clothing is, hold it up to a light. If you can see light through it, the weave may be too loose to be effective at blocking the sun’s rays.
- The heavier the fabric, the better it is at blocking UV rays.
- Dry fabric provides more protection than wet fabric. Wetting a fabric reduces its effectiveness by as much as 50 percent.
- Recognizing the need for a variety of sun protective clothing options, retailers are carrying greater numbers of clothing styles with high UPFs.
Some companies use a trademarked name to denote their sun protective clothing. For example, Columbia’s high UPF clothing is called “Omni-Shade.” The company North Face simply notes the UPF in each garment’s description. Parasol is a brand that specializes in 50+ UPF resort wear for women and girls. Just know that a regular white cotton T-shirt has a UPF between 5 and 8.
Swimsuits made with UV-protective, chlorine-resistant material (UPF 50+) block at least 98 percent of UV rays.
Sun protection with natural oils
Also doing this research we described some new investigations that tells about natural oils with SPF. The individual ingredients are considered low SPF and generally quoted at these levels:
Almond Oil- SPF around 5
Coconut Oil– SPF 4-6
Zinc Oxide SPF 2-20 depending on how much is used
Red Raspberry Seed Oil SPF 25-50
Carrot Seed Oil – SPF 35-40
Shea Butter – SPF 4-6
As you see Raspberry Seed Oil and Carrot Seed Oil have highest SPF. So it can be a good option if you have doubts about chemical sunscreens.
If you opt for just avoiding the sun, please, check your vitamin D levels (in Sweden it is recommended to take vitamin D pills at least in winter time).