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How-To Pick The Best Sunscreens & Which Ones To Avoid

Chrissy DeBartolo
By Chrissy DeBartolo - August 18, 2017

The mercury is rising all around the country, which means lots of days spent in the sun!

While vitamin D is certainly wonderful for your body, too much can obviously do harm. You know what I'm talking about. That red lobster look (no, not the restaurant) isn't flattering on anyone. Since the sun is getting stronger and stronger, sun protection is more important now more than ever. 

Not getting burned is only one of the perks. When you load up on sun protection, you are protecting the biggest organ in your body - your skin. You are protecting your skin from damage that can lead to wrinkles, brown spots, change in texture, and worse, cancer.

I come from a family prone to melanomas, so you can bet your bottom dollar that I lather on the sunscreen or stay in the shade when I head outside for any length of time.

Now, it has been said that in order to absorb enough vitamin D, you must be in the sun unprotected for about 10-15 minutes a day. I do this while walking the dogs in the morning and during our quick walk in the late afternoon. Any other time and you can bet that I use sunscreen.

But, did you know that not all sunscreen is created equal? In fact, a 2017 report from Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that nearly 75 percent of sunscreens didn’t work. That is to say these sunscreens provide inadequate sun protection and/or they contained harmful ingredients. 

Just like anything else on the market, the efficacy varies from brand to brand, so it's important to know what to look for when choosing such an important product. 

When you go shopping for a sunscreen, what do you look for? A familiar brand? A cheap price? Convenience? Value? SPF 50? SPF 30? SPF 15? It can all get a little overwhelming.

In the EWG’s 2017 best sunscreens report, the group analyzed the ingredients and labeling claims of 880 sport and beach sunscreens, 480 SPF-containing moisturizers and 120 SPF-containing lip products.

So what are the best sunscreens out there? Let’s take a look.

Sunscreen Beach & Sport

THE BEST SUNSCREENS OF 2017: BEACH & SPORT

  • All Good Unscented Sunstick, SPF 30
  • All Terrain AquaSport Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30
  • aromatica Calendula Non-Nano UV Protection, SPF 30
  • ATTITUDE Family Sensitive Skin Care Sunscreen, SPF 30
  • Aveeno Baby Continuous Protection Sensitive Skin Lotion Sunscreen, SPF 50
  • Badger Sunscreen Cream, Unscented, SPF 30
  • Bare Belly Organics Sunscreen, SPF 30
  • California Baby Super Sensitive Sunscreen, SPF 30+
  • Drunk Elephant Umbra, Sheer Defense, SPF 30
  • Goddess Garden Organics Everyday Natural Sunscreen Lotion, SPF, 30
  • Jersey Shore Cosmetics Anti-Aging Mineral Sunscreen, SPF 35
  • Just Skin Food Natural & Organic Sunscreen, SPF30
  • Kabana Organic Skincare Green Screen Sunscreen, Original SPF 32
  • Kiss My Face Organics Face & Body Sunscreen, SPF 30
  • Poofy Organics The Sunscreen Stick, SPF 30
  • Sunology Natural Sunscreen, Body, SPF 50
  • Sunology Natural Sunscreen, Face, SPF 50
  • ThinkSport Sunscreen, SPF 50+
  • Waxhead Sun Defense Sunscreen Stick, SPF 30
  • Zebs Organics Sunscreen, SPF 20

 

Moisturizing Sunscreen

THE BEST SUNSCREENS OF 2017: MOISTURIZERS

  • Andalou Naturals, All-in-One Beauty Balm, Sheer Tint, SPF 30
  • Badger Damascus Rose Face Sunscreen, SPF 25
  • Block Island Organics Natural Face Moisturizer, SPF 30
  • CyberDERM Every Morning Sun Whip, SPF 25
  • Goddess Garden Organics Face the Day Sunscreen & Firming Primer, SPF 30
  • Juice Beauty Oil-Free Moisturizer, SPF 30
  • SanRe Organic Skinfood Shaded Rose-Solar Healing Facial Cream, SPF 30
  • Suntegrity Skincare 5 in 1 Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen, SPF 30

 

Kids Sunscreen

THE BEST SUNSCREENS OF 2017: KIDS

  • Adorable Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30+
  • All Good Kid’s Sunscreen, SPF 30
  • All Terrain KidSport Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30
  • Aveeno Baby Continuous Protection Sensitive Skin Lotion Sunscreen, SPF 50
  • Babytime! by Episenical Sunny Sunscreen, SPF 35
  • Badger Baby Sunscreen Cream, SPF 30
  • Bare Republic Mineral Sunscreen Lotion, Baby, SPF 50
  • Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen, Baby, SPF 30+
  • BurnOut KIDS Sunscreen, SPF 35
  • California Baby Super Sensitive Sunscreen, SPF 30+
  • Caribbean Sol Sol Kid Kare, SPF 30
  • Goddess Garden Organics Baby Natural Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30
  • Kiss My Face Organics Kids Sunscreen, SPF 30
  • Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Sunscreen, SPF 50
  • Sunology Natural Sunscreen Kids, SPF 50
  • Sunumbra Sunkids Natural Sunscreen, SPF 40
  • ThinkSport Kids Sunscreen, SPF 50+
  • Tom’s of Maine Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30
  • TruKid Sunny Days Sport Sunscreen, SPF 30 (6)

 

sun safety infographic2.png

 

MOST TOXIC SUNSCREENS TO AVOID

EWG focused even more closely on children’s sunscreens this year, in part because children are more susceptible to certain toxic chemicals during development and because blistering sunburns early in life can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer down the line. While other brands received low scores, EWG specifically called out the following brands because they earned the worst scores.

Worst Sunscreens for Kids

  • Banana Boat Kids Continuous Spray Sunscreen, SPF 100
  • Banana Boat Kids Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 100
  • Coppertone Foaming Lotion Sunscreen Kids Wacky Foam, SPF 70
  • Coppertone Sunscreen Continuous Spray Kids, SPF 70
  • Coppertone Sunscreen Lotion Kids, SPF 70
  • Coppertone Sunscreen Lotion Water Babies, SPF 70+
  • Coppertone Sunscreen Stick Kids, SPF 55
  • Coppertone Sunscreen Stick Water Babies, SPF 55
  • Coppertone Sunscreen Water Babies Foaming Lotion, SPF 70
  • CVS Health Children’s Sunstick Sunscreen, SPF 55
  • Equate Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 70
  • Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Sunscreen, SPF 60+
  • Neutrogena Wet Skin Kids Sunscreen Spray, SPF 70+
  • Up & Up Kids Sunscreen Sticks, SPF 55

Why are these so bad?

  • About half of the sunscreen products sold in the U.S. wouldn’t pass the more stringent European standards because they don’t filter enough UVA rays.
  • Despite strong evidence to show sunscreens can even prevent skin cancer, it’s still legal for most sunscreens to make cancer prevention claims.
  • Nearly 75 percent of sunscreen products reviewed by EWG either didn’t work adequately to protect from UV rays or they contained dangerous ingredients. Some of the most worrisome ingredients include oxybenzone, one of the known endocrine disruptors, and retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A that may harm skin and possibly lead to skin tumors.
  • Oxybenzone is in widespread use in American chemical-based sunscreens. Lab testing shows skin penetration rates of 1 to 9 percent. That’s concerning, given the fact that it acts like an estrogen in the body and is linked to abnormal sperm function in animal studies and endometriosis in studies of women. Oxybenzone also acts as a skin allergen in a significant number of people. (So does methylisothiazolinone, a common sunscreen preservative found in 94 products surveyed.)
  • From 2007 to 2017, there has been a 34 percent rise in mineral sunscreens in the United States. These sunscreens tend to block UVA better than chemical sunscreen ingredients and also tend to be rated safer on EWG’s sunscreen database.
  • In EWG’s 2010 review, about 40 percent of sunscreens contained vitamin A ingredients. This type of ingredient can react with UV rays and increase the risk of skin tumors, according to government animal testing data. In 2017, the number of surveyed sunscreens containing this worrisome ingredient dropped to 14 percent.
  • This is a big takeaway from the report’s executive summary: “There is little scientific evidence to suggest that sunscreen alone reduces cancer risk, particularly for melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer. Despite a growing awareness of the dangers of exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, and a multi-billion dollar sunscreen industry, melanoma rates have tripled over the past three decades.”
  • Be wary of ultra high SPF claims. There are more of them today than several years ago. The U.S. hasn’t approved modern sunscreen ingredients that would do a better job of broad-spectrum protection. Because of this, UVA protection is often lacking in every SPF 70+ products. In other developed countries, SPF is usually capped at 50.
  • I suggest steering clear of spray sunscreens. It’s very difficult to apply in a thickness that will provide adequate protection, plus, it increases the risk you’re sending sunscreen chemicals directly into your lungs (and the lungs of everyone sitting around you.)
  • Nearly 30 percent of sunscreens tested were sprays, up from 20 percent in 2007. These sprays pose inhalation risk and are hard to actually apply correctly. (Even the Food and Drug Administration raised concerns about spray sunscreens, although the agency hasn’t banned them yet.)
  • FDA banned the use of misleading sunscreen bottle claims like “waterproof” and “sweatproof” in 2011, but Lunder says other misleading marketing terms are still in use. These include things like “sun shield” and “age shield.” Lunder says these marketing terms imply full and complete protection, reassuring someone that it’s all they need to protect their skin. That is simply not true.
  • If you avoid the sun, get your vitamin D levels checked at your health care provider. A growing number of the population is deficient, thanks to sunscreens and spending more time indoors.

 

 

HOW TO AVOID TOO MUCH SUN (Without Sunscreen)

Getting some sun exposure is vital for good health because it helps your body create vitamin D. You can get vitamin D through supplements or vitamin D-rich foods, but direct sunlight is your best option.  In fact, sitting in the sun unexposed for about 10 minutes helps your body create roughly 10,000 units of natural vitamin D.

Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to certain cancers, autoimmune diseases, heart disease, depression, osteoporosis and many other ailments, so it’s important to get enough. Like almost anything, though, you can get too much of a good thing and you want to make sure to avoid sunburns.

You should consider sunscreen your last resort to prevent sunburns, though. In fact, there’s no clear evidence that using sunscreens actually prevents skin cancer — including the best sunscreens — and some ingredients may actually fuel skin cancer.

sun safety infographic.png

Hopefully these tips help when choosing the best sunscreen (or not) to prepare for your outdoor activities.

Who knew just going to the store for sunscreen could be so complicated! Just be sure to refer to the list above to keep you and your family safe this summer season!

What is your favorite way to enjoy being outside while protecting your skin? Let me know in the comments below!

Yours in Health & Happiness,

Chrissy

 

 

P.S. While you're out and about this summer, be sure to stay hydrated with plenty of water and iced oolong tea! (For tips on how to stay hydrated, click here.) Our iced tea recipes kick your tea into high gear for a more complex, fresh flavor! Try them out today and make sure to have plenty of Wu-Long tea on hand this summer!

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References: http://draxe.com

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