Mother Earth Living

In The News: Some Sunscreens May be Hazardous to Your Health

In May, the Environmental Working Group issued its 2010 Sunscreen Guide that unveils which sunscreens are safe to use and which to avoid all together. Even though July is already among us, it’s never too late to learn about summer sun protection.

The EWG tested about 1,400 different brands of sunscreen from around the nation. About 500 passed their test and of those only 39 received their “green” ranking, which is the highest ranking. They tested beach and sport sunscreens, moisturizers, lip balms and makeup that feature SPF. The researchers ranked each product from 0 to 10; the higher the rating, the more hazardous the sunscreen.

Experts recommend applying sunscreen generously 30 minutes before sun exposure and to reapply throughout the day.
Photo by Alex.Ragone/Courtesy Flickr

Among the top picks for the safest sunscreens available include BadgerCalifornia Baby and Soléo Organics. All of these products are made naturally with limited chemicals. The products that top the Hall of Shame–yes shame–surprisingly include many “baby” inspired sunscreens like Banana Boat Baby Max Protect SPF 100, Hawaiian Tropic Baby Creme Lotion SPF 50, Aveeno Baby Continuous Protection SPF 55, Panama Jack Naturals Baby Sunblock SPF 50 and Baby Blanket Tender Scalps Scalp Sunscreen Spray for Babies SPF 45+.

According to the EWG, chemicals like vitamin A and oxybenzone caused more than 60 percent of tested sunscreens to fail the test. Sure, vitamin A helps your body when it has digested, but when it is spread on your skin and exposed to the sunlight it can speed up skin damage and increase the chance of cancer. Oxybenzone disrupts the balance of hormones and can easily enter the bloodstream from the skin. 

Also, EWG states that you shouldn’t trust the high sun-protection factor number on the bottle either. The group says that sunscreens with a higher SPF contain even more harmful chemicals. The higher SPFs cause people to believe that they can stay out in the sun longer without getting burned, but the sunscreen chemicals break down just as easily as a low SPF sunscreen. Also, in order for the higher SPF sunscreen to work properly, a person needs to apply enough of it. Most people only use about a quarter of what he or he should. So, in general, sunscreen with a 30 SPF works just as well at one with a 50+ SPF.

So, for the best protection, avoid sunscreens with oxybenzone, vitamin A (retinyl palmitate) and added insect repellent. Also, don’t use sprays, powders or any SPF above 50. Rather, look for ingredients with the ingredients zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, avobenzone or Mexoryl. Be sure to use creams, broad-spectrum protection, water-resistant for beach, pool and exercising and SPF 30+ for the most effective sun protection. Visit EWG’s Top Sun Safety Tips website to view a full list about sun protection.

Read the EWG’s full report on this subject to become more informed. Also, to learn more about natural sun care check out this Herbal Sunscreen Info to Know article from The Herb Companion.

Curious about where your sunscreen ranks? Look it up at the EWG’s Best Sunscreen database.

  • Published on Jul 13, 2010
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