Posted by: Lisa | June 25, 2010

The nitty gritty about sunscreen

A week or so ago I posted a link to my Facebook page with some new information that was recently released regarding sunscreen (and the chemicals within them).  You can find this new data here:

Now let me sum the article up for you in one sentence: Every bottle of sunscreen in your medicine cabinet will kill you.

Well, maybe that’s not EXACTLY what the article says, but I sure felt that way after reading the dire facts.  The researchers in this study, Environmental Working Group, recommend just 39 out of 500 sunscreens.  In other words, 8%.  EIGHT.  8/100.  i.e., pathetic.).  Chances are, the ones you use aren’t in that elite group.  Mine weren’t.

I did a lot of poring through this stuff and now for my public service duty I’m going to share the highlights with you, as well as where in the world you can find this stuff.  The EWC was quick to recommend a bunch of stuff, but don’t think you’re going to go out and find most of them at your local drugstore.

They ranked all sunscreens based on the chemicals that were in them & how well they protect against BOTH kinds of rays.  Higher SPFs often protect against the rays that actually give us sunburns (UVB – “B” for “burn”) but do nothing against the UVAs, which are equally dangerous even though they don’t cause burns.  They penetrate deeper through our skin & can cause premature aging & skin cancer.  Many of the chemicals listed were tested on lab rats (I don’t love that idea, but I guess we can at least prevent those chemicals from doing the same bad stuff to us anyway).  Most of the results showed cancerous cells/tumors, a change in DNA (what?!!?!), hormone disruption, reproductive effects, thyroid problems, & allergic reactions.  I just don’t know that we should tread lightly when there’s evidence that links this stuff back to the chemicals in some sunscreens.  Ick.

The EWC gave the sunscreens a rating of 0-10, with categories of 0-2 (recommended), 3-6 (use caution), and 7-10 (avoid).  When I looked at the kinds in our house, including the ever-popular Coppertone Baby Sunscreen, our bottles ranged from a 3 to a 7.  We will be finding some replacements.

The main ingredients to avoid:
1.)  oxybenzone (also called benzophenone -3)
2.)  4- methylbenzylidene camphor (also called 4-MBC)
3.)  3-benzylidene camphor
4.)  octyl methoxycinnamate (also called OMC)
5.)  padimate O
6.)  Vitamin A

I know.  Big words.  But it really might be worth 5 minutes of your time to grab your fave bottle and compare the ingredients with this list.

Wait – vitamin A sounds like it would be a good thing, right?  I sure thought it was.  But they’ve found that when it’s applied to skin in the presence of sunlight, it may speed the development of skin tumors and lesions.  Um, no thanks.  And 41% of all sunscreens contain Vitamin A.

If you use the above link, click on “Best Sunscreens” to see the full detailed list.  A few of these still contain some of the bad ingredients, although they’re in much lower quantities to make this recommended list.  Many others of these contain nothing but natural ingredients.

Unfortunately, most of these aren’t found in regular stores but I did find quite a few of them on  If you are an Amazon Prime member you can get free shipping on many of them.  They still aren’t cheap, but then again, neither is cancer treatment.  Here are a few I found to be the cheapest or the easiest to purchase.

1.)  Badger Sunscreen for Face & Body, Unscented, SPF 30 (2.9 oz. for about $20 on Amazon)
2.)  California Baby SPF 30+ (2.9 oz. for about $20 at Babies R Us, Buy Buy Baby, and Amazon)
3.)  Caribbean Solutions SPF 25 (good for waterplay, 6 oz. for $12 on Amazon or sold in many Earth Fare and Whole Foods stores, look on their website for a retailer location list.  I found one store in my town.)
4.)  Jason Natural Cosmetics – Earth’s Best Sunblock Mineral Based SPF 30+ (4 oz. for $11 at Toys R Us.  When I found this online it was Buy One Get One 1/2 Off.)
5.)  ThinkBaby and ThinkSport SPF 30+ (3 oz. for $17 on
6.)  Vanicream Sunscreen Sport SPF 35 (4 oz. for $10 on Amazon)

I personally will probably be purchasing the Caribbean Solutions at my local store since it’s one of the cheapest.  Good luck finding a great choice for your family.  And remember – lather up before heading out in the sun (approximately a shot glass full per adult!).


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