Everyone seems to be talking about sunscreen lately, simply because it’s almost summer. That’s a little alarming. It’s a huge misconception to start worrying about sunscreen when summer is near – technically you should protect your skin from UV rays year round.
But, I digress. Sunscreen is on everyone’s mind, and luckily, Environmental Working Group (EWG) has just released their 2011 Safe Sunscreen Guide. 2011 marks the 5th annual sunscreen guide for EWG and features ratings for more than 1,700 sunscreens and SPF lip balms, moisturizers and makeups.
What hasn’t changed from last year:
Like last year, EWG notes that almost all sunscreens are unreliable and that the best UV protection includes protective clothes, shade and timing. You should wear long, light sleeves, a hat and sunglasses at least. Your kids should wear the same.
Also the same as last year; the FDA is still failing consumers when it comes to sunscreen safety. In fact this is now the 34th summer in a row, in the United States with zero sunscreen safety regulations. The FDA has been working on setting enforceable guidelines for consumer protection related to sunscreen for over 33-years now. Go FDA!
What’s new this year?
Last year only 8% of sunscreens were deemed safe by EWG. This year EWG says that about 20% of sunscreens are safe. How come? Are sunscreen manufactures making better products? Nope. According to EWG, ” EWG recommends 1 in 5 of more than 600 beach and sport sunscreens, compared to 1 in 12 last year.”
EWG notes that this isn’t because sunscreen makers are producing more superior products though. What happened this year is that EWG tested more sunscreens. Because consumers told EWG that they wanted more options, EWG went looking more sunscreen options, found some, and were able to add more to their database.
Highlights from the EWG 2011 sunscreen guide:
- Only one in five sunscreens earns high marks for safety and efficacy.
- Nearly 1/3 of this year’s crop of sunscreens contains vitamin A, an additive that EWG says can accelerate the growth of skin tumors and lesions.
- Avoid sunscreens containing oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate (sometimes listed as vitamin A).
- Look for sunscreens offering mineral protection via zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.
- Choose creams and lotions over sprays and powders.
- Reapply sunscreens at least every two hours, or after getting wet or sweaty.
The best sunscreens for 2011:
“The ideal sunscreen would completely block the UV rays that cause sunburn, immune suppression and damaging free radicals. It would remain effective on the skin for several hours and not form harmful ingredients when degraded by UV light. It would smell and feel pleasant so that people use it in the right amount and frequency.”
Sadly, EWG points out that zero sunscreens in the USA that meet all of the above criteria. With this in mind EWG has determined that mineral sunscreens have the best safety profile of today’s choices.