Last year I had myself a little rant about the insane costs of safer sunscreen, but it’s a new year, so it’s time for some fresh 2012 sunscreen rational.
In spite of the fact that companies, green bloggers and health organizations continue to promote the benefits of less toxic sunscreen, most companies continue to price this stuff like it’s liquid gold.
Safe sunscreen guides only offer expensive choices
The bible of safe sunscreen for most families is the Environmental Working Group (EWG) annual safe sunscreen guide. In fact, after browsing around the web for a good long while, I found that almost 100% of sites who mention safe sunscreen, defer to the EWG guide. The only other comprehensive rating system I’ve seen for sunscreen is the Safe Mama sunscreen cheat sheet.
Safe Mama notes that Purple Prairie SunStuff SPF 30 is her number one safe pick. This sunscreen is $2.52 an ounce. Most of the best EWG sunscreens cost as much per ounce or much more. That said, you’re supposed to apply about one ounce (2 tablespoons, or a typical shot glass worth) each time you use sunscreen, and you need to apply it every two hours when outside.
Assuming my son and I apply sunscreen correctly, factoring in the bare minimum time we spend outside hiking, playing basketball and such, we’d be spending about $887.00 on sunscreen for the entire summer (about $295 per month). That’s only factoring in June, July and August and it’s only factoring in about 12 hiking trips and minimal other outside time. In reality, my son spends more time outside and you need to wear sunscreen year-round, so the costs of safe sunscreen are considerable.
In my family, it’s just my son and me. If you’ve got four, five or six people in your family, you’re looking at costs of $600+ per month for safe, less toxic sunscreen.
Can real families afford safe sunscreen? At $295-$600+ a month, I seriously doubt it.
My sunscreen rational for 2012…
It’s too expensive – I’m an average working girl (no sugar daddy). I can’t afford to spend $295 per month on sunscreen.
Still, you can’t skip sunscreen – It may be costly and a pain, but you shouldn’t skip sunscreen. Recently, there’s been a rash of debates that go on and on about how sunscreen doesn’t prevent skin cancer, so it’s not worth it. In some ways the debates are worthy. Health organizations have never concluded that sunscreen prevents cancer. However, research has shown that sunscreen can help prevent problems that may lead to skin cancer.
It’s not all about cancer – Sunscreen can help prevent plenty of skin damage due to sunburns, wrinkles and more. As a kid, I was always brown. Moms in the 80s didn’t exactly slather on the sunscreen. Luckily I tan instead of burn. But my poor siblings had different skin than me. They did burn and they were 100% miserable. Sunburns aren’t fun or safe for your kid. Forget about cancer for a minute and consider how sunscreen also makes for a non-burned, happier child. If you are concerned about skin cancer, consider that melanoma rates among young women are eight-times higher than they were 40 years ago and tanning beds and UV rays are considered the primary reasons why.
Current research shows zero link between price and protection – A slew of research shows that more expensive sunscreens don’t necessarily work better. In fact, many consumer research sites show that basic store brand sunscreen works just as efficiently, sometimes more so, than costly sunscreen.
Almost all sunscreens contain chemicals – I’m big on limiting chemical use, especially on your kids. However, most sunscreens do contain chemicals of some sort. Unless you’ve got millions to spend freely, you’re sort of screwed if you want to limit chemicals with regards to sunscreen.
People don’t use expensive sunscreen correctly – There’s some newer research out there showing that when people buy more expensive sunscreen, they use less than they should and don’t reapply enough. This makes sense, because of course you want to save money, but if you’re going to spend all that cash, why not use the sunscreen correctly? Incorrect use of sunscreen deems your purchase ineffective and a waste of money. It may be better to buy a cheaper sunscreen that you’ll feel comfortable using correctly.
You can limit chemicals elsewhere, for less – I’d rather spend money on organic, pesticide-free food, and safe soaps, shampoos and cleaners than on the best sunscreen. Yes, you wear sunscreen most days, but you also eat daily, wash up daily and clean regularly (I hope). Organic food can be affordable. Organic body care, if you work it right can cost less and green cleaners are practically free if you make homemade. Food, body care and cleaners are chemical areas of concern I can actually afford to manage.
You can avoid big bads in sunscreen – Just because you don’t choose a sunscreen with an optimal chemical-free rating, doesn’t mean you have to entirely compromise. For example, look for sunscreen that does not contain oxybenzone, the biggest bad ingredient found in sunscreens. It’s a known endocrine disruptor, free-radical creator and a possible cancer cause. After oxybenzone, you may want to consider avoiding other baddies like parabens, phthalates, PEG’s, Vitamin A (retinyl palmitate), propylene glycol, phenoxyethanol, sodium benzoate, dimethicone and SLS, but again, trying to avoid every chemical in sunscreen results in much higher costs.
All this said…
The above is my rational for sunscreen use this year. Until the government or sunscreen companies see fit to make the safest sunscreens actually affordable, I cannot rationalize the use of super non-toxic, less chemically inclined sunscreen.
I can’t tell average green families to spend $147 to $300+ a month per family member on sunscreen because it’s sucking my soul away. If I can’t spend that much, it’s not ethical for me to tell you to spend that much. That said, we’ll be running sunscreen use a bit differently here this year.
Coming up, I’ll be posting a guide for sunscreens that includes some safer sunscreens, but also some compromise sunscreens and homemade sunscreens that all families can afford. Since I can’t, in good budget faith, tell you to avoid less expensive chemical sunscreens, I’ll also post some ways that your family can cut chemicals, for less, in other areas.
Lead Image by Flickr User koadmunkee