Did you know that over one million people are diagnosed with skin cancer a year? According to the National Cancer Institute, ultraviolet radiation from the sun is the leading cause of skin cancer, which fortunately can easily be prevented with sunscreen. But not all sunscreen is created equal!
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) just released its 2012 Sunscreen Guide, which rates over 1,800 sunscreens, lip balms, and moisturizers and cosmetics with SPF. The EWG guide warns that just because a sunscreen is labeled with the highest SPF doesn’t mean it’s the best, or even safe! In fact, it’s not just about the numbers.
There are a few things to lookout for when choosing a sunscreen. They recommend avoiding any sunscreen with retinyl palmitate (vitamin A), which may cause tumors and lesions to develop for quickly when skin is exposed to the sun. Nneka Leiba, Senior Research Analyst and the guide’s lead author, tells Shine, “The FDA and National Toxicology both say it may heighten risk of skin damage and cancer.”
Also avoid choosing products with Oxybenzone, which is linked to hormone disruption and can cause allergic reactions. Instead, choose products with zinc, titanium dioxide, avobenzone, or Mexoryl S.
The EWG also says to steer clear of spray or powders, which can fill the air with particles that are dangerous to inhale; they may even be carcinogenic and cause lung inflammation.
And as for those SPF values above 50? Don’t bother! The FDA says these labels are misleading and may actually encourage people to stay out in the sun for too long, giving people a false sense of security.
The best and worst sunscreens…
The EWG suggests avoiding these sunscreens because they are spays or powders, have SPF values above 50+, and contain retinyl palmitate and/or oxybenzone:
Neutrogena Fresh Cooling Body Mist Sunblock, SPF 70
Banana Boat Sport Performance Active MAX Protect Continuous Spray Sunscreen, SPF 110
Aveeno Continuous Protection Sunblock Spray Active, SPF 70
Wegmans Sheer Sunscreen Body Mist, SPF 55
Rite Aid Extreme Sport Continuous Spray, SPF 70+
CVS Sheer Mist Sunscreen, SPF 70
Walgreens Sheer Body Mist Sunscreen Spray, SPF 70
Coppertone Sport Clear Continuous Spray Sunscreen, SPF 90
The best, most affordable sunscreens:
Coppertone Kids Pure & Simple Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 50
BabyGanics Cover Up Baby Sunscreen for Face & Body, Fragrance Free, SPF 50+
Sunbow Dora the Explorer Sunscreen, Pink, SPF 30
Purple Prairie Botanicals SunStuff Mineral Lotion, SPF 30
Nature’s Gate Aqua Block Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 50
Solbar Shield Sunscreen, SPF 40
Caribbean Solutions Sol Kid Kare Biodegradable Sunscreen, SPF 25
Tropical Sands Broad Spectrum Sunscreen, SPF 30
KidsUV Natural Sunscreen, Blue, SPF 30
Color Me Pink Baby UV/ Kids UV 100% Natural Sunscreen, SPF 30
Alba Botanica Natural Very Emollient Sunblock, Kids Mineral Protection, SPF 30
Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen, Face, SPF 30+
Healing-Scents Live Long Mineral-Based Sunscreen, SPF 25
Hara Body Care Hara Sport Sunscreen, SPF 30
Vanicream Sport Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 35
The EWG recommends applying sunscreen every 2 hours you’re in the sun, and avoiding the outdoors between 10 and 2, when the sun is hottest.