Much Ado About Sunscreen

Have you heard all the hullabaloo around sunscreen these days? Ay Carumba! It seems that the FDA released a study recently that found Vitamin A (retinyl palmitate or retinol), found in many sunscreens, may actually speed the development of tumors and skin lesions (21% faster than products w/o Vitamin A). What?!!! Are you kidding me? Then to top it off, another ingredient found in many sunscreens, Oxybenzone, can trigger allergic reactions, is a potential hormone disruptor and can penetrate the skin in large amounts. For this reason, experts caution that oxybenzone should not be used on children. The skin, being our largest organ, is like a sponge and is susceptible to all the toxins we put on it. You can read more about the effects of Vitamin A, Oxybenzone and other nanomaterials at the non-profit, Environmental Working Group’s 2010 Guide to Sunscreen website.

Just days after a friend had told me this news at the park, I received my email subscription to GOOP, where Gwyneth Paltrow is talking about Vitamin D and how much sun we need and references the same EWG website. Law of Attraction, divine guidance…what’s going on here?? Now I’m really worried and read through the entire EWG website. Afterward, I go to my cabinet and read through the ingredients on all the sunblock I own. Banana Boat — gone, Coppertone — gone, Rocky Mountain Sunscreen — gone, Peter Thomas Roth — gone, Neutragena — gone and on and on. I throw out all but one of them and am pretty ticked off during the process. Not only have I spent a fair amount of money on these tubes, but I feel tricked and pissed-off about how I’ve actually been damaging my skin (and my family’s) over the past decade.

Ok, so now what? Working off the list provided by the EWG, I’ve already been trying out several of the sunblocks with ratings of 1 or 2 on the scale (meaning the least toxic and most effective). Here’s what I’m liking:

#1.  Keys Solar Rx Broad Spectrum Sunblock sinks in like dream, has no whitish residue and smells a bit like rosemary. I found it online for $26 and I really, really like it. It’s falls under the EWG category of Sunscreen Moisturizers and is highly-rated on Amazon. I haven’t found this locally yet, but am keeping my eyes peeled for it. If you find it in your neighborhood, please let me know.

#2. After reading the reviews on Marie Veronique Moisturizing Face Screen, I decided to try it. You can buy this either with tint or without, and I decided to go for the Light Tint. It’s fantastic. The consistency is much more like a tinted moisturizer than a thick sunscreen lotion. There is no white cast to it, which is surprising since it has 24% zinc oxide. The coverage of the Light Tint is enough that I am not using any make-up on top to even out my complexion. I just pop on some blush and powder on my t-zone and am done. So, even though this product costs $40, you’re really getting 2-for-1. Since buying it, I haven’t used a drop of foundation on my skin.

They also have a Kid Safe Screen, which I will probably get and use in combination with something else for the body (read cheaper). Apparently, it is so gentle and safe that you can even use it around the eyes.

The next three products, I’m going to lump together. Although they are highly-rated under the Beach & Sport category, I’m not fully in love them. All have that whitish cast on the skin and take some doing to get them rubbed in. I get that these are physical sunscreens, which mean that they use zinc oxide (which is white) to block the sun rather than a non-mineral blocker (chemical), and that they are water-resistant. Still, I am looking for the holy grail here.

#3.  Green Gardens Kids Natural Sunscreen, SPF 30

#4.  Badger SPF 30, Lightly Scented

#5. All-Terrain AquaSport Performance, SPF 30 – Excellent at staying on while swimming.

I’ll continue on the quest for the best of the best. If you’ve tried other sunscreens from the list, please let me know and if you like them or dislike them. I’m going to try the Beyond Coastal Active Sunscreen next to see how the non-mineral blocks compare.

What are your thoughts on this whole sunscreen hullabaloo? Much ado about nothing or are you taking it seriously?

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8 responses to “Much Ado About Sunscreen

  1. Was just having this same conversation about scary ingredients in sunblock with some of my girlfriends. Biggest complaint/challenge with the “safe” ones is the cost. We go through gallons of sunblock at our house and at the prices being charged we’d need to take out a second mortgage to prevent sunburn. Any you’ve found that are comparable in price to the “bad” ones?

    • I hear you about the high prices! We go through a lot of sunscreen ourselves. I’m only willing to buy sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher myself and with that in mind, the only ones I’ve found so far under $10 are the Hara Body Care, Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Sunscreen, and the Loving Naturals products. There are several in the $10-$15 range that are considered safe (ratings between 0-2) and also in the caution range (ratings 3-5). I haven’t tried any of these yet, but I’ll work my way through them and let you know.

  2. I checked my Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-touch Sunblock SPF 50+ and I couldn’t find Vitamin A (retinyl palmitate or retinol) and Oxybenzone in the ingredients label. Is there another name for it which is why i missed it?

    • I just looked up your sunscreen on the EWG website and found it here: http://www.ewg.org/2010sunscreen/finding-the-best-sunscreens/93201/Neutrogena-Ultra-Sheer-DryTouch-Sunblock-SPF/. They say it has Oxybenzone in the ingredient list, but you say it’s not there, so I’m not sure. They agree that it doesn’t contain Vitamin A.

      Wikipedia says Oxybenzone is a derivative of benzophenone and has trade names of Eusolex 4360 and Escalol 567. Are any of those names listed? Apparently in the European Union all sunscreens containing Oxybenzone must be labeled as “Contains Oxybenzone”, but not here in the US. Interesting…

      • I did find benzophenone-3 in the ingredients list. Also, my Coppertone sunscreen (50+spf) produced in the E.U. does have a label ‘Contains Oxybenzone’.
        It is good that these studies are posted in beauty blogs since most of us have been using the products listed as ‘bad’ for years! And especially with the emphasis nowadays on the importance of using sunscreens.

        • Shirl – I’d love it if the US started printing “contains oxybenzone” on our labels like the EU is doing. Thanks for the update on the finding the ingredient listed on your Neutragena tube. I was just standing in the sunscreen aisle yesterday, looking for new ones to test and not finding any to bring home. Frustrating! Let me know if you find something you like.

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