Here’s what you need to know to get the skinny on sunscreen to protect yourself and the Lowcountry environment.
We may be into September, but our Hilton Head Island sunshine is still going strong.
Hilton Head’s sun is powerful, and just because summer is officially drawing to a close, your sunscreen should never be packed away. In order to maximize the effectiveness of your sunscreen, a little education can go a long way.
Let’s start with the quality of protection sunscreen can offer. The concept of SPF, or Sun Protection Factor, can sometimes be a bit confusing. SPF 15 provides 93% protection from the sun. SPF 30 provides 97% protection, and SPF 50 provides 98% protection.
So, you can see, the difference between SPF 30 and 50 is marginal. Even SPF 15 does a pretty good job of filtering out harmful rays. Spending extra money on SPF 75 and SPF 100 adds barely 1% additional protection and bathes your skin in more potentially harmful chemicals.
Which leads us to the type of protection sunscreen can offer: chemical vs. physical. A chemical sunscreen will use oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate to filter out UVA and UVB rays. Chemical sunscreens soak into the skin and then absorb UV rays, convert the rays into heat, and release them from the body. Some people prefer a chemical sunscreen because it can be more water-resistant and holds up well when playing sports. Generally speaking, it can also absorb more easily into the skin. However, it’s full of chemicals and, since your skin is one big organ, anything you put on it is absorbed into your bloodstream and effects your body systemically.
If this is a concern, you may choose to use a physical sunscreen.
Physical sunblock sits on top of the skin and reflects the sun’s rays. The minerals titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are the main active ingredients in physical blocks. These sunscreens tend to be less irritating to the skin and are often more moisturizing. Some people don’t like the whitish cast you can have from a physical sunscreen, but newer formulations offer matte and tinted versions that prevent that ghostly white appearance.
Here on Hilton Head Island, there is an extra reason to consider a physical sunscreen as your protection of choice. Research has shown that many of the ingredients in chemical sunscreens are damaging the marine life that make our beaches and tidal marshes so special. Petrolatum, parabens, oxybenzone and octinoxate have proven to be especially harmful.
Even physical sunscreen can be considered harmful to our sea critters if it contains titanium dioxide. If you want to play your part in preserving our Island environment, use a non-nano particle zinc oxide physical sunscreen and take advantage of UPF clothing, so you have less skin to coat with sunscreen.
Regardless of the type of protection you choose, the way you use it is equally important.
Quantity is less important than even coverage. Remember that clothing shifts, so apply your sunscreen beyond the edges of your clothing. Don’t neglect places like your ears, the back of your neck, the tops of your feet and your hair part. And, it’s always best to apply sunscreen 30 minutes prior to exposure to the sun, especially if you are using a spray-on sunscreen.
Now, you can confidently get out and safely enjoy the watersport adventures offered by Outside Hilton Head without damaging your skin or our wildlife.
By Anneliza Itkor, Outside Hilton Head
To book an outing with Outside Hilton Head, call 843-686-6996 or visit www.outsidehiltonhead.com.