With literally thousands of sunscreen products on the market, how do you know which ones are safe and effective? Consumer protection groups have found substances in sunscreens that actually make your skin more susceptible to burning or are harmful in other ways.
One of the most helpful resources for consumers is the Guide to Safer Sunscreens produced annually by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Not only does it contain the latest research on sunscreens and skin cancer prevention, it rates hundreds of products—from lotions to lip balms. Their website also includes a searchable database of over 1,800 products rated by EWG for safety and effectiveness. There’s also a mobile app so you can look up products at the store while you shop.
Here are some of the highlights from the 2012 Sunscreen Guide:
What Makes a Good Sunscreen?
According to EWG, an ideal sunscreen blocks both UVA and UVB rays with active ingredients that do not break down in the sun (remain effective) and contains ingredients that have been proven safe for both adults and children.
- Active Ingredients: Zinc, Titanium dioxide, Avobenzone or Mexoryl SX
- Products Features: Broad spectrum protection, water resistant if you’re going in the water or exercising, SPF 30+ for the beach or pool, cream or lotion application method
- Oxybenzone – A hormone disruptor
- Vitamin A (retinyl palmitate) – increases your skin’s sensitivity to sunlight and may increase your risk of some skin cancers
- Insect repellent – Dual action formulas that contain a sunscreen and an insect repellent may be convenient but as each may need to to be reapplied more often than the other it can be a problem—especially if it leads to repellent overuse. Sunscreens may also contain penetration enhancers that can increase absorption of pesticides.
- Sprays or powders – These may be harmful if inhaled. If you do use sprays, apply to the face by spraying the product on your hands and wiping it on your face.
- SPF above 50+ - There is no research to support than any sunscreen over SPF 30 provides any additional benefit.
What about Fido?
Animals can get sunburned and develop skin cancer too--especially on sensitive areas not covered by hair. The American Animal Hospital Association recommends that only fragrance-free, pet-specific products should be used on animals.
Environmental Working Group