Sunscreen Safety Zone: What to Avoid

Staying safe in the summer sun is easier said than done. I have very fair skin and together with my sunburn-prone husband we made one of the whitest, redheaded babies in the Western world. So, skin protection is sort my thing.

The Environmental Working Group recently published their 2012 Sunscreen Guide and it’s a must read for anyone who plans to leave the house this summer. Seriously, they do the research so you don’t have to and their Skin Deep data base is filled with brands that have vetted so you can comparison shop at your desk.

Since having a baby, we’ve kept a rotating arsenal of sunscreen from California Baby, Alba Botanicals and Badger. Suntegrity is on my short list of new-to-me brands to try this season, as they get top ratings from the EWG.

Overall, when shopping for a new sunscreen you will want to learn to read labels and avoid the following:

-Formulations that come in spray or powder form. These will most likely contain nanoparticles which are considered toxic when absorbed through the skin and are especially dangerous when inhaled through the nose or mouth.

-Oxybenzone: a hormone disruptor and also a cause of skin allergies.

-Vitamin A (retinyl palmitate): evidence is not entirely clear, but some studies have shown that Vitamin A when applied to the skin in sunlight may speed the development of skin tumors and lesions. I’d rather avoid this ingredient until more research is available. Many natural brands are formulating sunscreens without vitamin A so it pays to read the ingredients.

-Synthetic fragrance or the ubiquitous ‘Fragrance’: Since the United States allows cosmetics companies to protect fragrance as a trade secret, most mainstream brands will not disclose what goes into their formulation. Rest assured it’s not natural. The EWG describes fragrance as “a chemical cocktail, often containing individual chemicals associated with allergic reactions and hormone disruption.” I consider “fragrance” to be the kiss of death on a personal care product, sunscreen included.

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  • Mel

    Thanks so much for the information. I’m always looking for clean sunscreens that the kids don’t mind wearing. They are surprisingly fussy about the feel and smell. I like our current tubes, but now I can check the ingredient lists to be extra sure we don’t have any yucky stuff being rubbed into our skin everyday!

  • Danielle (elleinadspir)

    Yesterday B asked me what a chemical was. I told him to ask you in August ;)

    • pinkmoondaily

      Awesome. I’ll get my power point ready.