Is Your Sunscreen Really Protecting You?

I’m Eat Real Be Wellreturning from my favorite beach spot in Carolina Beach, North Carolina where the boys and I spent almost a week relaxing, riding waves and building sandcastles. If you are following me on Facebook, you know I’m an avid beach lover.  For me there is nothing better, but that doesn’t me that I’m not careful about sun exposure. After reading the Environmental Working Group’s Sunscreen Guide last year I made changes to the sunscreen the boys and I use. Their guide discusses some of the health concerns related to sun exposure and protection as well as the chemicals that are used in sunscreens. You can also search for the sunscreen you use and see how it rates.
This year’s guide is even more informative about the potential hazards of sunscreen. It may not be as safe as you think. Here’s why.
Sunscreen Concerns:

  • Despite use of sunscreen, rates of melanoma have tripled over the last 35 years. The reason why really isn’t known. Companies market Broad Spectrum protection and this is true to some extent. The government’s criteria, however, are among the weakest in the world. US sunscreen companies have far fewer chemical options to work with than in Europe where sunscreens offer better protection, particularly from UVA rays that penetrate deeper into the skin and are what cause most skin cancers and skin aging.
  • Oxybenzone, is a known hormone disrupter. This means the chemicals interferes with our bodies’ natural hormone system by imitating them. In the case of Oxybenzone, it can affect reproductive health. It penetrates the skin which is particularly dangerous for kids because they absorb more of the chemical in comparison to adults because children weigh less.
  • Vitamin A (Retinyl Palmitate or Retinol Palmitate). An antioxidant, Vitamin A is used in many night/facial creams because it is believed to slow skin aging, however, government studies show that this ingredient may speed the development of tumors or lesions when exposed to sun.
  • Spray Sunscreen can be difficult to apply consistently enough to offer protection, particularly if you are spraying it in a windy area.  Conversely, if you are spraying in a closed area, inhalation of the spray is of growing concern, again particularly with kids.

Safer Choices:

  • Look for Sunscreens that contain Titanium Dioxide or Zinc Oxide. Both of these chemical do not penetrate the skin as easily, are stable when exposed to the sun and provide broad spectrum protection.
  • Use a sunscreen with a lower SPF, Yes you read that correctly – use a lower SPF, anywhere from 15SPFto 30SPF. Anything that is rated higher adds protection that is inconsequential.
  • Reapply more often and USE MORE!  For your sunscreen to be effective you should be reapplying every 2 hours or after swimming, toweling off, sweating.  Many times we aren’t using enough sunscreen when we are applying. The correct amount is about an ounce.  *Remember that sunscreen blocks Vitamin D absorption. Most people in the US are Vitamin D deficient and may need Vitamin D supplementation. Consult with your doctor
  • Wear Protective Clothing:  Hats, shirts etc offer better protection than your sunscreen.

Go to the EWG’s website or download the app to search how safe the sunscreen you are using is.  We are using Alba Botanica – Natural Very Emollient Sunscreen, SPF 30. It received a Green 2 rating, which is the second top rating. You can buy it at Kimberton Whole Foods, and on the Alba Botanical Website.

To check out ratings of the toxicity of chemicals frequently used in sunscreens click here and scroll to the bottom.

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