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The Sunscreen Scandal: Are We Getting All the Facts?

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Ah, the summer sun is shining and we're all happily busting out our bikinis and bathing trunks in full anticipation of those warm days ahead on the beach, at the pool or on summer holiday. But before you pop open that tube of sunscreen and slather up you should be warned:

There is a major sunscreen scandal in our midst. The dilemma is more than just how much protection we really need or how many hours we may or may not be guarded from harmful rays. There is a lot more bad news brewing and I am here to tell all.

For starters, many, many sunscreens do not provide the UVA protection that they claim on their packaging. Nor are they actually waterproof or contain the SPF level they advertise.
The FDA continues to postpone its regulating of sunscreen companies and their claims. No one is verifying that any particular sunscreen works. Same for lip balms and moisturizers with an SPF label.

Many of the sunscreens that claim to be "all natural" actually are full of petroleum and many other compounds not found in nature. Especially worrisome are the reports about the high SPF sunscreens labeled "especially for babies" or with the word baby in their advertising that have a chemical named oxybenzone in its ingredient list. This is not a healthy choice to slather on your baby!

So what can you do to make healthier and more informed choices about sun safety?

  • An easy first step is to have a look at the Environmental Working Group's 2010 Sunscreen Guide and find a safe and effective sunscreen to use this summer. Don't be shocked when all the sunscreens you have been using for years are on the list with hazardous ingredients.
  • Start by wearing a long sleeve shirt and hat whenever you are going to be exposed to the sun for a prolonged period of time or out in mid-day when the rays are strongest.
  • Remember that some exposure to the sun is healthy. Choose early in the day or in late afternoon to get some sun and Vitamin D without getting burned. Spend more time in the sun as your skin becomes accustomed to the exposure.
  • Sunscreens, even the good ones, need to be reapplied frequently to sufficiently protect your skin.
  • Avoid all products that list Vitamin A (retinyl palmitate) and oxybenzone in their list of ingredients.
  • Look for products that use zinc and titanium minerals to help give some protection from harmful UVA rays.
  • Never use spray or powder sunscreens to avoid inhaling the chemicals into your lungs.
  • Use the EWG website as a reliable source for more information about safe products and ingredients.
  • Stay away from beauty magazine tips that are not properly screening their skincare product recommendations.

We can all enjoy ourselves this summer in the sun once we feel confident we are slathering on healthy and safe products onto our skin.

Around the Web

Everybody's Free (to wear sunscreen), Baz Lurhman

How to Choose and Use Sunscreen: Expert Advice from REI

DermatologistRx.com : Free Dermatology Advice : Sunscreen

NYT on Sunscreen Song

Safe in the sun: what's in a sunscreen

Wear Sunscreen - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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