Thursday, June 12, 2014

Five tips for choosing safe sunscreen

five tips for choosing safe sunscreen
EWG offers tips for choosing safe sunscreen and a database that rates the safety and effectiveness of sunscreen products on the market.
We deserve some hot sunny days. After a long winter and damp, cool spring a little bit of sun and warmth is just what the doctor ordered, but as much as we enjoy the sun we still need to protect ourselves from its warming rays. 

Since sunscreen is the most common form of sun protection it’s important to understand that sometimes we need to protect ourselves from sunscreen as well. 

For years now the experts in how to choose sunscreen that’s safe and effective is Environmental Working Group (EWG), a science-based research organization in the United States. EWG analyzes sunscreen ingredients and scientific data associated with skin cancers in the U.S. and each year develops a list of tips for choosing the best sunscreen. 

Before you stock up for the season here are five of their top sunscreen tips: 

  1. Don’t be seduced by the convenience of spray-on sunscreen. Inhalation is toxic and especially harmful to children. Lotions and sticks are the safer, more effective option.  
  2. Avoid Oxybenzone. A common product in sunscreen it’s a known hormone disruptor that is especially effective at seeping through your skin and into your bloodstream. 
  3. Avoid products with Vitamin A (retynl palmitate). This vitamin is great for your skin, except when exposed to sun. Studies have shown that the resulting chemical reaction may actually promote the development of certain skin cancers. 
  4. Choose products that are SPF 50 or lower. SPF only refers to the product’s ability to protect you from UVB rays, the ones that cause burns. It’s the UVA rays that are a bigger worry when it comes to long-term damage and skin cancer. And it appears that the higher the SPF the longer people stay in the sun without reapplying so in the long run end up with more skin damage. 
  5. Keep your sunscreen and bug spray separate. Two-in-one products may seem great, except that bugs usually aren’t a big problem when you’re out in the sun. Bug spray has its own toxicity issues so apply it separately, and only when you need it.  

To save us all the effort of decoding labels and reading the fine print EWG has also developed a database that ranks sunscreens based on their safety and effectiveness. To search your favourite brands visit

Here are a few highlights for popular brands:

Coppertone Sensitive Skin, Pure & Simple, Clearly Sheer, and Tear Free brands get reasonable ratings. Baby Banana Boat lotion rates well, Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby rates fairly well.
Aveeno Baby Face Stick and Burt’s Bees Baby Sunscreen Stick rate well too.

In general it’s the mineral-based brands that rate the best (Alba Mineral, Kiss My Face, Nature’s Gate) Green Beaver products (a Canadian Company) aren’t rated but are mineral-based and effective.  

Choosing the right sunscreen is only part of the solution. Wearing wide brim hats, sunglasses, covering up with long sleeve shirts and wearing SPF clothing (especially long sleeve swim shirts) are effective ways to have fun in the sun without depending on sunscreen. 

1 comment:

Alex said...

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