Wait, isn’t that redundant? Aren’t all sunscreens “safe”? Oh, I know, only those with high SPFs are safe, right? Wait, you mean even those aren’t safe either?
If you’re like me, you like to keep up with the latest in consumer safety news to keep yourself and your family as healthy as possible…what toys are being recalled, what foods are dangerous (have you heard the latest about diet sodas????), what natural gas drilling company or power plant is releasing toxins and where, what’s going on with plastic water bottles and cell phones, which cars have accelerators that stick, which body and hair care products are unsafe, what’s the deal about Styrofoam—to those not into this kind of thing, it sounds like an exhausting amount of worrying and checking, but it’s really not. When I have time to read the newspaper or online news, which isn’t a lot, I read up on this kind of stuff, sometimes do a little online research, and simply make a decision each time something new comes along. I don’t sit around and bite my nails over it, it’s just matter-of-fact: if something’s unsafe, we won’t have it around anymore. Too many times in the past I’ve waited to take action, only to find out the initial findings were correct. To not keep as up-to-date and informed as possible in this chemical, cancer-laden world (and to believe that free enterprise automatically equals safety and benevolence) is like living with blinders on, in denial, I think. So I definitely sat up in my desk chair when my friends at Fort Worth-based eco boutique The Greener Good (www.thegreenergood.com) sent me a few statistics last month about sunscreen safety, from The Environmental Working Group’s latest sunscreen report.
The EWG (http://www.ewg.org/about) tests sunscreens (and many other things) annually and just released its latest report on June 23rd. I decided to check it out myself, and it’s pretty interesting (their whole website looks pretty interesting). According to their latest research, only about one in five sunscreens on the market today meet the EWG criteria for protection and safety, and in a lot of cases the higher the SPF, the more dangerous they are. If you’d like more info on the study and the list of which brand offerings passed and which didn’t, click here or head to http://breakingnews.ewg.org/2011sunscreen/.
I’ve also got some info below on what to look for on labels, but for now, let’s get to the freebie/giveaway from The Greener Good: one reader will receive a full–size box of “Dr. T’s Supergoop Everyday Sun Protection” swipes (retail value $34), which is mineral based, chemical free, and made EWG’s list of “best beach and sport sunscreens”. (Liz Johnston, owner of The Greener Good, says the swipes are a huge hit with moms, as you don’t have to worry about rubbing in cream on squirmy kids. Liz has two young daughters and says one swipe covers her along with both of her girls.) Just drop me a line at email@example.com if you’d like to be included in the drawing and I’ll let you know if you’re the winner. Write to me by midnight on Monday, July11th. Also, the Greener Good currently has a coupon on their Facebook page for “buy one full size, get a travel size free”. (www.facebook.com/thegreenergoodpage)
Here’s more info on sunscreen safety from Liz, and the EWG:
WHAT TO STAY AWAY FROM (Check the labels!):
- Avoid Parabens and Oxybenzone.
- These are found in over 41% of sunscreens–
- Parabens are preservatives used to increase shelf life. They can mimic the hormone estrogen, which is known to play a role in the development of breast cancer. They’ve also been known to adversely affect the functions of the male reproductive system.
- Oxybenzone is another hormone-disrupting compound in 60% of the 500 beach and sport sunscreens. It penetrates the skin and is absorbed into the bloodstream.
- Avoid Retinol or Retinyl Palmitate, which is a form of Vitamin A.
- Found in 30% of all sunscreens, this ingredient is often promoted to slow skin’s aging – however recent studies have shown that this may speed the development of skin tumors and lesions.
Why High SPF numbers are NOT safer.
- Most high SPF sunscreens don’t adequately protect from UVA rays, which is the primary cause of sunburn, and bind directly to DNA causing cancerous mutations.
- High SPF sunscreens also contain higher amounts of sun-blocking c
hemicals than low SPF sunscreens which may pose health risks as they break down and get absorbed into the skin.
- High SPF gets its ranking due to testing on volunteers where they apply the appropriate amount of sunscreen to the skin being tested. The average consumer uses 1/4 of the recommended amount which exponentially reduces the effectiveness and ranking of the advertised SPF. (Example: SPF 30 drops down to SPF 2.3 and SPF 100 drops down to 3.2.)
WHAT TO LOOK FOR:
Look for Zinc and Titanium Dioxide in the ingredients list.
- They are naturally occurring ingredients that are not absorbed into the skin and bloodstream.
- They provide a boundary against UVA and UVB rays and are stable in sunlight.