Did anyone else grow up spending a considerable part of the summer purposely frying in the sun? I was always after the ever-elusive tan. I can’t get very dark, and was jealous of friends who tanned easily. I always got very pink before any sort of golden set in.
My role model was my mother, who would slather herself in baby oil and iodine and lie very still in the yard for hours, flipping when her timer went off.
It was my job to bring iced tea periodically, and while she was an attentive mom most of the time, I had better not bug her while she was out in the sun. As a teenager, my girlfriends and I would be off to the beach to “lay out,” meaning bake as long as possible. Never mind the bad grammar, it was a stupid thing to do. Well, now I know better, and I am always on the lookout for good sunscreens.
EWG’s 2013 Guide to Sunscreens has been out for a few weeks now. I was very happy to see that my new favorites earned good ratings. EWG does a great job of talking about issues that I often hear come up in any discussion of sunscreen – the problem with high SPF, chemical vs. physical screens, nanoparticles, vitamin D, etc. Just check out their pull-down research menu. One of my biggest concerns with sunscreen is the UVA/UVB balance. A sunscreen’s SPF is based on its UVB protection (the rays that burn and contribute to certain types of cancer). UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin, causing aging and cancer. The FDA has pretty weak standards for UVA (“broad spectrum”) protection, so you may not be very well protected in spite of what the package says. EWG’s rating system includes UVB and UVA protection as well as the stability of the sunscreen. Though I don’t think EWG is perfect, I do trust what they have to say about sunscreens.
Now, you might say, why not just avoid the issue altogether and stay out of the sun, or cover up? I do those things as much as possible, but it’s not always possible or desirable. And I spent too much of my life not being careful, so I’m very careful now. Recent research showcased in Prevention indicates diligent use of broad spectrum sunscreen can slow or prevent photoaging. I certainly know that going without sunscreen will quickly undo the good my DIY brightener does. I reviewed my favorite face sunscreen a while back, and I still use this one for face too. But this year I was on the hunt for a great body screen, something in a non-nano zinc. Here’s what I’m loving…
Juice Beauty SPF 30 Sport Moisturizer: This is absolute perfection for me. It’s fairly thick and moisturizing, yet easy to spread, plus it’s water resistant. There’s a very light citrusy scent that fades quickly. I find it leaves me with a nice glow, without being sticky at all. When I first applied it, I was surprised that it is tinted. There’s not enough pigment to leave a visible tint on my skin, but it completely eliminates any whiteness that one can get with zinc sunscreens. I was concerned that it would leave marks on clothing, but I’ve had no problem with it at all, even if I get a little sweaty. ($16/3.75 oz, EWG rating)
Badger SPF 30 Zinc Oxide Sunscreen Lotion: I find this unscented lotion very easy to spread, though you still have to do the standard rub into palms, pat onto skin and rub in thing that is necessary with most physical sunscreens. The spreadability (is that a word?) makes it great for squirmy, impatient kids (and husbands). If I’m careful not to overapply, I don’t get the white cast, but it’s a delicate balance. This one is drier than the cream versions I’ve used from Badger, almost too dry for my skin. But if I’m going to do something in the sun that will kick up dirt, this is excellent. Nothing will stick to it. And if you have oilier skin, this could be the ticket. ($17.99/4 oz, EWG rating)
Badger SPF 35 Sport Sunscreen Cream: This is actually what got me through last summer without a hint of color added to my skin. It’s a gem. It’s unscented but smells stronger than the lotion, basically like its sunflower oil base. The thickness makes it harder to spread, but when done patiently it looks good and is a top performer. I love the very short and simple ingredient list. It’s moisturizing, so I love it on my hands, and the water resistance is a great feature. ($15.99/2.9 oz, EWG rating)
What are you doing for sun protection this season?
It’s that time of year y’all! Time for fun and sun, a Bardot pic and the perennial conversation about sunscreen. The EWG has released its 2012 report, and this time they’re focusing on the many myths about sunscreen. Their piece Sunscreen Exposed: Nine Surprising Truth, calls out some assumed facts about these potions, some of which are just plain fiction. It begins:
“Sunscreens prevent sunburns, but beyond that simple fact surprisingly little is known about the safety and efficacy of these ubiquitous creams and sprays.”
It’s true. Read the piece, but here’s a quick recap:
1. There’s no conclusive proof that it prevents skin cancer.
2. In fact, there’s even some evidence that it increases risk of melonoma.
3. While the market loves super-sky-high SPFs, there’s no proof of their efficacy and even the FDA has proposed prohibiting anything over 50 for being “misleading to the consumer.” Plus which, these high numbers actually encourage people to stay out longer.
4. We need vitamin D, and some smart unprotected sun exposure is the easiest way to get it.
5. Retinal palmitate, a type of vitamin A often used in sunscreens, is suspected of increasing the speed of skin cancer development.
6. Because standards around UVA are not stringent, many sunscreens barely protect skin from free radical damage (also known as aging).
7. Chemical sunscreens contain hormone disruptors, among other nasty ingredients, and many mineral versions now contain nanoparticles. Boo.
8. Europe’s ahead of the game on sunscreens. No surprises there.
9. The FDA has delayed the implementation of their new stricter language laws on sunscreen. That means another summer without them.
So now to you: Do you use sunscreen? Have you found a great one that’s clean? Where do you stand on the sunscreen spectrum.
I for one almost never use the stuff, preferring to limit my exposure. This past Saturday for example I sat by a pool for a little bit, taking in the rays, and then I put on a hat and moved into the shade. I know, most dermatologists would start crying if I told them that story, and I’m certainly not making recommendations: sun exposure is different for everyone. Siobhan, who has sun-sensitive Irish skin, uses sunscreen regularly and has reviewed many (that series has one of my faves in it too).
In general we encourage a logic approach to the sun: know your skin, respect the sun, and don’t fall for too much dogma on either side of the debate.