Last summer, we had our own sunscreen in the form of Canadian wildfire smoke — that is, it screened us from the sun by forcing us inside. This year, thankfully, going outside has not required a respirator, and we’re back to monitoring our exposure to the sun.

Sunscreens and sunblocks definitely prevent sunburn, but there’s growing consensus that by doing so, they’re also acting as anti-aging agents.

There are two main varieties of sunscreen and sunblock:

  • Mineral sunblock, like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.
  • “Petrochemical” sunscreens, often made of synthetic molecules. 

The petrochemical sunscreens are named that because chemicals from petroleum are the starting point in their production. These sunscreens can do any number of things to us, from imitating hormones to interfering in the inner workings of our cells. Perhaps the worst thing about petrochemical sunscreens is the way they have been reported to absorb into the blood — and stay there for weeks.

They’re also toxic to coral reefs, at least according to the State of Hawai’i. 

The mineral sunblocks are naturally broad spectrum, meaning they protect against UVA(ging) and UVB(urning). They don’t seem to have the problem of getting absorbed like the petrochemicals do. 

A lot of different websites have a lot of different takes on what SPF is, but they all agree it stands for Sun Protection Factor. From what I can tell, SPF is a standardized way to measure how many sun-burning rays of light make it to the skin. Almost all the world’s governments recommend an SPF of 50 or below, to avoid the overconfidence that comes with SPF 100 sprays. It’s important to remember that a higher SPF does not mean you need to put it on less frequently — every two hours is the rule.

There’s still a lot of time until July 4, so take your time shopping online. Just know that the gimmicky things — like the sunscreen that comes in a whipped cream can — all use petrochemical sunscreens.

If you need any other help with your trip, our Lifestyle Division can help you figure it all out. Contact us to learn more.