UPDATES (June 2011)
- Safe sunscreen can cost more than a car! So, see some less expensive, and still safe sunscreen choices for 2011.
- The safest non-toxic sunscreens for 2011
Sadly, there aren’t many safe sunscreens on the market. This week, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) released their fourth annual Sunscreen Guide and the news is not good for most sunscreens on the market. EWG gave low marks to almost all the current crop of sunscreen products, with very few notable exceptions. In total, EWG researchers recommend only 39, or 8%, of the 500 beach and sport sunscreens on the market this season.
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There’s no consensus on whether sunscreens prevent skin cancer and in fact the EWG reports that some researchers have detected an increased risk of melanoma among sunscreen users. It’s speculated that perhaps sunscreen users stay out in the sun longer or that free radicals released as sunscreen chemicals break down in sunlight may play a role.
Recently available data from an FDA study indicate that a form of vitamin A, retinyl palmitate, when applied to the skin in the presence of sunlight, may speed the development of skin tumors and lesions (NTP 2009). This evidence sucks because the sunscreen industry adds vitamin A to 41% of all sunscreens.
This is now officially the 33rd summer in a row here in the United States without sunscreen safety regulations. The FDA has been working on setting enforceable guidelines for consumer protection related to sunscreen for over 32-years now. That’s so lame.
Which sunscreen to choose?
First of all, EWG notes that because sunscreens are unreliable the best UV protection includes protective clothes, shade and timing. You should wear long, light sleeves, a hat and sunglasses at least and your kids should do the same. In fact, May is actually UV awareness month and it’s very important to protect your little one’s eyes from harmful UV rays. Remember that UV rays pose a risk year round, not simply in the summer.
You and your family should try to avoid the sun at peak times (midday) and do most of your outdoor activities during the mornings and evenings. When you can, spend time outside in the shade not right in the sunshine’s glare. After taking these first safety precautions, aim for a safe, non-toxic sunscreen.
According to the EWG…
Mineral sunscreens have the best safety profile of today’s sunscreen choices. They are stable in sunlight and do not appear to penetrate the skin. They offer UVA protection, which is sorely lacking in most of today’s sunscreen products. Mexoryl SX (ecamsule) is another good option, but it’s sold in very few formulations. Tinosorb S and M could be great solutions but are not yet available in the U.S. For consumers who don’t like mineral products, we recommend sunscreens with avobenzone (3 percent for the best UVA protection) and without the notorious hormone disruptors oxybenzone or 4-MBC.
The safest top-rated sunscreens for adults and older kids:
- Beyond Coastal Lip & Face Screen, SPF 30
- Marie Veronique Organics Moisturizing Face Screen+, SPF 30, Light Tint
- Keys Soap Solar Rx Cosmetic Moisturizing Sunblock, SPF 30
- Badger Sunscreen SPF 30
- Soleo Organics Sunscreen SPF 30
- Kabana Skin Care Green Screen Organic Sunscreen Fragrance Free, SPF 20
- thinksport Sunscreen, SPF 30+
- Episencial Sunny Sunscreen SPF 35
- Desert Essence – Age Reversal Sunscreen Mineral Daily Face Protection SPF 30
- Miessence Reflect Outdoor Balm, SPF 15
The safest sunscreens for babies and young children:
Choosing a safe baby sunscreen can be tricky. Many are full of toxic goop and worse won’t protect your baby. Here’s what to look for…
- Get an SPF 30 or higher.
- Get a sunscreen with at least 7% zinc oxide or titanium dioxide for broad spectrum protection.
- Avoid Oxybenzone and benzophenone which are both linked to allergies and hormone problems.
- Avoid spray and powder sunscreens because little ones may inhale the sunscreen.
- Avoid any added fragrances which can cause allergic reactions.
- Avoid sunscreen / bug spray combos because the sunscreen will need to be applied more than the bug spray.
According to the EWG, the following are the safest sunscreens you can buy for your baby or child…
- thinkbaby Sunscreen, SPF 30+
- Little Forest Sunscreen Lotion For Babies and Kids, SPF 30+
- All Terrain Sunblock Kidsport SPF 30
- Caribbean Solutions Sol Kid Kare SPF 25
- California Baby SPF 30 + Sunblock Stick – No Fragrance
- California Baby Sunscreen Lotion No Fragrance, SPF 30+
- California Baby SPF 18 Everyday/Year-Round
Don’t forget to protect your lips:
- Badger SPF 15 Sunscreen Lip Balm, Unscented
- Purple Prairie Botanicals sunstuff lip balm, SPF 30
- UV Natural Lip Sun Screen SPF 30 or UV Natural Lip Screen Sport SPF 30
Oh and just for kicks, (and knowledge) I’d check out EWG’s sunscreen hall of shame – these are the worst of the worst sunscreens on the market. Make sure they’re not in your home.
PLEASE NOTE: I posted a selection, but not all of the safest sunscreens available. To see all your options visit Skin Deep and look for sunscreens with a score of 0-2. Also, read the entire 2010 EWG Sunscreen Report to learn more.