It’s that time of year in case you haven’t noticed – sunscreen season! More than 1,000,000 new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. every year with incidences of melanoma, the most dangerous one, rapidly increasing. I had a melanoma cancer removed from my leg last year, so I know first-hand just how necessary it is to wear sunscreen when you are out in the sun for extended periods of time. And while there is no shortage of sunscreen at every store you could ever step foot in, there is a big difference between picking up the first bottle you see and doing some research on safe sunscreens before you do your shopping. Thankfully, the Environmental Working Group has done a ton of research on sunscreens, and have released their findings in their 2009 Sunscreen Guide.
Here are a couple of important things to keep in mind when looking at what sunscreen you should use, according to EWG:
- In an analysis of 1,581 name-brand sunscreens on the market in summer 2009, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that 3 out of 5 sunscreen products offer inadequate protection from the sun, or contain ingredients with significant safety concerns.
- Most sunscreens protect from UVB, or sunburn radiation. Higher SPFs indicate more protection. Far fewer brands contain ingredients that block UVA radiation, even though a growing number of studies show it is even more harmful than UVB radiation. UVA radiation hastens the progression of skin cancer, suppresses the immune system, and ages the skin over time.
- 59 sunscreens with SPFs from 55-100+ might tempt you to stay out longer in the sun, but they block just 1-2% more sunburn (UVB) radiation than an SPF 30 sunscreen and aren’t required to block UVA. Compared to an SPF 30 sunscreen, they also require 2-3 times more active ingredients, many of which absorb into the body.
- Many sunscreens contain nano-scale ingredients that raise potential concerns. Micronized and nano-scale zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in sunscreen provide strong UVA protection, and are contained in many of our top-rated products.
- Some sunscreens absorb into the blood and raise safety concerns. Our review of the technical literature shows that some sunscreen ingredients absorb into the blood, and some are linked to toxic effects. Some release skin-damaging free radicals in sunlight, some could disrupt hormone systems, several are strongly linked to allergic reactions, and others may build up in the body or the environment.
So which products are the Top 5 recommended by EWG and rated as Effective with a Low Hazard rating?
- Soleo Organics Sunscreen Organic chemical free sunscreen, SPF 30+
- Badger Sunscreen, SPF 30
- Keys Soap Solar Rx Cosmetic Moisturizing Sunblock, SPF 30
- Purple Prairie Botanicals Sun Stuff, SPF 30
- Marie Veronique Organics Creme de Jour Tinted, SPF 30
And which 5 products are rated as being Not Effective with a High Health Hazard rating?
- Buzz Away Sunscreen Lotion with Citronella, SPF 15
- Rx for Brown Skin Protect & Defend Moisturizing Sunscreen, SPF 15
- Nivea for Men Lotion, Sensitive, SPF 4
- Coppertone Oil-Free Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 15
- Clarins Self Tanning Milk with Sun Protection, SPF 6
Their report is quite extensive and covers over 1,500 sunscreen products – so the one you are currently using is probably in their list somewhere. Before you use it again or head to the store to buy another product, I highly recommend you check out the entire report for what ingredients and brands you should be avoiding. It will not only protect you from the sun, but it could also protect your health and the health of our planet!