Delicious Living Blog

Sunscreen: best products, safety tips, surprising truths, and ingredients to avoid

Growing concerns over what's really in that tube of sunscreen demands we do our research before slathering up--and we must slather up.

Ahhh May. It's nearly summertime and the livin' is ... greasy?

Sunscreen. Just when we thought we didn't have a worry in the world, the "but I'm getting my vitamin D!" excuse expires after 15 minutes in the sun and growing concerns over what's really in that tube demands we do our research before slathering up--and we must slather up. Yes, I know you're frolicking in the rays and the last thing you want to do is trade your baseball cap for your thinking cap but get this: The EWG's 2010 Sunscreen Guide has just made it that much easier for you with its product picks, sun care tips, and a sunscreen "Hall of Shame" (burned!). Check out some of the highlights.

BEYOND THE SIMPLE SUNSCREEN TIPS, HERE'S WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE STEPPING OUTSIDE THIS SEASON.

1. Just because you're wearing a high SPF doesn't mean you should stay in the sun longer.

2. Applying vitamin A to the skin may increase risk of tumors and lesions. Avoid “retinyl palmitate” on the ingredient label (it appears in 41 percent of sunscreens).

3. Other ingredients to avoid include the sunscreen chemical oxybenzone, the most common active sunscreen ingredient, which is a synthetic estrogen that penetrates the skin and contaminates the body. It is linked to allergic reactions and potential hormone disruption. Still wondering about nanotechnology? Read more.

4. Look for active ingredients zinc, titanium, avobenzone or Mexoryl SX.

5. Plug your sunscreen into the EWG's Cosmetics Safety Database to see how safe it is. A 0-2 rating means the sunscreen provides broad-spectrum, long-lasting protection with safe ingredients.

6. Avoid sprays and powders, which cloud release tiny particles of sunscreen into the air that may not be safe to breathe.

7. Reapply them often because sunscreen chemicals break apart in the sun, wash off, and rub off on towels and clothing.

8. Men, you need to wear sunscreen, too! Surveys show that 34 percent of men wear sunscreen, compared to 78 percent of women.

9. You may need to get up to 15 minutes of sun daily, without sunscreen, to increase your vitamin D levels. But be sure not to overdo

TOP SUNSCREENS: THESE MINERAL-BASED OPTIONS CONTAIN ZINC OR TITANIUM AND HAVE A 1 OUT OF 10 EWG SCORE

• Loving Naturals Sunscreen, SPF 30+

• UV Natural Baby Sunscreen, SPF 30+ and Sunscreen Sport, SPF 30+

• Purple Prairie Botanicals SunStuff, SPF 30, Sun Stick, SPF 30 and SunStuff, SPF 15

• Soleo Organics All Natural Sunscreen, SPF 30+, Soleo Organics/Wyland Organics All Natural Sunscreen, SPF 30+, and Soleo Organics/Atlantis Resort All Natural Sunscreen, SPF 30+

• Thinkbaby and Thinksport Sunscreen, SPF 30+

• Badger Sunscreen for Face and Body, Unscented, SPF 30 and Sunscreen for Face and Body, SPF 30 Lightly Scented

• California BabySunblock Stick No Fragrance, SPF 30+

BEWARE OF FALSE CLAIMS AND UNREGULATED LABELS

1. "Maximum protection," think SPF 100+ may protect against sunburn, but the sunscreens can still expose skin to harmful UVA rays

2. "Advanced UVA protection" means, well, bascially nothing.

3. Statements like "mild as water" aren't legitimate. Especially if the product also makes comments like "stop use and ask a doctor if rash or irritation develops and lasts."

4. If a product says, "apply liberally" you may want to apply a different product instead.

5. All sunscreens "break down," even if the label says otherwise.

6. The Skin Cancer Foundation seal of approval doesn't require products to protect from UVA rays.

7. The FDA first issued draft sunscreen regulations but still offers no final rule.

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