Backyard Chats

Sunscreens – Protection vs. Health Risks
June 30, 2010, 7:00 am
Filed under: Health

And yet another dilemma for the consumer………..

The following information is derived from what could be considered “reliable” sources:

The first is from the Environmental Working Group’s 2010 Sunscreen Guide:

SPF factors are based on two-to-five times more sunscreen than people actually use. In the real world, people get far less protection than the bottle advertises.


High(er) SPF products contain greater amounts of sun-blocking chemicals than low-SPF sunscreens. These ingredients may pose health risks when they penetrate through the skin, where they have been linked to tissue damage and potential hormone disruption. If studies supported a reduction in skin damage and skin cancer risk from high-SPF products, the additional exposures might be justified. But they don’t, so choosing sunscreens with lower amounts of active ingredients – SPF 30 instead of SPF 70, for example – is prudent

….. Avoid the sunscreen chemical oxybenzone, a synthetic estrogen that penetrates the skin and contaminates the body. Look for active ingredients zinc, titanium, avobenzone or Mexoryl SX. These substances protect skin from harmful UVA radiation and remain on the skin, with little if any penetrating into the body. Also, skip sunscreens with insect repellent – if you need bug spray, buy it separately and apply it first.

Their website includes an interactive program which lets you research particular sunscreens to see how they rate: The Environmental Working Group has rated them as: 0-2  recommended; 3-6 caution; 7-10 avoid

On the flip side………. is Consumer Reports information:

Consumer Reports’ recent tests of 12 products found four that protect a shade better than the rest: Up & Up Sport Continuous SPF 30 (Target), a CR Best Buy; Walgreen’s Sport Continuous SPF 50; Banana Boat Sport Performance Continuous SPF 30; and Aveeno Continuous Protection SPF 50.

You might note that Banana Boat Sport Performance Continuous SPF 30 is listed by Consumer Reports; however the EWG gives it a rating of 7, which is the category to avoid. hmm

Helpful tips from both sites included:

Consumers Reports advises: For full-body protection, adults should apply two to three tablespoons of lotion 15 to 30 minutes before going out. Reapply every two hours or after swimming or sweating.  Applying sprays can be tricky if it’s windy.

The Environmental Group advises: Clothing is an effective alternative. One study found that melanoma risk was cut by 52 percent for parts of the body usually covered by clothing during summer outdoor work. EWG believes that hats and shirts are the best sunscreen of all.


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