Happy Spring! Let's pick a sunscreen.

We have heard over and over again that daily sunscreen use is a must, and it's even more on our minds now that Spring is here (finally.). Sunscreen is recommended to help prevent skin cancer and block the UV rays that give our skin signs of damage like wrinkles and age spots. But do you know what's in those creams and sprays that you're using? While you're working hard to put only the best stuff in your body, remember that your skin provides a direct line in to your bloodstream. You're not only what you eat, it so happens.

So, wear your sunscreen. But keep the following in mind:

Stay away from the icky chemicals that are known to cause problems in the bod.

  • Oxybenzone - this is a hormone disrupting chemical which penetrates the skin and enters the bloodstream. It is the most popular ingredient in chemical based sunscreens and only blocks UVB ray (sun’s good rays that provide vitamin D production), not UVA which are the most free radical damaging rays.  Avoid any sunscreen that has this chemical at all costs, especially for children.
  • Vitamin A (Retinyl Palmitate) – If you ever took Retin A as a teenager to help with acne, you remember that you had to stay out of the sun while using it. A study (done in 2009) suggests that it also increases the speed of growth of tumors and skin lesions.
  • FragrancesOften these are without regulation or requirements for laying out their ingredients...and they're linked to all sorts of problems.

Also, consider the method of application. Sprays work faster and parents were immediately in love (I have three kids. I get it.)  But added chemicals that aid in the delivery of the product can be inhaled, and, uh...you can catch fire. That's a bad way to end your day at the pool.

So what do you look for then? Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are minerals that offer your skin UVA protection without the chemicals. They don't penetrate the skin, which is great. Also look for fragrances that are from essential oils, or fragrance free varieties. And though there is no conclusive evidence on nanoparticles and their effect on cellular degradation, mineral sunscreens seem to be overall a better option for health.

But with about 2000 products to choose from, which ones are the best and the safest? Environmental Working Group makes it easy for you, with a great list of regular sunscreens, make-up products, and even lip balms to help you pick the items that are right for you and your family. [They're also a great group with a great mission, and they run on donations. Consider helping them out if you are so inclined.]

If you have any product reviews or recommendations, or any questions about what you've read here, please post in the comments!

Happy Spring, everyone!