Published on:
August 19, 2015

Is Sunscreen Harmful or Helpful?

One of the most important parts of your skin care routine is protecting your skin from the sun!


Because UVA rays cause premature aging and wrinkles! These little buggers can even pass through windows as you drive in your car. So a traffic jam goes from simply being annoying, to aging you!

UVB rays, on the other hand, cause burning on the superficial layers of skin and play a key role in the development of cancer.

Sun damage may cause hyper pigmentation, age spots, leathery or sagging skin, and DNA damage, which may lead to mutations on a cellular level (causing cancer). You can even get burned on a cloudy day (this goes out to you Portlanders).

Sunscreen is a must!

But if you’re like me, you may have avoided wearing sunscreen because you heard it actually plays a role in causing cancer. The key here is the TYPE of sunscreen.

Let’s review the different types of sunscreen to get the facts straight.

First of all there are two types of sunscreens. Physical and Chemical.

Physical sunscreens use mineral UV filters, while chemical sunscreens use synthetic UV filters. There are also hybrid sunscreens which contain both.

UV filters are the active ingredient in sunscreens that protect you from the sun. In physical sunscreens, it is Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Physical sunscreens protect you from the sun by sitting on the top of the skin and deflecting or blocking the sun’s rays.

Sunscreen - Helpful or hurtful? - The Portland Girl

When you have a physical sunscreen, think thick, opaque and sometimes streaky. Physical sunscreen rubs off more easily and must be reapplied frequently. The great thing about it is it gets to work right away.

Chemical Sunscreens, on the other hand, penetrate the skin and work by absorbing the sun’s rays. They tend to be runny and colorless. Some chemical filters can scatter rays, but most only absorb them. Nowadays, many physical formulas are micronized so this type of sunscreen is easier to spread. However, it can take up to 20 minutes to fully sink in for protection.

Our preference is physical sunscreen.

Physical sunscreens are your safest bet to protect your skin without harsh chemicals. Take a look at the back of your sunscreen bottle for the ‘active ingredients.’ Look for “oxides” such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. These are physical sun blocking agents.

If you see a ton of long words you cannot pronounce, it is likely a chemical sunscreen.

Oxybenzone is the most common ingredient that we tend to see on labels. Chemical ingredients tend to irritate the eyes and skin or cause allergic reactions because it takes multiple ingredients combined to get broad spectrum coverage. Some can actually cause free radical formation, which leads to more sun damage in the long run.

Many chemical UV filters have not been FDA approved in the states but are in sunscreens sold in Europe and Asia. Be sure to check labels if you are going on vacation. Also, when you’re shopping for makeup, be aware that SPF labeled in your makeup is not adequate protection for the day. Be sure you are using a base or reapplying sunscreen throughout the day.

Sunscreen – Helpful or Hurtful - The Portland Girl

So which sunscreen do we recommend?

At The Portland Girl we carry Kimberly Sayer, Ultra Light Facial Moisturizer ­SPF 30. It’s a non­toxic formulation from minerals Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide. It offers complete protection from the sun without irritating even the most sensitive skin.

This sunscreen also contains Oat Beta Glucan to protect against UVA oxidative stress. Beta Glucan is made up of a long chain of D­ Glucose molecules. These are small enough to be quickly absorbed by the skin and immediately used by the body.

Oat Beta Glucan can also help the skin to heal from over-exposure to sun and mild burns. It also contains Lemon Oil to detoxify the skin, minimize oil production, and dry up pimples.

This product is easily absorbed, lightweight, and won’t clog pores. It is safe to use daily under makeup or alone.

Come in for a sample or ask to apply some after your next service. You’ll love the light texture and refreshing citrus notes!

Remember, sunscreen is not the only way to protect your skin. Take further steps, like finding a great summer hat, avoiding laying out during the hottest part of the day, and taking cover after being out for long periods of time.

Sunscreen skin care

Next time you’re standing in the lotion aisle of your favorite store, don’t be overwhelmed by the dozens upon dozens of choices. Simply look for SPF’s that contain our 2 basic blocking agents (Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide) and avoid those from the list below.

Sunscreen ingredients to avoid:

4­MBC:­ A UV filter not approved as an active ingredient for use in sunscreen in the US, but listed as an inactive ingredient in some products. It may cause thyroid toxicity, hormone disruption.

Avobenzone­: Notoriously unstable, with relatively high rates of skin allergy and limited skin penetration.

Benzoin Extract:­ Linked to breast cancer, may cause hormone disruption and tissue damage.

Helioplex­: A stabilizer used commonly with avobenzone

Homosalate: Disrupts estrogen, androgen, and progesterone. Toxic breakdown points. It accumulates in our bodies fast than we can get rid of it.

Octinoxate:­ One of the most common sunscreen ingredients. Penetrates deep with hormone­-like activity in the reproductive system. Causes thyroid and behavior alterations in animal studies. Moderate rates of skin allergy. Harmful for wildlife once it gets in to the water.

Octylcrylene: Found in mother’s milk, affects skin penetration in lab studies, with relatively high rates of skin allergy.

Oxybenzone­: Found in mother’s milk, acts like estrogen, alters sperm production in animals, high rates of skin allergy, associated with endometriosis. Blocks, limits, or alters hormone levels. May cause eczema-­like reactions.

Parabens:­ associated with both acute and chronic side effects, paragons (butyl­ , ethyl­, methyl­, propyl­.) May induce allergic reactions, hormone disruption, developmental and reproductive toxicity.

Retinyl Palmitate: (Vitamin A Palmitate)­ An antioxidant, but as an ingredient in sunscreen, certain forms of vitamin A break down and and produce a destructive free radical that is toxic to cells, damage DNA , and may lead to cancer.

Don’t forget to hydrate your skin after being in the sun!

Hella Hydration Moisture Cream is an enriching evening primrose oil cream for your face. It’s scent free and great for Acne, Rosacea, signs of aging, Eczema, and skin ulcers. Purchase here.

Contact us

The Portland Girl entrance
Central Eastside
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Fri : 8:30am - 2:30pm
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Pearl District
Wed - Fri : 9:00am - 4:00pm
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