Spring is finally here and summer is just around the corner. It’s time for bright sunshine and the fun outdoors. This means it’s also time to find a good sunscreen to protect ourselves so we can enjoy that sun.
Safe sun protection is especially important for pregnant women. Due to hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy, a woman’s skin becomes extremely sensitive to the sun. Further – many ingredients in sunscreen may be harmful to pregnant women or babies; choosing the right kind of sun protection is critical.
We’ve put together nine tips to help you understand your sunscreen and choose the best one for you and your family:
- Select a sunscreen with at least SPF 30. SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and measures how much of the sun’s UVB radiation – the kind that causes sunburns – is blocked by your sunscreen. The higher the SPF the longer you can stay in the sun.
- Prioritize broad-spectrum protection. Though a high SPF value indicates that burn-causing UVB rays are being blocked, it says nothing about your protection from UVA radiation, which is the kind associated with skin cancer and aging. A “broad-spectrum” label in the United States means that at least 90% of harmful UVA rays are blocked, thereby mitigating burning and other risks.
- Avoid oxybenzone-based sunscreens. High levels of oxybenzone in the body were associated with low birth weights in a recent study. Oxybenzone can be absorbed through the skin and is present in about 80% of sunscreens on the market so it’s important to keep an eye out for this ingredient.
- Opt for zinc-oxide suncreens. Zinc oxide is a physical sun blocker that protects you by coating the surface of your skin and reflecting away light. Unlike chemical sun blockers, these molecules aren’t absorbed through the skin, which makes them a safer choice. Titanium dioxide is another common physical sun blocker, however it doesn’t appear to work nearly as well as zinc oxide.
- Beware of nano-particles. Nano particles are so ultrafine that they can enter into your skin. You’ll find nano particles in some newer zinc or titanium sunscreen formulations, particularly sprays. Nano particles are mostly untested and thus it’s very important for pregnant women and all parents to look for “non-nano” particles – like “non-nano zinc oxide.”
- Moderate exposure to Vitamin A. While some Vitamin A is essential for a healthy pregnancy you should get enough from your diet and supplements. Excessive Vitamin A is associated with birth defects and it can contribute to skin damage so pregnant women should be cautious. A very common A Vitamin in sunscreen is retinyl palmitate, but watch for the words retinol or retinoic acid on ingredients lists as well in order to minimize exposure. Plus they’re also found in other skin care products such as acne medications, so be on the look out!
- Apply rules for other cosmetics to sunscreen. While we’ve covered smart sunscreen shopping above, don’t forget that general cosmetics concerns apply to sunscreen as well. For instance watch out for parabens, phthalates and other such things that you might be trying to more widely avoid.
- Apply efficiently & amply. A number of studies have shown that people typically apply only 20-50% of the sunscreen the FDA uses when determining if a product works. This means that most people aren’t getting the protection they need or are counting on! It’s also just as important to reapply every hour or two to maintain that protection.
- Commit to brands that create simple, smart and safe products. We love Nine Naturals’ new Natural Sunscreen SPF 32: It’s an all-natural, non-nano zinc oxide sunscreen, which means that you don’t have to worry about chemical sun blockers like oxybenzone or nano particles entering your blood stream. Like all of our products, our pregnancy sunscreen is free from sulfates, parabens, phthalates, petrochemicals, DEA, synthetic fragrances and artificial preservatives. It’s also formulated with luxurious shea butter and jojoba seed oil to help moisturize you skin. Best part of all, our natural sunscreen is safe for the entire family (though you may be reluctant to share!).
Want more information? Read our article on Natural Sun Protection During Pregnancy.