Every summer there’s a bevy of news articles about sunscreens, and how some of them may even be harming you and your kids.  Most articles link to the Environmental Working Group’s Annual Sunscreen Guide – which reviews and rates hundreds of sunscreens in mind-numbing detail.  Too much detail, actually.   When researching sunscreens last year, I took one look at this list, got really frustrated and threw my hands up in the air.

I did my own research, and here’s my cheat-sheet of what to look for:

  • *  Ingredients to avoid:  oxybenzone and Vitamin A.  Oxybenzone is a hormone-disrupting chemical that penetrates the skin and enters the bloodstream.  Vitamin A has been shown in some studies to accelerate skin tumors and lesions (the very cancers sunscreens are supposed to protect against – how ironic).
  • * You should have 1 of these ingredients:  zinc oxide or titanium dioxide (the active ingredients in many “natural sunscreens”).
  • * Choose one that protects against both UVA and UVB rays
  • * Use at least SPF 30

HOWEVER, there is another important factor to consider:  whether the suscreen protects against the 2 types of UVA rays: short and long.  Most sunscreens protect against short UVA rays, but not long UVA rays.  Long UVA rays are the ones that cause photo-aging and the more aggressive types of skin cancers, such as melanoma.  Interestingly, the FDA for several yearshas been considering a 4-star UVA-ranking system that would make its way onto sunscreen labels, but sadly, there seems to be no movement on this issue.

So what do we use in our house?  A little-know one called SunSmart by Applied Therapeutics.  It contains a patented Z-Cote (basically, a transparent zinc-oxide).  It’s an inorganic/non-chemical sunblock – meaning it sits on top of the skin and doesn’t get absorbed.  It goes on smoothly, withough any oily or white-filmy residue (a MUST for brown skin) – we actually use it instead of lotion.  And it contains yummy stuff like rose extract and jasmine and patchouli oils.

Most importantly, it protects against those long UVA-rays.


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