This post on non-toxic sunscreen originally appeared on My Kind Closet, a blog for people who want to live more compassionately to the planet and animals. Some research shows that recreational, or intermittent, sun exposure (weekend trips to the beach, tropical mid-winter vacations, or ski trips for example) is a risk factor for melanoma. So don’t you dare forego sunscreen the first couple days of your trip because you want to get your tan on – you’re only damaging your skin and putting yourself at risk for skin cancer. I’d also like to remind you that sunscreen is very important for year-round skin protection, no matter where you live! If you are going to be outside, driving a car, sitting by a window, etc. , etc., you should be wearing some sort of sun protection on your face! I should know. I have always been careful about sun protection, but I am especially
serious obsessively neurotic about it ever since developing really bad melasma. I was already prone to developing melasma because of certain risk factors (ethnicity, darker skin tone, etc), but it was ultimately triggered by using birth control.
Melasma is a rather unfortunate and frustrating skin disorder that I have on my upper lip, in small patches on my cheeks, and in between my eyebrows. Although it’s typically a bit lighter in the winter months it’s always visible and even very minimal sun exposure will trigger melanin production in these spots resulting in further darkening of my skin. It’s not pretty.
The only way to treat or reduce the appearance of these dark spots is to stay completely out of the sun, which is unrealistic given my lifestyle and the fact that I surf, which obviously puts me at greater risk for damage or problems related to sun exposure anyway.
I’ve had zero success treating it (believe me, I’ve tried everything), and I’m not going to stop doing what I love, so my only course of action is to accept and embrace the spots that have caused me years of stress and self-deprecating thoughts about how I look, and to manage it the best I can by being diligent about sun protection.
I may not be able to get rid of it, but I can certainly try to prevent it from getting darker or spreading. And so, this post is the first in a series I will do about products I use to help treat, prevent, and cover my melasma. It’s a condition that a lot of people don’t really know about (and most of the dermatologists I’ve seen are not terribly up-to-date in newer and innovative methods of treatment), but women who have it often feel really helpless and upset by their appearance, so I hope that this series will offer tips, and support!
Before you run out and buy something to protect yourself, please consider that not all sunscreens are created equal. Not by a long shot.
Sunscreens contain filters that, you guessed it, filter the harmful rays of the sun to reduce skin damage; the two types of filters used in sunscreens include chemical and physical (also referred to as “mineral”) filters, the former being the type utilized in most commercially available sunscreens (think: Banana Boat or Coppertone), and the latter considered to be the safer and more environmentally friendly option.
There are a number of commonly used chemical sunscreens, and while some do filter by scattering the sun’s rays, most work by absorbing the sun’s UV rays and converting it to heat that is dispersed in the skin. Commonly used chemical sunscreens are:
- Ecamsule (Mexoryl SX is the trade name, exclusive to L’Oreal)