NutriSense Blog
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Staying Safe in the Sun: A Breakdown on Sunscreen

May 20, 2022
Written by
Team NutriSense
Brooke McKelvey

Depending on where you live, summer is right around the corner or already in full swing. And with warmer weather, we’re looking forward to some grilling, swimming, and getting more of the sunshine vitamin. But before you head out, make sure you’re taking the proper precautions to stay safe in the sun

It’s important to protect your skin from the harsh effects of the sun’s rays, including premature skin aging and sun damage to your skin cells that can lead to skin cancer. One of the most effective ways to do this is to wear sunscreen. But what is sunscreen, and how does it work?

Read on to learn more about how sunscreen works, what the active ingredients are, and how much of the lotion (or spray) you should be applying to protect yourself from harmful UV rays.

How Does Sunscreen Work?

Person applying sunscreen

There’s some debate about the origins of sunscreen, but some experts believe that it dates back to ancient Egypt, where Egyptian women were known to apply oils and dyes to their skin to protect against harsh sunlight. Others suggest that the first evidence of modern sunscreen was discovered on a shipwreck in the 18th century.

Regardless of its exact origins, one thing is clear: sunscreen has always played a vital role in protecting us from the sun's harmful UV rays.

Over the years, new research and advances in technology have made it more effective than ever at blocking harmful UV rays and preventing skin damage. There are countless types of sunscreen available, each specifically tailored to suit different needs and preferences. Whether you want high SPF coverage for extended outdoor activities or mineral-based sunscreen gentle on sensitive skin, there is no shortage of options.

Several different formulations of sunscreen have been developed, including chemical sunscreens that absorb UV light and physical sunscreens with protection from both direct and reflected light.

Chemical sunscreens work by reducing the amount of UV radiation that penetrates the outer layers of our skin, reducing the risk of sunburns and skin cancer.

Physical sunscreens, also known as mineral sunscreens, use minerals like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to reflect sunlight away from your body. They block harmful ultraviolet rays before they can do any damage. 

Despite some recent controversy around the safety of certain chemicals in sunscreen, it remains a popular and essential tool for protecting against skin cancer and premature aging. 

Why Sunscreen is So Important

Unlike a pair of sunglasses or a wide-brimmed hat, sunscreen permeates deeply into the skin and defends against harmful UV rays from all angles.

Wearing sunscreen every day can help to prevent premature aging, wrinkles, and leathery skin. And if you spend a lot of time outdoors—whether it's for work or play—ensuring that you're wearing sunscreen is crucial to avoid skin damage.

To ensure it's most effective, apply sunscreen liberally and evenly to all exposed areas of the skin, and reapply it every two hours or after swimming or sweating.

The Benefits of Using Sunscreen

Applying sunscreen to face

Lower your cancer risk, and prevent a sunburn... what else can sunscreen do for you? Its primary benefit is preventing skin damage caused by ultraviolet (UV) light.

UV light is a type of radiation invisible to the human eye but can be harmful to the skin. There are two types of UV radiation: UVA and UVB. UVA radiation is associated with premature skin aging, while UVB radiation is the primary cause of sunburn. 

Breaking Down UV Radiation

Both UVA and UVB radiation can also contribute to the development of skin cancer. The ingredients in sunscreen work to absorb, reflect, or scatter UV radiation to protect the skin. It is crucial to choose a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 to ensure adequate protection. In addition, it is important to reapply sunscreen regularly, especially if you are swimming or sweating. You can help protect yourself against UV radiation's harmful effects by taking these precautions.

Broad-spectrum sunscreen (usually physical or mineral sunscreen) typically protects against both types of rays. Sunscreen works by absorbing, reflecting, or scattering sunlight. The active ingredients in sunscreen absorb the UV rays and convert them into heat, which is then released from the skin.

Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are two common ingredients that reflect or scatter sunlight. Sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher can block 97 percent of the sun's UVB rays [SOURCE].

However, it is essential to remember that no sunscreen can block all sun's UV rays, so it is still important to limit your time in the sun, wear protective clothing, and avoid peak sun hours.

Can You Tan with Sunscreen?

Want to protect yourself from sun damage without ruining your chances of getting a nice tan? There is a lot of conflicting information about whether you can still tan when you wear sunscreen. Some research claims that applying sunscreen prevents UV rays from reaching your skin, also preventing any tanning. 

Others point out that the type of protection provided by sunscreen only goes so far. Even if some UV rays do get blocked by the sunscreen, plenty can still penetrate your skin, creating the conditions for a healthy bronze glow.

Ultimately, it seems that the truth about tanning depends on various factors, including your skin type, how much time you spend in the sun, and what type of sunscreen you use. So if you're determined to get a tan this summer, make sure you take proper precautions and do your research before spending hours soaking up the sun. 

Sunscreen and Vitamin D Absorption

Rubbing in sunscreen

As you may have read in our article on vitamin D, whether or not sunscreen affects vitamin D absorption is a hotly debated topic. Because sunscreen blocks UV light, you can technically deduce that it inhibits vitamin D production.

But some studies indicate sunscreen cannot significantly influence vitamin D levels in your bloodstream.

However, we need more research to fully understand the complex relationship between sunscreen and vitamin D absorption. 

Regardless of what the science ultimately reveals, one thing remains clear: maintaining healthy levels of vitamin D is essential for optimal overall health. Whether you wear sunscreen or not, it is important to get enough sun exposure to support strong immune function and disease prevention. 

Understanding the Active Ingredients

There are two primary active ingredients in a sunscreen: chemical absorbents and physical blockers. Chemical absorbents work by absorbing ultraviolet (UV) radiation and converting it into heat. The most common chemical absorbents are avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, and oxybenzone. 

Physical blockers work by reflecting or scattering UV radiation away from the skin. The most common physical blockers are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.

Both types of ingredients effectively protect your skin from UV damage; however, physical blockers are generally seen as more effective than chemical absorbents.

In addition, physical blockers are less likely to cause skin irritation and are less likely to be absorbed into the bloodstream.

Does the SPF Number Matter?

SPF 50

SPF, or sun protection factor, measures how well a sunscreen will protect your skin from ultraviolet (UV) rays. To a certain degree, the higher the SPF number, the greater the level of protection.

For example, an SPF 30 sunscreen will filter out 97 percent of UV rays, while an SPF 50 sunscreen will filter out 98 percent of UV rays. However, as we mentioned before, no sunscreen is 100 percent effective, so all those labels with 50+ SPF numbers may not be that much better.

In addition, higher SPF numbers do not necessarily provide better protection against all types of UV radiation. 

For instance, an SPF 15 sunscreen may block more than 90 percent of UVB rays but only about 60 percent of UVA rays. It’s a good idea to read the labels to see what you’re getting. 

Some FDA Guidelines to Note

The FDA has released several guidelines for sunscreen manufacturers to ensure that their products are safe and effective.

  • The first guidance is for broad-spectrum sunscreens, which must protect against UVA and UVB rays.
  • The second guidance is for water-resistant sunscreens, which must maintain SPF levels after 40 or 80 minutes of water exposure.
  • The third guidance is for photo stabilization ingredients, which help prevent sunscreen ingredients' breakdown when exposed to light.
  • Lastly, the FDA has issued guidance on labeling sunscreens with an SPF of 15 or higher as "Broad Spectrum'' to indicate that they protect against both UVA and UVB rays. 

These FDA guidelines provide clarity to the industry and the public on various aspects of sunscreen safety and effectiveness. They address how to test sunscreen products for SPF and UVA protection, what claims can be made about sunscreen products, and what ingredients are considered safe and effective for use in sunscreens.

Some Potential Side Effects of Sunscreen

Sunscreen is an effective tool to protect your skin from the harmful effects of UV radiation. However, as with many other products, it can have some side effects. Here are a few:

  • Certain ingredients in sunscreen, such as oxybenzone, can disrupt hormones and cause allergic reactions. While most formulations are considered safe, some people experience allergic reactions or irritation. Allergic reactions may manifest as redness or rashes on the skin. In more severe cases, they may even lead to swelling or itchiness.
  • Some sunscreens contain chemicals that can be harmful to the environment if they enter the ocean through wastewater or runoff.
  • Meanwhile, phototoxic responses, also known as photosensitization, occur when a person's skin becomes more sensitive after prolonged exposure to UV light. It can result in burning or peeling, even in low sun conditions.

Because of these potential side effects, it is important to choose a high-quality sunscreen brand and always use it according to the directions on the label. By doing so, you can protect your skin from overexposure without compromising your health.

Sunblock vs. Sunscreen

Sunblock spray

Is sunblock just another name for sunscreen? Not really, but they’re typically all referred to as sunscreen.

Sunscreen usually refers to the chemical sunscreens mentioned above that protect against UVA rays. They use a chemical reaction to convert absorbed UV light to heat.

The mineral sunscreens or physical sunscreens we mentioned are usually the type of sunscreen referred to as sunblock. As the name suggests, they block UV rays by forming a physical shield instead of being absorbed by your skin.

You can usually tell the difference in the way that it looks on your skin. Sunblock usually forms a sort of white cast over the surface of your skin while sunscreen is absorbed into it.

Is one better than the other? Sunscreen protects against skin damage, while sunblock may be able to prevent skin damage and sunburn. Because sunscreen often has chemicals, people with sensitive skin may prefer using physical sunscreens or sunblock.

Making the right choice will depend on various factors, depending on your skin type and individual needs. Looking for the best sunscreen or sunblock for a particular skin type? Stay tuned for some of our favorite picks.

Monitor Your Health with NutriSense

Many devices and programs make managing your health easier. A continuous glucose monitor, or CGM, is one of them. It can be a helpful tool for anyone who wants to optimize their health.

When you sign up for NutriSense, you get a CGM sensor and access to an innovative app that will give you insights into your blood glucose data. NutriSense’s CGM program also provides personalized support from a team of credentialed dietitians and nutritionists to help interpret the data and make lifestyle changes to manage various health conditions.

Click here to listen to the podcast.
Listen to the full podcast:
Staying Safe in the Sun: A Breakdown on Sunscreen
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Improving Fat Loss, Muscle Gain and Fitness With Continual Glucose Monitors
Improving Fat Loss, Muscle Gain and Fitness With Continual Glucose Monitors

Kara Collier and Dan Zavorotny talk continuous glucose monitors on the Mind Pump podcast.

Story
8
min
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Dry Needling: Can it Really Help with Muscle Pain?
Dry Needling: Can it Really Help with Muscle Pain?

Dry needling is a therapeutic technique used by physical therapists and healthcare practitioners in an effort to alleviate pain and help restore movement in the body. Read on to find out more.

Story
11
min
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NutriSense Dietitians Recommend: Healthiest Fast Food Choices
NutriSense Dietitians Recommend: Healthiest Fast Food Choices

Wondering what the healthiest fast food options are?  Here are some of the healthiest choices at fast food restaurants, according to dietitians.

Story
11
min
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Here’s What a Realistic Weight Loss Timeline Looks Like
Here’s What a Realistic Weight Loss Timeline Looks Like

Many people try crash diets to lose weight fast, which may provide some short term results but don't work for the long haul. Here is a realistic timeline for healthy weight loss.

Story
8
min
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9 Great Apps to Track Nutrition
9 Great Apps to Track Nutrition

Tracking nutrition has never been easier due to instant access to nutrition tracking apps. Here are the best ones.

Story
9
min
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6 Popular IBS-Friendly Diets
6 Popular IBS-Friendly Diets

Learn more about irritable bowel syndrome, and see what popular IBS-friendly diets people follow to ease their symptoms.

Story
9
min
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What You Need to Know About Neuropathy
What You Need to Know About Neuropathy

Neuropathy, or nerve damage, can cause pain, discomfort, and interfere with daily tasks. Explore effective ways to prevent and manage it.

Story
9
min
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The Health Benefits of Adding Fermented Foods to Your Diet
The Health Benefits of Adding Fermented Foods to Your Diet

Fermented foods have a range of health benefits. Read on to learn more about what they are and why you should be adding them to your diet.

Story
12
min
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13 Healthy Ways to Relieve Stress
13 Healthy Ways to Relieve Stress

Stress can negatively affect your entire body. Here are thirteen different ways to reduce stress in your life.

Story
12
min
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Best Physical and Mental Health Apps Available in 2022
Best Physical and Mental Health Apps Available in 2022

Here are the eleven best physical and mental health apps available in the app store.

Podcast
33
min
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Improving Metabolic Health with Carlee Hayes
Improving Metabolic Health with Carlee Hayes

On this episode of Passionate Pioneers with Mike Biselli, Carlee Hayes, Nutrition Manager at NutriSense, discusses the company’s digital platform that aims to help others discover and reach their health potential.

Podcast
40
min
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Carlee Hayes talks Metabolic Health with Rejuvenaging
Carlee Hayes talks Metabolic Health with Rejuvenaging

In this episode of Rejuvenaging with Dr. Ron Kaiser, Carlee explains how to cut through the online nutrition industry's noise, why we shouldn't look for a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to nutrition, and how CGMs work.

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6
min
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Fruit Juice or Whole Fruit? What You Should Pick and Why
Fruit Juice or Whole Fruit? What You Should Pick and Why

Should you be drinking your fruits? Read on to find out more about juicing, whole fruits, and why one may be better for you than the other.

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7
min
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Meet the Blood-Glucose Friendly Rambutan: What It Is and How to Eat It
Meet the Blood-Glucose Friendly Rambutan: What It Is and How to Eat It

Do you know what a rambutan is? Learn more about this blood-glucose-friendly tropical fruit and why you should add it to your diet.

Story
13
min
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Organ Meats: Should You Be Adding Them to Your Diet?
Organ Meats: Should You Be Adding Them to Your Diet?

Learn about the health benefits and risk factors of adding organ meats to your meals, and try our favorite recipes using these nutritional treasure troves. 

Story
6
min
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Five Cancer Research Developments of the Last Five Years
Five Cancer Research Developments of the Last Five Years

Read on to learn more about five of the most promising developments in cancer research.

Story
8
min
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A Quick Look at Meditation and Blood Glucose 
A Quick Look at Meditation and Blood Glucose 

Learn more about meditation, how it positively impacts blood sugar, and how you can start incorporating it into your routine.

Story
7
min
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NutriSense Dietitians Recommend: Tasty, Nutritious Salads You'll Love
NutriSense Dietitians Recommend: Tasty, Nutritious Salads You'll Love

Salads don't have to be boring! Our Nutrition Team recommends nine delicious, nutritious salads to help you find your favorite.

Story
7
min
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Do You Need More Vitamin D?
Do You Need More Vitamin D?

Most people get the vitamin D they need from exposure to sunlight, but if you don't spend enough time outdoors, you may not be getting enough of this vital nutrient. Read our article to learn more.

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6
min
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Your Mother's Day Gift Guide
Your Mother's Day Gift Guide

Can't decide on the perfect gift for Mother's Day? Pick from a list of ideas to find a healthy, but still exciting gift this year.

Story
8
min
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Can Soy Really Prevent Diabetes?
Can Soy Really Prevent Diabetes?

Some research suggests that eating soy may reduce your risk of developing diabetes. Read on to learn whether that's true and find out more about the other health benefits of soy.

Story
9
min
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Living with Autoimmune Conditions: Celiac Disease
Living with Autoimmune Conditions: Celiac Disease

Did you know that 23.5 million Americans live with autoimmune conditions? Learn more about the symptoms and causes of celiac disease and what you can do about it.

Story
7
min
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Positive Thinking May Affect More Than Your Mental Health 
Positive Thinking May Affect More Than Your Mental Health 

It's no secret that positive thinking can improve your mood and help you cope with difficult situations. Review our article to see how a positive outlook may also benefit your physical health.

Story
10
min
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The Best Diet for Menstruation
The Best Diet for Menstruation

When it comes to your menstrual cycle, what you eat can significantly impact how you feel. Read on to learn more about the best foods to add to your diet to help during that time of the month.

Story
8
min
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9 Unusual Health Conditions You May Not Know About
9 Unusual Health Conditions You May Not Know About

Though most of us may never encounter these, these health conditions are still fascinating to learn more about. Read our article to find out more about nine of the most fascinating, unusual health conditions.

Story
10
min
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The Positive Impact Weight Lifting Has on Blood Sugar 
The Positive Impact Weight Lifting Has on Blood Sugar 

Here is everything you need to know about the relationship between weight lifting and blood sugar.

Podcast
17
min
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Two to 80 Employees in Just Two Years
Two to 80 Employees in Just Two Years

In this 20-minute conversation, Dan shares how he’s putting a Rockstar in every seat. And mistakes to avoid along the way.

Podcast
45
min
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Understanding how Glucose Effects our Metabolic Health with Kara Collier
Understanding how Glucose Effects our Metabolic Health with Kara Collier

Kara, registered dietitian, and co-founder of NutriSense, discusses how blood glucose levels are a core marker of metabolic health. She dives into the health consequences of fluctuating blood glucose levels, and what levels to look fasted compared to post-meal.

Podcast
57
min
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Using Real-Time Data to Improve Metabolic Health with Kara Collier
Using Real-Time Data to Improve Metabolic Health with Kara Collier

Today on the podcast, Kara Collier, RDN, LDN, CNSC, discusses revolutionizing preventative healthcare. It’s her mission to empower people with the knowledge to effectively monitor, optimize, and sustain their own metabolic health.

Story
10
min
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11 Simple and Effective Weight Loss Tips for Men
11 Simple and Effective Weight Loss Tips for Men

Losing weight is typically easier for men than women, biologically speaking, but it's still challenging! Here are 11 simple yet effective tips for losing weight for men.

Story
9
min
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What are the Best Times to Eat for Losing Weight?
What are the Best Times to Eat for Losing Weight?

Review our helpful article where we discuss the best times to eat if you are trying to lose weight.

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10
min
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NutriSense Dietitians Recommend: Best Books on Metabolic Health
NutriSense Dietitians Recommend: Best Books on Metabolic Health

Whether you're looking for weight loss tips or to learn more about metabolism, a little reading material can go a long way. To help you get started, here’s some books on metabolic health, recommended by our Nutrition Team.

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9
min
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Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT): Can It Replace Your Workout?
Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT): Can It Replace Your Workout?

NEAT can’t replace the benefits of intense cardio or strength-training workouts but like any physical activity, it has many overall health and fitness benefits. Read on to find out everything you need to know about NEAT.

Podcast
40
min
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NutriSense CGM Program Review
NutriSense CGM Program Review

On this week's episode, Shannon describes the comfort, cost, usability, and education she experienced using the continuous glucose monitor program from NutriSense.

Podcast
25
min
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Track Your Health in Real-Time with Dan Zavorotny
Track Your Health in Real-Time with Dan Zavorotny

On this episode of the Making Bank podcast, Dan Zavorotny discusses how he started the company “NutriSense” and how it reached a 150 million dollar valuation in 26 months.

Podcast
37
min
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Can a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) Help You Lose Weight?
Can a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) Help You Lose Weight?

Carlee Hayes talks to This Podcast Burns Fat! about the important role blood sugar plays in weight management.