Are ready to begin your search for the perfect product? After looking over scores of ingredient lists, comparing several products against each other looking for safety hazards, natural ingredients, effectiveness, and cost, I am still not sure the perfect sunscreen exists! Perhaps the following information can at the least help you make an informed purchase.
Sunscreen, sunblock, or suntan lotion?
"Sunscreen" and "sunblock" contain ingredients that provide some protection from damaging effects of the sun’s rays such as sunburn. Tanning lotions, however, do not provide protection and are used only to help acquire a tan. The term "sunblock" implies that it blocks all light from the sun, but the FDA intends to ban the term from being used, as no product can completely block all the sun’s rays. The FDA has also indicated that it will eventually require all "suntan" products to have printed on the label,
"this product does not contain a sunscreen and does not protect against sunburn. Repeated exposure of unprotected skin while tanning may increase the risk of skin aging, skin cancer, and other harmful effects to the skin even if you do not burn."
Zinc and titanium products
Remember the white, chalky substance used by sun-fearing moms lathering their children’s noses and cheeks? Those zinc products are coming back, along with products containing titanium. There is still some debate as to whether products with these ingredients, known as nanoparticles, are safe to use. The nanoparticles break down in the sun and can be absorbed by the body. However, zinc and titanium-based products are definitely more effective than others, as they provide broad-based protection from both UVA and UVB rays. A study performed by the Environmental World Group found that people using sunscreens without zinc and titanium would be exposed to 20 percent more UVA radiation than people using products with those ingredients. Additionally, the ingredients in those products without the nanoparticles have been associated with cancer or birth defects, disrupting human reproduction or causing damage to the growing brain of a child.
The study performed by the EWG also considered studies on skin absorption, and found no significant threat of zinc or titanium being absorbed through healthy skin. Other common ingredients found in many sunscreen products, such as oxybenzone and octinoxate, have been found to absorb in large amounts into healthy skin, acting like estrogens and raising the risk of breast cancer, or other hormone-related damage.
Care what you wear?
If you are truly concerned about the sunscreen you use, check out your favorites on www.cosmeticsdatabase.com. There you can find a review of thousands of products, with hazard scores and ingredient concerns. After reviewing several on the site myself, my choices would be select products from Keys, Jason, California Baby, Blue Lizard, and Neutrogena. Of course, each brand makes several different kinds so the choices are plentiful, and some are more effective and safer than others. My personal selection this summer will be Keys Soap Solar RX Sunblock, SPF 30, for my face (available only online), and Alba Botanica Sun Mineral Sunscreen, SPF 18 (which I picked up at Whole Foods).
Of course, my opinion will probably change next year. But that’s OK, as it will be just in time for me to follow the recommendation to throw out the sunscreen every year and purchase a new container.
Meredith Nelson, M.Ed, is the owner of PrimeTime Fitness, Inc, on Sullivan’s Island. A Daniel Island resident, Meredith can be reached with your fitness questions at 883-0101, or Meredith@primetimefit.net.