While you’re enjoying the outdoors this summer, it’s important to protect your skin from the sun. Too much unprotected sun exposure is linked to skin cancer. It can also break down the structural proteins in your skin, like collagen. That can lead to wrinkles and sagging skin, and can also make the skin more fragile, especially as you age.
Unfortunately, many sunscreens contain ingredients that can be irritating for those with chronic skin conditions. They might even trigger a flare-up. So how can you choose the right sunscreen? How can you protect your skin both from the sun and from irritation?
Choosing a Non-irritating Sunscreen
There are a few factors to consider when you’re looking at sunscreen options.
Choose mineral-based sunscreen
Chemical sunscreens can be irritating to the skin. A more skin-friendly option is a mineral sunscreen – either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Although you might associate zinc oxide with those chalky pastes that were fairly common in past decades, there are now many options for mineral sunscreens that have smaller mineral particles and are virtually invisible to wear.
Avoid fragrances and dyes
Sunscreen commonly contains irritating ingredients like fragrances and dyes. These ingredients are completely unnecessary – they don’t add anything to the effectiveness of the sunscreen. Look for a fragrance-free, dye-free sunscreen. Products labeled “for sensitive skin” or “hypoallergenic” are more likely to work well, although it’s important to note that these can still contain unnecessary chemicals and might still trigger a skin flare-up.
Choose alcohol-free sunscreen
Some people are surprised to learn that sunscreens commonly contain alcohol. It’s used because it makes the sunscreen less greasy and easier to spread, and because it increases the shelf life of the product. But at the same time, it can be irritating, because it dries out your skin. Look for a sunscreen that doesn’t contain alcohol.
Make sure your sunscreen is protective
It’s also important to make sure that your non-irritating sunscreen will actually protect you the way that you want it to. Look for an SPF of at least 30. Also ensure that your sunscreen protects against both UVA and UVB rays – these are different wavelengths of ultraviolet light, and they can both be damaging in different ways.
Consider a little unprotected sun time
As I discussed last week, when it comes to the effects of sun exposure on chronic skin conditions…well, it’s complicated. Some people find that their skin gets better with sun exposure, while it could trigger flares in others.
If you’re not sure what sunlight does to your skin, consider spending a few minutes a day outside in the sun, without sunscreen. Don’t stay for more than 10 to 30 minutes a day, to avoid damaging your skin and raising your risk of skin cancer. Pay close attention to what happens to your skin. If it’s beneficial for you, this is something you could consider adding to your skin routine on a regular basis.
Living a skin-friendly lifestyle
If you’re living with a chronic skin condition, sunscreen is definitely not the only important factor to consider. Stress, nutrition, sleep, and more can all have a major impact on your skin. If you’d like some support in learning how to live the most skin-friendly lifestyle possible, you might like to join us inside Mind Gut Skin Academy. I’ll provide you with tons of support and actionable, evidence-based solutions you can use to help support your skin health, mental health, and more.
The brand new version of the program will be launching soon, and our whole team is so excited! Head over here to learn more, or to sign up to be on the waitlist.