Slathering the Sunscreen

It is now officially sunscreen season.

Sunscreen is something we should be applying year round, but with plans for visiting the shore, whether it is a lake, river or ocean; and days spent outdoors frolicking in the sun, sunscreen makes it’s way to the public consciousness at the beginning of summer.

You would think that you could go to the store and grab just any old sunscreen, put it on, and it will work.  Unfortunately, that is not always the case.  Many chemical sunscreens do not block UVA rays.  UVA rays do not cause a sunburn like UVB rays, so you do not notice that your skin is being damaged.  The physical sunscreens zinc oxide and titanium dioxide provide the most UVA protection.  There are chemical sunscreens that protect against UVA rays, but most of them are not available in the US.  You specifically want to avoid oxybenzone, as it is a known hormone disruptor.

Some ingredients in sunscreens can actually cause cancer, especially when exposed to the sun.  That doesn’t make much sense does it?  The most notable is Vitamin A, often listed as retinyl palmitate or retinol.   Other ingredients can produce free radicals, which damage skin cells.  Don’t forget that your skin is your largest organ and is very porous.   Chemicals that you apply to the surface can be absorbed into your body.  It is important to check if what you are applying to your skin can cause problems down the line.

If you have allergies or intolerances, you should also read the ingredient list to make sure there isn’t something that will affect you.

For more information visit the Environmental Working Group’s “Sunscreens Exposed” and “Top Sun Safety Tips.”

So what sunscreen should you buy?  Thankfully, the Environmental Working Group has put together a sunscreen guide to help answer that question.  They have broken it down into beach and sport sunscreens, lip balms, moisturizers, and makeup.  They are listed alphabetically, and you can click on each one to learn more.  Many of them are available at health food stores or small boutiques.  Some are becoming easier to find at “mainstream” stores as well.  If you have the chance, try the tester at the store to see how smoothly it goes on.  Physical sunblocks can be rather thick and white, depending on the formulation and the size of the particles.  It is a trade off between safety and aesthetics.  I’ve been using Goddess Garden lately, and I’ve used Keys Solar RX as my daily face moisturizer for a few years now.

If you find a good one, let me know!

-Teresa

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