Yes, you read that right. Getting the perfect glow this summer can be hazardous to your health – and not because you may overdo it and get burned. The sunblock you so liberally apply to yourself and your children – thinking that you’re protecting your skin – may be chock full of chemicals that can make you sick.
Thankfully, we can arm ourselves with some knowledge about which chemicals to avoid when we head to the store to stock up on sun protection this season. The Environmental Working Group’s 2012 Sunscreen Report evaluates over 1,800 SPF products including sunblock, lip balms, moisturizers, and makeup and identifies potentially harmful toxins that you should avoid if possible. Among the chief offenders to look for on the ingredient list of your favorite products:
Oxybenzone – This ingredient’s primary purpose is to absorb ultraviolet light. However, some research studies indicate that the chemical is absorbed through the skin and is linked to hormone disruption. It is also known to trigger allergic reactions. Even though the FDA rates this chemical as safe, I’d suggest that everyone –children and pregnant women especially – avoid it. Why risk your health and the health of your family by introducing this controversial chemical into your body when safer alternatives are available?
Retinyl Palmitate – In 2009, a study by U.S. government scientists suggested that retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A, may speed the development of skin tumors and lesions when applied to the skin in the presence of sunlight. While these studies were done on mice and not humans, and the results were inconclusive, many manufacturers began voluntarily removing the ingredient from their products.
Sunscreens with greater than SPF 50 – these are simply a waste of your money. The FDA is on the record as saying that products with SPF values higher than 50 would be “misleading to the consumer,” given the absence of proven efficacy beyond that number. There is also a potential for harm to consumers who are led to believe that the higher SPF will protect them from burning and encourage them to stay in the sun longer.
So what ingredients offer a healthier choice for sun protection?
- Choose products labeled with broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection.
- Look for products that contain zinc and titanium minerals as key ingredients. These perform best when it comes to filtering UV rays. These are also not considered hormone disruptors.
- Make sure that your kids wear a hat and shirt whenever possible to protect their delicate skin. Moms and dads should follow suit!
For a complete list of the best beach and sport sunscreen products evaluated by the Environmental Working Group, click here. And enjoy your summer – safely!