Monday, June 14, 2010

Healthy Monday. Bring On The Heat: Sunscreen Safety

Photo credit: Atomic Cheesecake

I'm pretty pasty. As I gather my summer shorts, skirts, and tank tops, I realize that a long winter of hibernation has allowed me to accumulate an oh-so-attractive ghostly glow. While I don't love the fact that I am about as tan as an albino lobster, I do realize that, one, I have less risk of becoming a victim of melanoma skin cancer and two, anything I can do to fend off those dreaded age spots and wrinkles just a little bit longer is a good thing in my book. (Too much sun essentially ruins the elasticity of your skin, which is why you sometimes see those old ladies looking like orange leather.)

This doesn't mean you should lock yourself in your basement, surround yourself with black lights, and only appear when the moon shines (unless of course you're a vampire, then it's okay). But you should slather on the sunscreen when you plan to be outside for a while.

Unfortunately, recent claims suggest some of the ingredients in sunscreen are unsafe and ineffective. Eek! Here is the lowdown on what's good and what's not.

- The safest choice is zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. It's the dorky whitish stuff that your grandpa probably wears on his nose, but hey, it works! And it works well by physically blocking UVA/UVB rays, unlike chemical sunscreens which simply absorb them.

- Look for sunscreens with 2%-3% avobenzone and 10% octocrylene.
Still evil, but a little less than the other crap (see below). Avobenzone soaks up UVA/UVB rays, but it's potentially unsafe as it's absorbed into the skin and half of it breaks down within one hour. To add stability, manufacturers add octocrylene, which weakens the sunscreen but at least it prevents degradation.

- Stay away from the hormone disrupter, Oxybenzone. Unfortunately, this is a common ingredient in sunscreens, but it's also a hormone disrupter and up to 9% of it can be absorbed into the bloodstream.

- What about natural sunscreens? A potentially viable alternative, but unfortunately there is no governing entity to ensure they are safe and/or effective. According to, the EWG does have a list of recommended natural sunscreens: Badger, Soleo Organics, UV Natural, California Baby and Jason Natural Cosmetics.

Need more help? Check out the Environmental Working Group's Fourth Annual Sunscreen Guide.



Anonymous said...

I didn't know that certain sunscreen can actually harm you instead of preventing harm to you. Very informative post!

Paula@DreamWeddingItaly said...

I agree! I'm also rather, um, "pasty" and living in Italy I look like a ghost next to my friends and colleagues... but it's worth it! As an aside, on the wedding front I'm all for avoiding the sun before the big day and making sure you don't have sunburn, peeling or extral wrinkles and freckles to contend with!

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