Everyone knows you should wear sunscreen, but if you’re like me you worry about all the chemicals in them. Are they safe?
While you want great protection, you don’t want tons of unnecessary chemicals or chemicals that offer protection but aren’t safe. According to the Environmental Working Group, 25% of the sunscreens they tested would have been effective without the use of potentially harmful ingredients.
Mineral sunscreens, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, are the best option, for good reason. These minerals create a physical barrier on the skin, blocking both UVA rays (those that cause wrinkles and skin cancer) and UVB rays (those responsible for sunburn). Mineral sunscreens are effective the moment they are applied, unlike chemical sunscreens which require approximately 30 minutes to become effective after application.
Avoid aerosol sprays. The FDA has cautioned these sprays may not be safe or effective for different reasons, the biggest being that droplets of sunscreen could push chemicals deep into the lungs where they could irritate lung tissue or pass into the bloodstream.
The FDA also says it lacks data to prove that sprays provide the coverage needed to be effective on even dry skin. Choose “Non-micronized” sunscreens. Most sunscreens are made by grinding Zinc oxide into smaller and smaller particles. The particles should be small enough to spread without being cakey, but large enough to provide adequate coverage since each particle reflects UVA/UVB light. The problem arises when the Zinc oxide particles are ground together during the creation of the main powder base. When they grind up some of the particles so small (nano-particles) that they get absorbed into the skin and blood stream, they have potentially toxic effects on the body. Not only that, but they will no longer give sunblock coverage, as the particles themselves are too small to shield against UVA and UVB light.
According to the Environmental Working Group, some of the safest sunscreens on the market are the creams made by Badger, Thinksport (or Thinkbaby) and BurnOut. None of the products are perfect, but all of them are better than the chemical-filled, spray-on, mass-marketed sunscreens. And remember, you can always make your own at home using healthy oils, beeswax and zinc oxide powder (email me for the recipe!).
No matter what you choose, remember to reapply every 90 minutes in the sun or after being in the water.
For more information, email Dr. Wendy at firstname.lastname@example.org.