Sunscreens That Shine

Last week I featured sunscreens on Greene Westford.  Here is the article re-printed from Westford Patch.


Summer is here!  Fun in the sun also means staying safe from the sun’s rays. However, it’s not as simple as avoiding sunburns. 
The sun contains two major types of ultraviolet (UV) rays – UVB rays are primarily responsible for sunburns while UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin and cause more dangerous cell changes such as wrinkles and skin cancer.  A sunscreen’s sun protection factor (SPF) tells you how effectively the product blocks UVB rays.  Currently there is no such label for UVA rays.
Most skin damage is the result of years of cumulative sun exposure. That is why doctors say it’s important to use sunscreen year-round.  It is especially important to protect children. Many doctors believe that melanoma (the most dangerous skin cancer) can be caused by severe sunburns before the age of 18.
The safest thing to do is to limit your sun exposure:  staying in the shade, wearing clothing, hats and sunglasses.  Sun guard shirts have become much more popular recently and easier to find.  I recently bought some at Olympia Sports in Westford.  You can find several online as well. 
However, this is not always possible.  A good sunscreen is still a must.   Not all sunscreens are created equal. While some may be great at blocking the harmful rays of the sun, the chemicals they use can cause some damage on their own. What to do now?  This is where I turn to the Environmental Working Group’s 2011 sunscreen guide
The EWG is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting people from toxic contaminants.  The EWG’s guide rates 1700 sunscreens based on how well they protect you from UVB and UVA rays as well as the ingredients used.   Each product is given a value from 0 to 10, where 0 is the best (has the least harmful ingredients and protects against the sun) and 10 the worst.
When looking for sunscreen, there are several ingredients to avoid such as Vitamin A (retinyl palmitate), added insect repellent and especially Oxybenzone.
Oxybenzone is a synthetic estrogen which can interfere with our own hormones. There are studies that indicate Vitamin A absorbed into the skin may cause tumors to grow quicker, and if you need insect repellent, it’s better to add that as needed.  
Sprays, powders and SPFs above 50 should also be avoided.  Sprays and powders spread through the air and may not be safe to breathe.  SPF higher than 50 may tempt you to stay in the sun longer than you should.  Remember, UVA rays do not burn, but they are more dangerous overall than the burning UVB rays. 
Look for products that contain Titanium Dioxide, Zinc Oxide or Avobenzone as their active ingredients.  Not only do these products better protect against the sun, but they won’t harm you in the process.
Most of the safest choices are only available online.  However, here is a list of some more commonly found sunscreens that still rate low on the danger scale.  The number is parentheses is the EWG rating.
  • Elemental Herbs (1) – Available at The Whole Body Spa
  • Aveeno Baby Natural Protection Mineral Block Face Stick SPF 50 (1)
  • Kiss My Face Kids SPF 30 Sun Stick (pink, blue, white) (1)
  • Aveeno Active Naturals Natural Protection Mineral Block Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30 (3)
  • CVS Baby Stick Sunscreen SPF 60+ (3)
  • Walgreens Baby Pure and Gentle Sunscreen Stick SPF 60+ (3)
  • Walgreens Sport Sunscreen Stick SPF 50 (3)
  • Walgreens Sunscreen SPF 45 (3)
  • Coppertone Kids Pure and Simple Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 50 (3)
  • Coppertone Sensitive Skin Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 50 (3)
  • Coppertone Water Babies Pure and Simple sunscreen Lotion, SPF 50 (3)
I was able to find quite a few of these in Westford at CVS, Rite-Aid and Walgreens.  Just remember to apply sunscreen before you go outside (15 – 30 minutes) and reapply as directed.


2 Responses to Sunscreens That Shine

  1. July 19, 2011 at 4:22 pm #

    Hi Kristina-thanks so much for spreading the word about EWG’s sunscreen guide. The guide is great, but it’s important for people to understand that they don’t base their list solely on sunscreens with safe ingredients. They have a formula that takes into consideration the efficacy of the sunscreen as well as the ingredients (the ingredients don’t count as much toward a higher rating). To read more about this see my post:

  2. The Greening Of Westford July 24, 2011 at 9:38 pm #

    Thanks for the reminder Lori. I’d love to know why they weight the sun screening more(~60%) than the ingredients. Do they consider the risk of the sun greater than the risk of the ingredients? Either way, good to know so we can each decide.

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