Sunscreen Guide: Safest Products and 8 You Should Avoid

This morning I got overwhelmed in the sunscreen aisle at the pharmacy. So many brands, so many SPFs, so many ingredients. I’m fair-skinned and I love being in the sun, a combination that has resulted in some painful burns over the years. These days I’m trying to be more responsible, but puzzling out which sunscreens are safest is exhausting. So this morning, instead of choosing from the 50 or so sun blocks for sale, I decided to see what the experts recommend.
Thankfully, Environmental Working Group just put out its 2010 sunscreen guide. The nonprofit’s researchers analyzed 500 beach and sport sunscreens, and recommend only 39 of them that provide broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB-sunburn) protection with fewer hazardous chemicals that penetrate the skin. (Scroll down for the list)
All of EWG’s top-rated sunscreens all contain the minerals zinc or titanium. “They are the right choice for people who are looking for the best UVA protection without any sunscreen chemical considered to be a potential hormone disruptor. None of the products contain oxybenzone or vitamin A and none are sprayed or powdered,” the group says.
Top-rated brands (click here for the specific products)
All Terrain
Beyond Coastal
California Baby
Caribbean Solutions
Desert Essence
Jason Natural Cosmetics
Kabana Skin Care
L’uvalla Certified Organic
La Roche-Posay
Little Forest
Loving Naturals
Purple Prairie Botanicals
Soleo Organics
thinkbaby and thinksport
UV Natural
EWG also offers some non-mineral choices (including products by Beyond Coastal, Bull Frog, Coppertone, Glytone, and La Roche-Posay). Though none of these earned the top rating, they’re an option for folks who prefer to avoid nano-scale minerals (zinc and titanium) or who object to the feel or smell of mineral sunscreens. The trade-off, according to EWG: All non-mineral products contain at least one sunscreen chemical considered to be a potential hormone disruptor, and many offer only moderate or weak UVA protection.
Finally, take a minute to check out EWG’s Hall of Shame—prime examples, it says, of products and players that typify what’s wrong with the sun protection business:

1. Banana Boat Baby Max Protect, SPF = 100
Sky-high SPF protects against sunburn but leaves skin exposed to damaging UVA rays.

2. iS Clinical SPF 20 Powder & Peter Thomas Roth Instant Mineral Powder SPF 30
Loose powder sunscreens can enter the airways and may move from the lungs to the bloodstream. Health concerns include cancer and tissue damage.

3. Hawaiian Tropic Baby Creme Lotion SPF 50
“Advanced UVA protection”? Not so much.

4. Aveeno Baby Continuous Protection SPF 55
“Mild as water.” Sure it is.

5. Anthony Logistics for Men Sunstick SPF 15
Safe for eyes? Not really.

6. Panama Jack Naturals Baby Sunblock SPF 50Potential hormone disruptor in baby sunblock.

7. Banana Boat Ultra Defense Sunscreen Stick SPF 50
Maybe it doesn’t break down, but it also doesn’t last forever.

8. Baby Blanket Tender Scalps Scalp Sunscreen Spray for Babies SPF 45+
Instant protection from sunburn, instant exposure to UVA rays.

Visit the Hall of Shame for more information.

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