Choosing A Safe Sunscreen

Posted by ginny on May 27th, 2008

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With the weather finally warming, I’m starting to think about sunscreen. I like to buy new sunscreen at the beginning of every summer. I do try to keep the kids wearing it year round, but with most Michigan winters, not much skin is usually exposed for months on end. Now the longer days, I have to start worrying about the sun a bit more. If it wasn’t bad enough that we have to worry about all the bad effects of the Sun, we also have to worry about the sunscreens we choose.

Some doctors/scientists feel that the reason Skin Cancer has slowly been on the rise, has more to do with the chemicals in the sunscreen verses the sun. We all know that the sun is dangerous though, so we have to find safer alternatives to sunscreen. You want to look for titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, or talc that work by reflecting the UV radiation rather than by absorbing it. I have found this is harder then it sounds. Almost all sunscreens use many harmful chemicals that may generate free radicals in your body, along with many other bad side effects. These include:

  • Benzophenones (dixoybenzone, oxybenzone)
  • PABA and PABA esters (ethyl dihydroxy propyl PAB, glyceryl PABA, p-aminobenzoic acid, padimate-O or octyl dimethyl PABA)
  • Cinnamates (cinoxate, ethylhexyl p-methoxycinnamate, octocrylene, octyl methoxycinnamate)
  • Salicylates (ethylhexyl salicylate, homosalate, octyl salicylate)
  • Digalloyl trioleate
  • Menthyl anthranilate
  • Avobenzone [butyl-methyoxydibenzoylmethane; Parsol 1789] – This is the only chemical sunscreen currently allowed by the European Community. However, its safety is still questionable since it easily penetrates the skin and is a strong free radical generator.

Skin Deep has a great resource for finding safe sunscreens. Out of all the sunscreens, it seems California Baby is one of the best choices. It’s health hazard is 1 and the sun hazard is 0. It is is also one of the easier to find sunscreens. If you can’t find it locally, you an purchase it on Amazon and even Ebay. Last year on my quest for safer sunscreen, I cam across Baby Blanket brand which I purchased on eBay.  I bought it because it was 50+ SPF, Broad Spectrum UVA/UVB and it states Titanium Dioxide formula on the bottle.  I was a bit upset when I received it and it also had Ethylhexyl p-Methoxycinnamate, 2-Ethylhexyl Salicylate and Oxybenzone.  I bought (2)  12 oz bottles, so we did end up using it.  According to Skin Deep, it rates a 3 in health hazard and a 1 in sun hazard, making it a rating of 2.  Not as bad as I thought, but I am glad to have found this resource for my next purchase.  My goal is to use a product that rates 1 or less.

Here is a quick guide to knowing the terms of sunscreen ~

  • SPF: Sun Protection Factor. A measure of how effectively the sunscreen blocks the sun’s UVB rays. It’s calculated by comparing the amount of time needed to produce a sunburn on protected skin to the amount of time needed to cause a sunburn on unprotected skin.
  • UVB: Short-wave part of the spectrum of sunlight; more potent than UVA in causing sunburn, thought to be the main cause of basal and squamous cell skin cancers as well as a contributor to melanomas.
  • UVA: Long-wave solar rays. Less likely than UVB to cause sunburn, but penetrates the skin more deeply; considered chief cause of wrinkling and “photoaging.” Apparently increases UVB’s cancer-causing effects, but may be main culprit of melanomas. Not blocked by all sunscreens, so check the label!!
  • Sunscreen: Chemically absorbs UV rays.
  • Sunblock: Physically deflects UV rays.
  • “Broad-spectrum Protection“: This indicates that a product protects against UVA and UVB, but doesn’t guarantee coverage against all UVA wavelengths. Sunscreens containing avobenzone, zinc oxide, or titanium dioxide should be effective against entire UVA spectrum.

Hope this will help you stay safe in the Sun!  Remember that your skincare is just as important as your children.  I tend to make it easy and just use my kids sunscreen.  I only use a separate sunscreen for my face.  Don’t forget, Babies under 6 months of age, should not be in the sun at all.

Written By:
Ginny is a work at home mom of two daughters. Blogs at and owns http://www.gkcollectibles.comVisit Ginny’s Website

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