twinfinite wisdom

my children are the reason i get up in the morning… and the reason i drink at night

Here comes the sun, protect those little darlings!

on May 10, 2013

It’s almost sunblock time… unless you’re my sister, who starts applying in January. It’s also about time for my yearly rant about the bad things in most sunscreens. You can once again thank the Environmental Working Group (EWG) for making me paranoid, not to mention a super crazy mom.

Here is my recap (I’m not a doctor, this is all info from EWG’s Skin Deep site):

Jim Gaffigan Sunscreen Quote

Funny and true


  • Vitamin A aka Retinyl Palmitate: Harmful! OK for indoors (anti-aging), not so much for direct all day sun
  • Oxybenzone: Harmful! Hormone disruption, cell damage, may be linked to skin cancer (controversial)
  • Parabens: This is a preservative that can mimic estrogen, and mess up your hormones
  • Anything over SPF 50: Misleading and contain higher amount of active ingredients
  • Aerosal Sprays: Dangerous to inhale, and nanoparticles may be harmful for skin absorbtion
  • Words like waterproof, sweat-proof, all-day protection: It’s either misleading, or the chemicals making them sweat-proof could be dangerous
  • Strong fragrances: Irritating to skin and may cause organ toxicity

If you won’t remember this whole list, I would definitely focus on the first two (Vitamin A / Retinyl Palmitate and Oxybenzone).  They seem to be the most harmful.

Chemical vs mineral sunblocks: Chemical sunblocks penetrate the skin and can cause hormone disruptions. Mineral sunblocks can do the same, but most don’t. The reason we generally avoid mineral based sunblocks is because they usually don’t go on clear; they don’t penetrate your skin, which is a good thing (think of those terrible pictures of us with white zinc noses, 20 years ago).

UVA ages us, UVB burns us: FDA is mandating sunscreen companies start labeling their products with “Broad Spectrum”, which covers both UVA and UVB.

What does SPF really mean? Here is how explains it:

Most sunscreens with an SPF of 15 or higher do an excellent job of protecting against UVB. SPF — or Sun Protection Factor — is a measure of a sunscreen’s ability to prevent UVB from damaging the skin. Here’s how it works: If it takes 20 minutes for your unprotected skin to start turning red, using an SPF 15 sunscreen theoretically prevents reddening 15 times longer — about five hours..”reddening” of the skin is a reaction to UVB rays alone and tells you little about what UVA damage you may be getting. Plenty of damage can be done without the red flag of sunburn being raised.  More info can be found here

Best bet: Stay lower in the SPFs (30-50 SPF range), apply frequently (every two hours minimum), and don’t use aerosols (even though they are so convenient, sad face).

Best bang for your buck (just my opinion): Coppertone’s “Pure & Simple” and “Sensitive Skin” lines (SPF 50 at most) Coppertone’s Kids Pure & Simple SPF 50, Coppertone’s Sensitive Skin SPF 50, and Coppertone’s Water Babies Pure & Simple SPF 50 (scores of 2). I’ve also heard great things about California Baby, and you can find it at Target. For face-sticks, Beyond Coastal Active Face Stick Sunscreen, SPF 30. It goes on clear and smells citrusy fresh. It’s $6.38 on Amazon, and gets a score of 2 on EWG.

Search for your sunscreen and learn more about the good, bad, and ugly on the EWG’s Skin Deep Sunscreens 2012. You can also download the EWG Sunscreen Guide app for your phone.

This is all  based on my interpretations of what I have found on EWG’s website, the Skin Cancer Foundation website, and other health related news sites. Sunscreen chemicals, like anything having to do with the big health industry, are a highly controversial topic. It doesn’t hurt to be overly cautious … or to at least have some knowledge on the topic. Happy shopping!

Beatles lyric

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