I was shopping with my family yesterday and stopped by the local Walgreens to pick up a few items. What caught my eye was the full aisle display of sunscreen right inside the door. This is January in Colorado. Why would this be so prominent in the store at this time of year? OK, skiing maybe. Higher elevation in the mountains and we do get a lot of sunshine on our slopes. But we are in Vitamin D winter and even in the mountains it is difficult to get a burn this time of year. Then there are the high numbers on these products. Wow. I just had to go check it out and I just can’t get over the SPF levels of these lotions and creams. It is so unnecessary to use an SPF of 90+ or 100+ which by the way, were nearly sold out! What is the thought process to purchase something like that? It is like putting a bandage on your skin in anticipation of a wound. It doesn’t make sense. It is complete overkill. Even when I was super sensitive to the sun I didn’t need anything higher than 25-30 SPF. But these products are being marketed as more protection from skin cancer and they charge a higher price to have this false sense of security.
I believe that sunscreen is useful, don’t get me wrong, but ONLY when sunburn needs to be prevented. Daily incidental sun exposure is not going to burn you. The fact that it is included in most make-up, moisturizers, and other cosmetics is hard to completely avoid. When I go tan I normally do not wear make-up or anything containing SPF. Sometimes that is hard because I will stop in before or after work, so there is product on my face. I always use a lip balm with SPF though. Lips don’t have the cells that produce melanin so they do need to be protected. Other than that, I find that the SPF 15 included in my foundation is sufficient to keep me burn free.
If we wear these high SPF products every day all the time, we are blocking the important UVB rays from our skin. That means we are keeping our bodies from producing Vitamin D. That means we are risking many health problems by being Vitamin D deficient. That cycle needs to stop. Moderate UVB exposure is what we need. So let’s all put down that SPF lotion, unless we are going to be in the sun for an extended period of time. Remember, sunburn should always be avoided. Know your skin, and your reaction to exposure to gauge how much time you should spend in the sun without SPF. Use a reasonable SPF sunscreen, don't fall for the high number gimmick.