Safe and Effective Sunscreens

What are some safe and effective sunscreens?

It’s time to replenish sunscreen supplies for those upcoming beach junkets, mountain hikes, and lazy days by the pool. Each summer, doctors and public service announcements remind us about the importance of slathering on the sunscreen before heading outdoors. The biggest benefits of course are that sunscreen helps absorb and/or reflect harmful UVA and UVB rays, which can cause premature aging and skin cancer.

This year I’m greening up my medicine cabinet, which means my beach bag will be including healthier sun products. The chemicals used to make sunscreen may not always be great for our bodies or for delicate marine ecosystems. While sunscreen is an absolute must, there are things you can do to choose one that is better for you and the environment.

Go Mineral

Sunscreens containing zinc dioxide or titanium dioxide are great alternatives to those with chemicals such as oxybenzone. Zinc and titanium are minerals that provide broad-spectrum coverage, reflecting both UVA and UVB rays. An added benefit is that many zinc and titanium sunscreens these days are micronized to avoid the white, painted-on look. Carefully read the list of active ingredients before purchasing as some sunscreens contain zinc and titanium in combination with other chemicals.

Pick Healthier Ingredients

Not all sunscreens claiming to be natural are equal. Many cosmetics and sunscreens, even those with natural and organic labels, contain preservatives to insure products remain as fresh as possible. When shopping for a sunscreen, consider avoiding ones with harsher chemical preservatives such as parabens (including butylparaben and methylparaben), which have had mixed health reviews. Instead, look for sun products without preservatives or those with milder preservatives such as potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate. Also, steer clear of sunscreens with petroleum-based ingredients such as mineral oil.

Look for natural emollients such as olive, sunflower and jojoba oils, and shea and cocoa butter, to name a few.

Think prevention!

While you are greening up your sun products, don’t forget about all of the other advice you have heard over the years. With more than 1 million cases of skin cancer being diagnosed in the U.S. each year, it is important to wear sunscreen even on cloudy days and while indoors since UVA rays can penetrate glass. Look for a sunscreen that is waterproof and has at least an SPF of 15. Additionally, consider avoiding direct sunlight between 10 am and 4 pm.

For yourself, and especially for your kids, buy sun protective clothing you can wear in the water and on the beach. One of my sun-averse friends has never let her fair-haired, 4-year-old daughter onto the beach or in a pool without a full-body swimsuit that completely covers her arms and legs. And ya know what? She hasn’t burned yet! For adults, you might want to check out fun “surfer-wear” board shorts and rashguard shirts for more coverage in the water. Look for fabrics with a 50 UPF (ultraviolet protection factor). Like most things, think moderation! A little bit of sun can be a good thing – just don’t overdo it!

The Environmental Working Group’s Top 5 choices for safe effective sunscreens are these:

1. Keys Soap Solar Rx Therapeutic Sunblock
2. Rukid Sunny Days Facestick Mineral Sunscreen UVA/UVB Broad Spectrum
3. California Baby Sunblock Stick No Fragrance
4. Badger Sunscreen
5. Marie Veronique Skin Therapy Sun Serum