Monday, July 18, 2011

Sunscreens: The good, the bad, and the ugly

As some of you may have heard lately, there has been a lot of talk about sunscreen, the chemicals that are used in it, and whether using the chemicals are worse than the sun that the chemicals are protecting you against.

So what is one to do, get cancer from chemical or cancer from the sun? Well to quell your concerns a little, much of the recent rise in melanoma is not due to the chemicals found in sunscreen, but by allowing people to stay in the sun longer, sunscreens have greatly increased exposure to UVA radiation. Also, skin cancer screening and detection has greatly improved over recent decades leading to an increase in cancers found.

As for ingredients here is what to look out for: Derm docs want you to use a micronized titatium or zinc oxide based sunscreen. Watch out for oxybenzone, which may or may not disrupt natural hormones, and retinyl palmitate for women who are preggers since it is converted to a compound that is linked to birth defects. Read the labels carefully, try out some natural sunscreens, and don't be fooled by price - expensive does not equal better when it comes to sunscreen.

Apparently the FDA is also getting rid of labeling such as "waterproof" or "instant protection", since no such thing really exists after a certain amount of time in the water. You get wet, you gotta reapply.

And that whole "I need my vitamin D" thing? Yeah, you pretty much need to be exposed without sunscreen for 10 minutes twice a week to get enough vitamin D. All you even need is your hands to be exposed for that amount of time. And let's face it, you probably aren't doing a super duper extra careful sunscreen application anyway, so you are going to get your vitamin D if you are in the sun with sunscreen.

FDA Sheds Light on Sunscreens - (JPG v2)

But mostly, just try to avoid the midday sun, and use hats, umbrellas, and clothing if you can't. Oh, and don't be fooled if it is cloudy!! Clouds do not count as sunscreen, and the rays get to you just the same. Schmear yourself good and often and enjoy the summer!


  1. Hi Maya,
    Are there any ingredients that we she keep a lookout for in baby or kids sunscreens that can cause harm? Thank you! Tracy

  2. Hi Tracy,

    The same applies for munchkin sunscreen - look for zinc oxide and titanium dioxide (these are physical barriers that aren't absorbed), broad spectrum, at least SPF 15 (although for little ones I would put 30), and reapply often. Check out how sunscreens rate in There are differing opinions out there - many mommas love California baby, some really like Badger, Burt's Bees and Jason - all have fewer chemicals.
    Hope this helps!


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