Sunscreen 101

I grew up in the Ocean State (that’s RI for all you non-New Englanders) with more beach days than I could ever dream of now. And when I wasn’t by the beach, I was by the pool. I wish I could say I used enough sunscreen back then, but especially as I grew into my teen years, tan was “in.” With my olive skin tone, it was easy to skip the sunscreen and not worry about burning. Unfortunately, I’m paying the price now with visible sun damage and I hate myself for it. Ugh.

Needless to say, sunscreen has become a top priority for me, especially since I moved to Colorado 15 years ago where, at one mile above sea level and over 300 days a year of sunshine, it’s lather up or burn. Suddenly, it didn’t matter what my skin tone was.

Now I deal with the super light skin of my sassy little red-head. She’s constantly covered in natural sunscreen as well as a sun hat with SPF 50. We also seek out overhead cover. Here she is kicking it in the shade of her new playhouse that she got for her birthday:

We should all be that relaxed in life! But not about sunscreen. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) reports that a quarter of the sunscreen products on the market this year contain vitamin A ingredients that accelerate the growth of skin tumors and lesions on sun-exposed skin, according to recent government studies.

Also, 56 of the products that the EWG reviewed had no active ingredients that protect against the sun’s damaging UVA rays. And “the industry continues to load store shelves with sunscreens that claim misleading, sky-high SPF ratings that may protect against sunburn-causing UVB rays but leave skin vulnerable to UVA.”

Lucky for us, the EWG just released its 2012 Sunscreen Guide. It includes a list of their top-rated sunscreens, a Hall of Shame, and a searchable database so you can determine where your sunscreen ranks (if at all). Some leading brands, like Hawaiian Tropic and Banana Boat, didn’t even make the cut.

The Albana Botanical Very Emollient Sunscreen for Kids (SPF 45) that I use on K-Bear, ranked a 6 with high health concerns and poor UVA/UVB balance. Yikes!!!  The spray version I also have for her (SPF 40)  ranked better at a 4, but still with high health concerns. Next time around, I’ll choose the Fragrance Free (SPF 30) version; it ranked a 2!

The Coppertone Sport High Performance Ultra Sweatproof Lotion (SPF 30) that SoulDaddy and I loaded up on at Costco comes in at 5. Not great but still in the yellow category; I was shocked by how many come in the red.

We’ve definitely got some buying habits to change before we are fully safe in the sun this summer. Where does your sunscreen rank?

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