Huffpost Green
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Maria Rodale Headshot

Sharpen Your Sunscreen Savvy

Posted: Updated:

Guest blog by Laura Klein, publisher of OrganicAuthority.com.

There's so much to say about sunscreen--beyond how essential it is.

That's because the ingredients in countless conventional sunscreen products are astonishingly bad for our health. All you have to do is read Environmental Working Group's report and guides on sunscreens to uncover the truth. In fact, the best sunscreen, they say, is a hat, shirt, and shade.

So it's time to sharpen up your sunscreen skill, so that you and your family can slather on healthy SPF with confidence!

FDA: Out of Touch

EWG, an environmental watchdog group, places the fault of ineffective and unhealthy sunscreen squarely on the shoulders of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The agency never finalized the sunscreen regulations it started in 1978.

EWG's savvy sleuthing also reveals that there is no consensus that sunscreen prevents cancer. The FDA's 2007 draft of sunscreen regulations states, "FDA is not aware of data demonstrating that sunscreen use alone helps prevent skin cancer."

Furthermore, the EWG and countless other experts note how far behind the United States is compared to European sunscreen development. U.S. sunscreen makers are still waiting for FDA approval on a wider array of ingredients to use that offer better protection and are already being used in the European Union.

Until these sunscreen safety standards are set, it's up to you to be your own advocate. Here's a quick snapshot on how to shop smart for sunscreen.

What to Avoid in Sunscreens

Vitamin A or retinyl palmitate. Surprisingly, new data from the government shows that slathering vitamin A on your skin can promote the development of tumors and lesions more quickly, compared to skin not coated with vitamin A. This vitamin is found in 41 percent of sunscreens, so read your labels; it may be listed as retinyl palmitate.

Oxybenzone. This ingredient is linked to hormone problems. It is a synthetic estrogen, and is potentially a harmful endocrine disruptor that contaminates the human body.

Bug repellent. Avoid sunscreen that contains insect repellent; it's just more chemicals soaking into your skin.

Sprays and powders. They can pollute the air with tiny stuff and particles that aren't healthy for you or your family to breathe! Creams are simply a healthier choice.

What to look for in healthy sunscreens:
Creams only,
no sprays or powders.

Broad-spectrum coverage. "Broad-spectrum" sunscreen blocks both UVA and UVB rays.

Zinc or titanium minerals. Buy at least 7 percent zinc oxide or titanium dioxide for broad-spectrum protection.

Water resistance for pool, beach, and use during exercise.

Stability in sunlight. A lack of stability means that UV radiation permeates the skin.

Few, if any, ingredients that have significant known or suspected health hazards. Think parabens, oxybenzone, vitamin A, bug repellent.

Other Sunscreen Tips

• Buy new sunscreen every year, and make it 30 SPF.

• Apply sunscreen 20 to 30 minutes before going outside.

• Protect yourself from 93 percent of the sun's rays with SPF 15.

• Protect yourself from 97 percent of the sun's rays with SPF 30.

• Reapply sunscreen every one to two hours, regardless of what the label says.

• Avoid midday sun, between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
• Wear sunscreen all year. Skiers and winter sports enthusiasts are at high risk of UVA ray exposure, which is more damaging at higher elevations.

• Consider UPF-labeled clothing: Certain clothes offer an "ultraviolet protection factor." According to skincancer.org, a fabric with a rating of 50 will allow only one-fiftieth of the sun's UV rays to pass through.

• Avoid tanning parlors: The UV radiation can be as much as 15 times that of the sun!

• Avoid self-tanners: The major self-tanning chemical, dihydroxyacetone, is not FDA-approved for use in cosmetics around the eyes.

• Ready to buy new sunscreen? Check out EWG's 2010 Sunscreen Guide. The group even has a shopper's guide to do the work for you.

About the author: Laura Klein is the publisher of OrganicAuthority.com and loves to chat about organic food, ecofriendly stuff, and healthy recipes! Laura loves social media: You can find and chat with her on Twitter, StumbleUpon, and Facebook. Please feel free to say hello!

Related Links:
Top 10 Ways to Stay Healthy This Summer - Maria's Farm Country Kitchen
Which Sunscreen Is Best? None of Them - Rodale.com
Cosmetics and Breast Cancer, Is There A Connection? - Organic Authority

For more from Maria Rodale, go to www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com.

From Our Partners