Is Your Sunscreen Safe?

Summer is here and that means more fun in the sun and a healthy dose of vitamin D. That’s good news, but be sure to protect yourself and your kids from harmful rays. We get two kinds of rays from the sun. One is UVB, and the other is UVA. UVB rays can cause sunburn and cancer. UVA can cause skin cancer, and early wrinkling and skin aging. This ray is also what the body is exposed to in a tanning bed.

Most brands of sunscreen (or sunblock) protect from sunburn (UVB). A brand that offers “broad spectrum” protection is supposed to protect you from both UVA and UVB rays.

But, according to a study by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), only 15 percent of 952 products analyzed met the EWG criteria for safety and effectiveness – those products blocked both UVA and UVB radiation, remained stable in sunlight, and contained few if any ingredients with significant known or suspected health hazards.

Safe Ingredients

Only brands whose active ingredient is zinc oxide or titanium dioxide (or both) have been proven to be safe. Either of these will block harmful sun rays. These are also natural elements. Other ingredients used in sunscreens are chemicals that absorb the harmful rays – and the skin absorbs the chemicals because they break down in the sun, and some may also build up in the body.

Ingredients Not Proven to Be Safe

The safety of sunscreens or blocks with different active ingredients (especially those containing oxybenzone, micronized titanium dioxide, nano titanium dioxide, micronized zinc oxide, or nano zinc oxide) has not been proven. When zinc oxide or titanium dioxide is micronized or reduced to nano scale, it no longer blocks the bad rays but instead is absorbed by the body. When sunscreen is offered as a spray or pump, the ingredients have been micronized or nanonized and are then able to be inhaled.

A EWG study shows, that “consumers who use sunscreens without zinc and titanium are likely exposed to more UV radiation and greater numbers of hazardous ingredients than consumers relying on zinc and titanium products for sun protection.” They found that consumers using sunscreens without zinc and titanium would be exposed to an average of 20 percent more UVA radiation.

The Safest Sunscreen Products

Products whose active ingredient is zinc oxide or titanium oxide appear to be the safest for use by adults, males and females alike, and especially children. Below is a list of the safest sunscreens, in alphabetical order, and links to some (many of which probably not in every store) are provided.

What Brand to Use

Two brands that are safe and efficient to use are: Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sunscreen, SPF 30 for Babies and Kids and Jason Natural Cosmetics Chemical Free Sunblock, SPF 30+ for adults.

Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sunscreen, SPF 30 for Babies and Kids is a clear lotion that offers the protection of zinc without the traditional white residue. It is made mostly from plant-based, naturally-derived and non-petroleum ingredients. Pure essential oils and gentle preservatives. It is moisturizing but non-greasy.

Jason Natural Cosmetics Chemical Free Sunblock, SPF 30+ for adults provides gentle but reliable sun protection. This fragrance-free sunscreen can be applied to the face as well as the body, and is well-suited to sensitive skin.

Remember, in order to work, sunscreen must be applied. That can be a challenge when you are dealing with a squirmy toddler, but protecting your child is well-worth the effort.

Whole Foods Markets are located in Yonkers at One Ridge Hill, in White Plains at 100 Bloomingdale Road, in Port Chester at 575 Boston Post Road, and in Connecticut at 150 Ledge Road, Darien and 90 E. Putnam Ave., Greenwich.