I have a devil of a time finding great sunscreen. Either it goes on white and I look like a total clown, or it goes on greasy and it stings like the devil when it gets in my eyes. But it doesn’t stop there. In my search for a safe sunscreen, I’ve been making myself completely crazy getting caught up in the research on sunscreens and the intricacies of formulations and ingredients. So, in between all my daily tasks as mom and CEO of my own social media company, I put my dormant pre-med education to work and came up with handy-dandy guide that I hope will be your go-to for safe sunscreen shopping.
Yep, we’ve heard all about it
By now, most of us know that many big brand, drugstore variety sunscreens contain potentially toxic chemicals that are absorbed into the bloodstream, break down in the sun and offer far less protection than their labels declare. Until FDA strengthens and finalizes the sunscreen safety standards first drafted 31 years ago, you can’t be confident that products on store shelves are safe and effective for you and your family.
How not to get melanoma (skin cancer)
Most people believe that sun exposure causes cancer. The real truth is that your body needs a bit of unprotected sun exposure to make Vitamin D, which has been shown to protect against as many as sixteen different types of cancer, including breast, colon, and prostate.
Here’s what you need to know: PROPER sun exposure protects you from many deadly cancers, while IMPROPER sun exposure contributes to skin cancer.
Let’s examine this a little more closely:
Little chemical scary monsters
Let’s take a look at two of the most common and most frightening ingredients in about 90% of sunscreen brands.
In addition to these two, many other toxic chemicals have been found in sunscreens that are supposed to “protect” us. Check the labels on your sunscreens and toss them in the trash if they contain any of these questionable chemicals:
For the times we need to use sunscreen to handle more intense sun exposure like a day at the beach, I highly recommend you switch to a formula that is safe and healthy for your skin. Enter the Environmental Working Group and Skin Deep, where they have detailed the safety and effectiveness of over 1500 sunscreen products. Last updated in July 2009, they found that 3 out of 5 products actually provide inadequate protection from the sun, and that many leading brands you'll find lining the shelves at your local drugstore fail to meet its overall criteria for safety and effectiveness. Who are the worst offenders? Coppertone Water Babies, Hawaiian Tropic, Banana Boat and CVS to name a few.
The SFP debate
People buy high-SPF assuming they've purchased products that maximize sun protection, and trust that the claims on the bottle will ensure they are protected. Nothing could be less certain. The Environmental Working Group found 57 sunscreens claiming SPFs from 55-100+ that might tempt you to stay out longer in the sun, but they block just 1 to 2% more sunburn rays than an SPF 30 sunscreen. So don’t be fooled into wasting your money there.
My budget-friendly, toxin-free sunscreen recommendations
But seriously, all we busy moms want to know is which one to buy – which ones work and which ones don’t cost an arm and a leg.
While nirvana would be a good, nasty-chemical-free sunscreen that isn't greasy and doesn't leave that zinc oxide white sheen on your skin, I haven’t found it yet. Here are the next best things - all have a rating of 1 on the Skin Deep database and will cost you less than $20.
For the heartier souls out there who want to go choose their own sunscreen this is how I usually go about it myself
What about you Pinkies? Other ideas or recommendations? Were you worried about safe sunscreen, and are you ready now for some fun in the sun? Let us know.
Donning my shades,
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