Sunscreen 411: What to Buy & What to Avoid
Navigating the world of sunscreen can feel like a ticking time bomb. What's safe, what's not and how can something that is supposed to "protect you" from getting cancer, actually give you, cancer? We wouldn't be doing our job properly if we didn't provide a round up of safe summer essentials.
The first step is understanding the two types of sunscreens and how they are different. The most popular and common type of sunscreen is chemical sunscreen. This type of sunscreen uses chemicals to penetrate the skin to protect you from the sun, which is why there is a waiting period of 20+ mins between application and sun protection - you are waiting for the chemicals to absorb into your body. Chemicals like oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate are generally found in such sunscreens (which can also contain the label "organic". Weird, right?). It is important to note that the chemicals that are absorbed into our skin are also absorbed into our bloodstream. So basically, after you apply oxybenzone sunscreen you are peeing it out. Oxybenzone is also the chemical responsible for coral bleaching. When we spray it on or lather it up it comes off in the water and contaminates marine life, damages coral reefs, sea beds, eco systems, and has even been found in drinking water. But more on that later.. It is also worth mentioning, that these researchers discovered that chemical sunscreen ingredients can act as penetration enhancers, helping any other chemicals you use to enter the skin. The scary part is these chemicals are being absorbed readily into our bodies and are found in breast milk, new born babies, and are considered hormone disrupters - which means they mimic the female hormone progesterone and have been linked to interfering with the function of human sperm cells.
Mineral sunscreen is a sunscreen based in, you guessed it, minerals. This type of sunscreen creates a barrier ON TOP of the skin where the sun reflects off the skin so it isn't absorbed into the body. Because it creates a barrier on top of the skin you don't have to wait to be protected, the sun protection is immediate. There are no chemicals in mineral sunscreens; however, for a mineral sunscreen to be effective in must contain 20% or more zinc oxide. When looking at mineral sunscreens you want to look for ones that have no nano particles and no titanium oxide.
The trick with sunscreens is that the research is changing very quickly. Thankfully there are organizations like Environmental Working Group and free apps like Think Dirty that are constantly keeping up on what chemicals are in what products and how they are affecting us. You can find out what's in your current sunscreen and how rates here.
Based on our research, here are the best rated sunscreens for this summer. Since we haven't tried them all we are going to put our money where our mouth is. We are asking three of our toughest critics to put these sunscreens to the test. We don't know about you, but when we come at our kids with a tube of the white stuff we are normally met with resistance! We want coverage and performance, they want it to feel and smell good. We get it. We don't like the sticky, tacky, zombie like feel some mineral sunscreens provide either. We will let you know what products stand out and what are stand offs - stay tuned! In the meantime, here are some safe summer options to consider:
SPF 50+ 3 oz & 6 oz. EWG & Think Dirty App rating 1
Features: Top Rated by EWG with a “1” rating in 2010, 2011, and 2012 for Baby, Beach and Sport. Free of biologically harmful chemicals (No Avobenzone, Oxybenzone or UV Chemical absorbers)
**ThinkBaby, ThinkKids & ThinkSport are the same formula. The difference is in the packaging and smell (Baby/Kids contains pappaya and Sport contains grapefruit/current). Available at Amazon Rexall Pharma Plus, Noah's Natural Foods, Thinkbaby
Cyberderm Simply Zinc Sun Whip
SPF 30, 50 ml. EWG rating 1
Extra points for being Canadian -Simply Zinc Sun Whip contains 22% certified organic Zinc Oxide in a rich and hydrating Olive base. It applies smoothly and invisibly while it absorbs quickly without leaving a shiny finish. It is also a great facial sunscreen for those with melasma or hyperpigmentation, by providing strong and consistent protection against UVB and UVA rays. The antioxidants provided by the Olive Oil base and the inclusion of tetrapeptides also make this a great anti-aging sun protectant.
Goddess Garden Sport Natural Sunscreen
SPF 50, 100 ml. EWG rating 1,
Goddess Garden Sport Natural Sunscreen formula is 100% biodegradable and is packed with nourishing organic ingredients like aloe vera and sunflower oil.
Juice Beauty Sport Sunscreen
Attitude Little Ones 100% Mineral Sunscreen
SPF 30, 2.6 oz. No rating available.
Another Canadian company, ATTITUDE Little Ones Sunscreen, made with 100% mineral content, can help the whole family prevent sunburn. This formula specifically addresses the needs of baby's delicate skin, offering you the peace of mind of both strong and gentle protection.