Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Environmental Working Group's sunscreen guide; 2011

The summer months are my most favorite months of the year, however, I have a love/hate relationship with the sun. Oh how I love sunny, warm days, and getting a little vitamin D. But I hate the damage the sun can cause, so I try to be as protective as I can be in the sun, especially with my kids.

Anti-aging products are everywhere these days, but sunscreen is the very best step in anti-aging that you can take. I wear sunscreen on my face daily (no matter what), even being outside or driving in the car for just a few minutes each day can really add up over the years. Yes, UV rays get through windows and clouds, so don't let those cloudy days make you skimp on the sunscreen.

Don't forget the neck and upper chest when you apply your daily facial sunscreen, as those are often overlooked areas. And then of course, if you're going to be out in the sun for more than 5-20 minutes, apply sunscreen to ALL exposed areas. If you are out in the sun to re-apply every 2-3 hours as well. On the packaging of most sunscreens, it advises to apply 20 minutes prior to sun exposure, however, our bodies do need vitamin D (somewhere between 5-30 minutes a day), so don't feel like you have to wait the full 20 minutes before going outside. Going outside 15 minutes after applying would allow you to get your daily dose of vitamin D for 5 minutes before the sunscreen kicks in.

Anytime you are out in the sun, you should wear a hat to protect your scalp. Any hat is better than no hat, but these days there are many hats that actually have SPF in them - bonus! The prime time when the harmful UV rays of the sun are strongest are from 10 am - 4 pm, when the sun is directly overhead. If you can avoid sun exposure during those peak hours, do it. If not, lather up the sunscreen and pull out your hat!

Choosing the right sunscreen is something that may seem easy, but actually takes a little research to find one that truly protects. You should wear at least a 30 SPF and look for protection against UVA and UVB rays. But......... unfortunately, it's not quite that simple. Many sunscreens that claim to be 'broad spectrum' (UVA and UVB rays), have other ingredients that may counter-act or have other harmful ingredients. You may use a sunscreen and not get sunburned and think it's working wonderfully, when the truth may be that it's not fully protecting against the damaging rays.

To help in the search for a great sunscreen, the Environmental Working Group is a team of researchers and scientists who specialize in providing useful resources for consumers. One of the topics they research is sunscreen- hooray! I highly recommend looking at their guide before you make your next sunscreen purchase.

Sunscreen Guide

This link will provide you with information on the best (and worst) sunscreens. In this link you can search on the right-hand side under “Search for your sunscreen”, to see how the sunscreen you’ve been using rates.

I did a search for the sunscreen I used last year on my son; Banana Boat Baby Tear Free Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 50. I was surprised to find that it falls in the “6 moderate hazard” category. This particular (and many out there) protects well against sunburn but rates poorly for protecting against other damaging rays. This one rated excellent with UVB (SPF) protection but poorly with UVA protection and with UVA/UVB balance, and contains vitamin A. You may be asking yourself “What is wrong with vitamin A?” Vitamin A is a retinol (retinyl palmitate) which tends to make the skin more sensitive to photodamage, it is suggested to only use retinoids at night. If you’d like to read more information on Vitamin A, here is a great resource:

Vitamin A Info

The sunscreens that are most protective are usually more expensive and are not as easy to find on your local store shelves, however most are available on Amazon. What I like about Amazon as well is that you can read the customer reviews to help you decide which one you want to use.

Additionally, there is no reason why an entire family can't use "kids" sunscreen. The separation between adults and kids sunscreens is mainly all marketing, the only difference would be that the ‘kids’ specific sunscreens are usually formulated for sensitive skin.

Here is the EWG's Top Rated Sunscreens

Here is the Hall of Shame worst rated sunscreens

Recently, I purchased the Peter Thomas Roth Instant Mineral SPF Powder. I thought it was a brilliant idea to have SPF in a loose powder because it's easy to apply and so convenient. I got home and checked the EWG's sunscreen guide and found that it is one of the worst rated and is in EWG's "Hall of Shame". Needless to say, I returned it ASAP.

The EWG says "Loose powder sunscreens can enter the airways and may move from the lungs to the bloodstream. Health concerns include cancer and tissue damage." The EWG also recommends that people ONLY use sunscreen in the form of CREAMS and to avoid powders, pumps, and sprays because sunscreen belongs on your skin, not in your lungs.

Last but not least, here is the EWG's Top Sun Safety Tips

I hope this information will inspire you to be more sun smart; cover up when possible, avoid peak hours, wear your sunscreen every day, and always make sure you are using a sunscreen that's actually protecting you.

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