Sun Protection is something you hear a lot about these days. With skin cancer affecting one in five Americans, adequate measures are required for those of us who spend a considerable amount of time in the sun. Dermatologists recommend a minimum of SPF 30 sunscreen, with reapplication as necessary to combat sweat and the passage of time.
While I am one of the biggest proponents of sun safety, one thing I would caution you against is going with just any old sunblock. Chatting on site with one of the physiotherapists this week, I was actually made aware of the dangers lurking inside many common sunscreens.
Your skin is an incredible organ that absorbs a lot of what it comes into contact with. It becomes obvious when you think about it: drugs like birth control and the nicotine patch (to help people quit smoking) can actually be administered through our skin. These patches only work because of the skin’s amazing ability to absorb chemicals directly into the bloodstream.
Kevin and I have always spent a lot of time and energy worrying about what is going into our bodies from a dietary perspective, but only recently have we become more aware of harmful chemicals we might be absorbing directly through our skin. It’s actually estimated that the average woman absorbs almost five pounds of chemicals through her skin annually!
As something we use almost daily, Kevin and I are making a concerted effort to choose better and safer sunblocks. Sunscreens work by blocking the UV rays using either mineral or chemical filters. So it is extremely important to investigate the ingredients in the sunblock you use, because chances are it has chemicals that are less than desirable to be slathering all over your body.
The common mineral filters are zinc oxide and titanium oxide, and have a low toxicity concern. The common chemical filters are: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate. Of these, oxybenzone and octinoxate have been identified as high toxicity concerns. You can read more about each of these chemicals and their toxicity online from the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
How did EWG determine that these chemicals could be harmful to health? Studies conducted using rats showed that when ingested in high doses, it interacted with their hormonal balance. No evidence has ever proven the chemicals to be harmful to humans, and in fact oxybenzone remains one of the most widely used sunscreen ingredients.
The use of this chemical is so prevalent that it is estimated to be used in over 70% of non-mineral sunscreens. Although there is no proof that oxybenzone is harmful to humans, I can’t help but think that minimizing exposure to any potentially dangerous chemical is important.
What’s more, people are beginning to believe that oxybenzone might be contributing to the coral bleaching phenomenon wreaking havoc on the ocean’s ecosystems. As little as one teaspoon (much less than a typical sunscreen application) can harm the reefs. So even if you are unconvinced about the dangers of oxybenzone to your own health, we should all try to stay away from it for the sake of the environment!
Another thing to avoid in any skincare or cosmetic products are parabens. These chemicals are used to preserve the products, but have shown dangerous links to cancer, hormone levels, and premature aging of the skin. (YIKES!)
So what do we use? I am a huge fan of the Coola Suncare brand because the products are made with natural or organic ingredients and are paraben free. Coola Sunblock is also one of the least greasy sun protection products I’ve found, and the scents are pleasant and refreshing. My picks from the Coola line are as follows:
This spray sunscreen is non-greasy, easy to apply, and smells terrific! If you are not a fan of the scents, it does come in an unscented version as well. The spray application ensures you don’t have to worry about losing your grip on the tennis racquet.
This face sunscreen is our go-to for everyday use. I put it all over my face and neck right after I wake up in the morning. It won’t clog pores, run in your eyes or make you greasy. Kevin loves the sport performance of this product as well.
My only critique of Coola products is that they are over-the-top pricey. A great alternative at a lower price point are the Sun Bum Signature products which we also use regularly.
Sun Bum also goes out of its way to create safe, clean and natural sun protection products. Just make sure you stick to the Signature line to avoid oxybenzone altogether. The rest of the Sun Bum products contain small amounts of oxybenzone, (although still well below the amounts recommended by the FDA). The Sun Bum Signature sunblock comes in both SPF 30 and SPF 50. We love the amazing beach scents and sport performance of this product line.
Finally, another affordable and safe sunblock that we have used for years is Aloe-Up Pro Sport. This product is aloe based so it is incredibly non-greasy. This paraben and oxybenzone free product absolutely won’t run or sting your eyes – tested and verified by Kevin himself in extreme Florida summer conditions! It feels great on your skin, and works wonderfully to prevent sunburns.
I hope these recommendations help you save your skin this summer so you can safely enjoy your on and off-court activities. Keep cool out there and don’t forget to slather on the sunscreen! Make sure you follow us on facebook and twitter for more tennis lifestyle tips like these. Also check out the rest of our tennis lifestyle content here!