How do I know if my sunscreen is safe?
With the nice weather finally here, the issue of sun safety and protection is on everyone's mind again. In today's post we discuss sunscreens and important things you need to know when choosing a sunscreen for you and your family. This information comes from the Environmental Working Group and the EWG's Guide to Sunscreen. The EWG provides numeric ratings on a scale of 0-10 on a wide array of everyday food and household products. You can download their EWG Health Living App and carry this information with you wherever you go!
What makes sunscreen UNSAFE?
There are 2 main factors that are considered when discussing the safety of sunscreens. The first is the SPF rating and the second is the ingredient list. The SPF becomes an issue by potentially misleading people into thinking they are more protected than they actually are:
High SPF sunscreens not only overpromise protection but, according to the Food and Drug Administration, they may also overexpose consumers to UVA rays and raise their risk of cancer. In 2019 the FDA proposed to limit sun protection factor, or SPF, values to 60 and require increased UVA protection (FDA 2019) EWG Website
The ingredients are a much bigger concern.
What are UNSAFE Ingredients in Sunscreens?
Active ingredients in sunscreens are either mineral or chemical UV filters that keep harmful rays from the skin.
The most common sunscreens contain chemical filters. These products typically include a combination of two to six of the following active ingredients:
* oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate.
Research suggests that these ingredients, especially OXYBENZONE to have negative health effects and should be avoided when choosing a sunscreen.
Mineral sunscreens use zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide.
According to the agency, “nearly all of these sunscreen active ingredients … have limited or no data characterizing their absorption.” In 2019 and 2020, FDA published two studies showing that the ingredients oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and avobenzone are all systemically absorbed into the body after a single use (Matta 2019, Matta 2020). The FDA also found that the sunscreen ingredients could be detected on the skin and in blood weeks after application ended (Matta 2020). (EWG Website)
Because these ingredients are readily absorbed into the skin and bloodstream, research has shown that they can cause allergies, hormone disruptions, pass through breast milk and have negative effects during pregnancy.
What is the SAFEST Suncreen for me and my family?
Mineral sunscreens that use ZINC OXIDE or TITANIUM DIOXIDE have a much higher safety rating according to the EWG. People should avoid the aerosol versions of these to maximize safety and avoid inhalation (as with all sunscreens).
Key take home point
The best way to take care of yourself and your family is to wear appropriate clothing (hats, sunglasses etc), avoid long periods of time in the sun especially during peak periods of UV exposure (around 10am-2pm) and use safe sunscreens when you are in the sun.
CLICK HERE to view EWG's list of safe sunscreens.