Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Safe Sunscreen

I remember the days when no one had heard of sunscreen. In fact, people were known to slather on baby oil and go "bake" in the sun. Well. Times have changed!!

Now we know that ALL tans are BAD tans. The color changes that take place in our skin is actually an indication of sun damage. We also know that sun damage is the single biggest cause of skin aging. If that weren't enough, these changes in the skin are responsible for the increase in skin cancer. Add to that climate change and the decreasing levels of ozone in the upper atmosphere (which filter out harmful sun rays to some extent) and you have a recipe for skin disaster.

Fortunately, sunblock to the rescue! There are shelves and shelves of choices. How to pick? Latest research has shown that not all sunscreens are created equal. No surprise there, I guess. 

There are really two separate questions to consider. One is the actual "active ingredient" or sunscreen agent itself, and, the other is the lotion or gel base it is in. There seems some agreement on what constitutes safe and effective active ingredients. Mechanical blocks are best. Both zinc oxide and titanium dioxide meet this requirement, and are considered "good" sunblocks. The particles in these 2 compounds are actually large enough to sit on the skin and deflect the sun's rays off the body. Unfortunately, this sometimes leaves a white film on the skin, which is quite annoying. But not all sunblocks with these agents do. You have to try them and find ones that go on invisibly. 

Some companies have decided to eliminate this problem by making the particles very tiny... they are called "micronized." Micronized particles are controversial, as there seems to be some question as to whether they are actually small enough to penetrate the skin and get into the bloodstream. Always safe to err on the side of caution and avoid micronized particles!

Now that we have effective and safe sunscreens, it is discouraging to see how many sunscreens put these into a lotion base that contains one, or more, of the toxic ten! Like all lotions, your sunscreen should be free of the toxic ten! Read labels! 

Environmental Defence has a 2 page download (free!) to guide you to which sunscreen agents are both safe and effective. Or, you can find the Toxic Ten list on my website, To download your free Guide to Sunscreens, click here: