7 Tips for Safe Sunscreen Use During PregnancyLisanne Wellness Center
With so much information on what to do (and what not to do) during pregnancy, it can be tough to know what’s best for you and your baby. Sun safety is always important since too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays can cause health issues like skin cancer. You know that sunscreen protects your skin, but how do you know which sunscreen is best, especially when you’re not just protecting yourself?
Here are 7 things you should look for in a sunscreen to keep you and your baby safe and healthy.
Use a Broad-Spectrum Sunscreen: Some sunscreens only protect against one kind of sun rays, either UVA or UVB. UV rays are a type of radiation from the sun which penetrates the atmosphere to reach the earth. UVA waves have the longest wavelength and can penetrate deep into the dermis (the deepest layer of skin). UVB waves are shorter and are more likely to burn the superficial layers of skin. UVB is the main cause of sunburn and the primary contributor to skin cancer. UVA contributes to the skin discoloration that is common during pregnancy. Make sure you find a sunscreen that protects from both!
Get Familiar with SPF Numbers: You’ve likely noticed that your sunscreen has an SPF, but what does this really mean? SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and is a measure of how well the sunscreen protects against UVB rays (UVA protection isn’t rated). SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB rays, SPF 30 blocks 97%, and SPF 50 blocks 98%. As you can see, double the SPF isn’t exactly double the protection. A good rule-of-thumb is to use at least SPF 30 and reapply every two hours. If you’re in and out of the water, you should be reapplying even more often. Make sure that you apply sunscreen liberally and 30 minutes prior to sun exposure to allow your skin to properly absorb it.
Know What Your Sunscreen Contains: Nanoparticles (particles smaller than 100 nanometers) in American sunscreens are titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. Sunscreens made with these ingredients score well in EWG (Environmental Working Group) ratings because they offer strong protection with few health concerns and do not break down in the sun. Zinc oxide is EWG’s first choice because it provides the greatest long-ray UVA protection. Titanium dioxide blocks UVB and short-wave UVA rays and, although not as effective as zinc oxide, is better than most other sunscreen ingredients. These two nanoparticles are often combined in sunscreens to provide broad-spectrum protection.
Use Physical Sunscreen (Not Chemical): There are two types of sunscreens: chemical and physical. Of these, physical sunscreens are best. Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing the sun’s rays and converting them into heat. These sunscreens can provide more coverage but take 20 minutes to become effective; plus, many of the ingredients produce free radicals, leading to skin damage. Many of the ingredients in chemical sunscreens are not FDA-approved. Physical sunscreens do not get absorbed into the skin, but instead, work by deflecting the sun’s rays. They, provide broad-spectrum protection and are effective immediately after application. Minerals Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are found in physical sunscreens. Avoid physical sunscreens that use nanoparticle. Manufacturers reduce the size of the minerals to Nano levels so the product can be easily smeared, however, such sunscreens get absorbed into your skin.
Avoid Spray Sunscreens: Stick to lotions or creams, instead of spray varieties. While sprays can be more convenient, you are more likely to accidentally inhale potentially harmful ingredients. Titanium dioxide, for example, has been identified as a possible carcinogen if it gets inhaled in high doses. Furthermore, current FDA regulations do not apply to spray sunscreens. As a final incentive, you can ensure better coverage with lotions since it is hard to tell if you have missed a spot with a spray.
Avoid Oxybenzone: One of the most harmful ingredients in chemical sunscreens is oxybenzone; it is added to nearly 65% of chemical sunscreens, is easily absorbed into the skin, and has been linked to allergic reactions and hormone disruption. This compound has also been associated with low birth weights, which puts babies at a higher risk for problems like heart disease and diabetes down the road.
Use Oil-Free and Non-Comedogenic: It’s very common for pregnant women to experience breakouts, clogged pores, and oily skin because of the change in hormone levels. Choose a sunscreen that is oil-free and non-comedogenic, meaning it contains ingredients that won’t clog your pores, to minimize breakouts and skin clogs.
Most chemical sunscreens have some concerning ingredients in them. So far, mineral-based ingredients zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, as long as they’re not present in smaller, penetrating nanoparticles. Be sure to read the label and check the website of the manufacturer. In addition to using these two safer options, choose a healthy diet rich in antioxidants, wear full-sleeved clothing, dark eye glasses.
For more information on staying safe during pregnancy, contact Lisanne Wellness Center today at 713-461-WELL (9355).