A photo of a hand with skin protectant lotion.
Photo by ian dooley

Determine what kind of sunscreen is best for your skin.  

The best sunscreens are broad-spectrum, water-resistant and SPF 30 or higher.

Beyond those basic classifications to look out for with high-quality sunscreens, however, it's relevant to note that there are two types of sunscreen.

Physical sunscreen sits on the surface of your skin and works as a shield whereas chemical sunscreen works as a sponge to absorb sun rays. You may want to opt for physical sunscreens if you have sensitive skin that burns easily. You can identify this kind of sunscreen by looking for zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in the ingredients.

Chemical sunscreens are easier to rub into the skin and they leave less of a white residue. They are identifiable by the chemicals they contain, which often include: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate.

As there are positives and negatives to each of these two lotion types, it's important to do the research and decide what works for you.

Pay attention to the labels and chemicals that are in sunscreens and lotions.

If you look into the different types of sunscreen, you might come across labeling that identifies a lotion as "oxybenzone/octinoxate free sunscreens." These products will likely be showing up on shelves near you this summer.

Why? While oxybenzone and octinoxate are two of the most common chemical filters found in commercial sunscreens, recent findings suggest that the chemicals aren't so harmless.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention routinely detect oxybenzone in 96% of of the American population from sunscreen and other cosmetic products. Up to 8 percent of sunscreens in the U.S. market contain octinoxate, according to National Public Radio (NPR).

Oxybenzone functions in sunblock by creating colorless crystals that are readily soluble and absorb UV light, diverting rays from hitting the skin. Octinoxate works in a similar way to disperse the sun’s rays and keep them from hitting the skin.  The chemicals are also used in fragrances, nail polish and cosmetics.

In February, Key West banned sunscreens containing these chemicals from being used on their beaches since finding that the chemicals contribute to dying coral reefs in the area.

But oxybenzone and octinoxate wreak havoc on more than just the environment. According to the Environmental Working Group, the chemicals are believed to cause thyroid hormone disruption. Although there are inefficient studies to back up the claim, these chemicals have also been linked to cancer.

With recent reports showing that sunscreen is absorbed into the bloodstream within only a day of application, it's clear that staying informed on the ingredients in the lotion you choose is vital to your wellbeing.

A photo of a woman in a bath with citrus fruits containing vitamin C and vitamin D.
Photo by Anthony Tran

Eat healthy foods - especially those high in  Vitamins B and D.

In addition to selecting a non-toxic sunscreen, you can also help your skin by feeding it properly. The well-known Greek physician is historically quoted for having advised, "let food be thy medicine."

As there are certain whole foods that have been proven to beneficial to the skin, this wisdom holds real-life implication.

Yellow and orange foods rich in Vitamin B like carrots, yellow peppers, apricots and oranges have antioxidant components that are good for skin. Other items such as nuts, berries, beans and salmon contribute to a healthy complexion.

Those interested in diet-related skincare should also seek foods high in Vitamin D. Supporting skin cell regeneration and skin cell metabolism, this vitamin aids in healing and restoring skin. It can also help with skin inflammation and acne. Vitamin D can be found in eggs, fish, cheese (yes, an excuse to eat cheese), and mushrooms.

It may come as no surprise that dermatologists additionally recommend skipping highly processed foods, fast food, saturated fats and refined sugars which may all lead to a poor, acne-prone complexion.

A photo of a woman wearing a hat at the beach to protect from sun damage.
Photo by Meg Sanchez

Accessorize with hats, glasses and long sleeve shirts.

Whether you've found a top-notch sunscreen or not, a foolproof practice for protecting your skin this summer is opting for clothes with coverage.

Long sleeve shirts in July may substantiate investment in a quality deodorant, but your skin will thank you for protecting it from those UV rays.

You might also consider making a fashion statement out of the objective. Grab a hat that provides shade for your face and neck or sunglasses that provide decent coverage for your face.

Minimizing the amount of exposed skin to direct sunlight can avoid burning and, in turn, sun damage. If you are unable to cover up with clothing, find a shady spot under the trees or an umbrella periodically.

Examine skin regularly and seek professional medical advice.

When examining your skin, remember the ABCDEs of skin cancer:

Abnormal - Does a mole or lesion look different than others on your skin?

Border - Most regular moles and lesions have a smooth border. A rigid or abnormal border around a mole could be a sign of cancer.

Color - If you notice a mole is black or even blue, this may be a sign that it is irregular. Normal colors of moles are tan and brown.

Diameter - Is it growing? Affected lesions typically grow in size.

Evolving - If you have a mole that looks different every time you check it, seek medical advice immediately.

If these terms are unfamiliar to you, it's time to get acquainted with them. Getting educated on signs of skin damage and potential indicators of skin cancer may save your life.