Maybe you have heard some of the controversy surrounding sunscreen lately. The ingredients in many sunscreens has been linked to various diseases including cancer! Yes, we put sunscreen on to protect ourselves from skin cancer but we may be increasing our risk for other cancers and diseases. We may also be missing out on essential Vitamin D! Thankfully, there are companies who put out safer sunscreens and there are websites created to help us find them. Let’s talk a bit about the good and bad and I’ll show you some better sunscreen options.
First of all, in the US, there are no federal safety standards when it comes to sunscreen! A mere 15% of sunscreens available to us are actually considered safe (learn more in this article). To see what exactly is in your sunscreen go to www.ewg.org/skindeep where they have a rating system and full list of ingredients for each product.
What to avoid:
– Aerosol sprays. These sprays cannot be easily controlled during application and may end up in your mouth or up your nose; not good.
– Hormones such as oxybenzone and octinoxate which have been linked to cancer, thyroid problems etc. any sunscreens you find will contain oxybenzone as their active ingredient.
– Avoid fragrance as it can sometimes lead to asthma or allergies. I love that cliche sunscreen smell but unfortunately we don’t want to be putting it on our skin.
– Vitamin A (retinyl palmitate) which has been said to have anti-aging properties as it may increase your chance of lesions and skin tumors. It may be safe in night creams but studies have shown that it is not good when exposed to sunlight so you don’t want it in your sunscreen.
What you do want:
– Wear SPF clothing if you know you are going to be out in the sun for a long time. Don’t worry, it’s not limited to just the tops you see surfers wear. Here are some other options.
– While avoiding oxybenzone as the active ingredient, look instead for zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide.
– Be extra careful when near snow or water and remember that the sun is most powerful between 10am and 4pm.
– The American Academy of Dermatologists says to always wear at least a SPF 15, nothing lower. You also don’t want to go above SPF 50 (learn more here).
– Use EWG’s Skin Deep to find a better sunscreen.
– Vitamin D! You do want some time in the sunshine every day to get natural Vitamin D in your body. On days where there is no sun, a supplement will work. You only need about 10min in the sun to get your daily quota of Vitamin D. Sunscreen actually inhibits the absorption of Vitamin D.
Some sunscreens on EWG’s “Hall of Shame” list include Hawaiian Tropic Baby Stick Sunscreen SPF 50, Aveeno Baby Continuous Protection SPF 55, Coppertone Water Babies Sunscreen Lotion SPF 70+ and Banana Boat Sport Performance Active Max Protect SPF 110. See more here.
On a positive note, there are safer sunscreens out there. Here some of the top rated ones from EWG. The ratings are also from EWG, not me. On their rating scale, 1 is the best.
EWG on Vitamin A
EWG “sunscreen exposed”
EWG on Vitamin D
LA Times article on sunscreen
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