I must admit that I hate putting sunscreen on. Sunscreen can be messy and it usually smells funny. However, I’ve NEVER been sorry I put in on after a long day in the sun.
The best sunscreen is wearing a hat and a shirt or simply staying out of the sun altogether. For most of us, avoiding the sun is impossible and unrealistic. When we do spend time in the sun it is a good idea to find a sunscreen that provides broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB-sunburn) protection with the fewest hazardous chemicals.
I usually buy SPF 30 or higher and I prefer the spray sunscreens as they are much easier to apply. Other than looking at the SPF rating I’ve never given much thought into what I was buying. It is a good idea to spend a little extra time choosing the best sunscreen available and your skin will thank you later.
A 2008 study of sunscreens by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) reported that 4 out of 5 sunscreens contain chemicals that “may pose health hazards or don’t adequately protect skin from the sun’s damaging rays”. Major brands like Coppertone, Banana Boat, and Neutrogena are some of the worst offenders. Here are some of the highlights from the study:
- Only 15% of 952 products analyzed met EWG’s criteria for safety and effectiveness, blocking both UVA and UVB radiation, remaining stable in sunlight, and containing few if any ingredients with significant known or suspected health hazards.
- Many products lack UVA protection.
- Sunscreens break down in the sun.
- Questionable product claims are widespread. Many products on the market bear claims that are considered “unacceptable” or misleading under FDA’s draft sunscreen safety standards.
- Many sunscreens contain nano-scale ingredients that raise potential concerns.
- The U.S. lags behind other countries when it comes to products that work and are safe.
- Some sunscreens absorb into the blood and raise safety concerns.
Considering these ominous facts, what brand of sunscreen should you buy? The investigation reviewed nearly 1,000 brand-name sunscreen products to identify a list of products that are effective in providing protection from the damaging effects of the sun.
The EWG provides a comprehensive list of sunscreens that they recommend. There is also a searchable database of sunscreen products including lip balm, moisturizers, and makeup.
The top-rated sunscreens all contain zinc or titanium which makes them a good choice for people who are looking for the best UVA protection “without any sunscreen chemical considered to be a potential hormone disruptor. None of the products contain oxybenzone or vitamin A and none are sprayed or powdered.”
Top 10 Sunscreen Products for 2011
These products are identified as the best “beach and sport” sunscreens.
- Alba Botanica
Sun: Mineral Sunscreen Fragrance Free, SPF 30
Sun: Mineral Sunscreen Kids, SPF 30
- All Terrain
Aquasport Performance Sunscreen, SPF 30
TerraSport Performance Sunscreen, SPF 30
KidSport Performance Sunscreen, SPF 30
- Aubrey Organics
Natural Sun Sport Stick Unscented Sunscreen, SPF 30
Natural Sun Unscented Sensitive Skin/Children Sunscreen, SPF 30+
Natural Sun Saving Face Sunscreen, SPF 15
Baby Natural Protection Mineral Block Face Stick, SPF 50
Cover Up Baby Sunscreen for Face & Body, Fragrance Free, SPF 50+
Cover Up Baby Sunscreen Stick, Fragrance Free, SPF 50
- babyUV/kidsUV inc.
kidsUV Natural Sunscreen Pink, SPF 30
Sunscreen, Unscented, SPF 30+
Baby Sunscreen, SPF 30+
Sunscreen, Lightly Scented Lavender, SPF 30+
Sunscreen Face Stick, Unscented, SPF 30+
Sunscreen, Lightly Scented Lavender, SPF 15
- Beyond Coastal
Natural Clear, SPF 30
Kids Natural, SPF 30
Lip and Face Screen, SPF 30
Natural, SPF 30
- Blue Lizard
Australian Suncream, Sensitive, SPF 30+
Baby Australian Suncream, SPF 30+
- California Baby
No Fragrance Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30+
No Fragrance Sunblock Stick, SPF 30+
Everyday/Year-Round Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30+
Summer Blend Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30+
Everyday/Year-Round Sunblock Stick, SPF 30+
No Fragrance Moisturizing Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 18
Everyday/Year-Round Moisturizing Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 18
According to the EWG, more than 1 million people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with skin cancer this year. This number has been steadily increasing over the past decade making sunscreen more important than ever. The EWG even has a “hall of shame” of sunscreen products that you should avoid.
Remember to apply some sunscreen before you head outside even if you hate putting it on as much as I do and make sure you buy a product from this list to ensure you get the best protection available.