Sunscreen Headaches

Anyone else get overwhelmed in the sunscreen aisle at your local pharmacy or grocery store? It’s crazy. I feel like I have just as much luck closing my eyes and reaching out than reading labels. I typically grab a generic brand and run. So far <knock on wood>, no burns this summer for anyone in the family.

But, apparently, there’s a better and smarter way to shop. Go figure.

A blog gave it a shot with some tips on picking sunscreen. I was still left a little confused – what with all the polysyllabic words – so I’ll try to break it down even more here for you.

If you want it as easy as it gets, here’s what to look for:

BASICALLY: Look for “Broad Spectrum” and “SPF 15” (or higher) on the bottle.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued some new regulations in June to help consumers be better informed, and that’s the take away from it. Sunscreen products that pass the FDA’s test for protection against both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays can be labeled as “Broad Spectrum.” Both UVB and UVA radiation contribute to sunburn, skin cancer, and premature skin aging. Sunburn is primarily caused by UVB radiation. Under the new labeling, sunscreens labeled as both “Broad Spectrum” and SPF 15 (or higher), if used regularly, as directed, and in combination with other sun protection measures will help prevent sunburn, reduce the risk of skin cancer, and reduce the risk of early skin aging.

If you are concerned about chemicals in sunscreen, then you’ll want to do a bit more research before you buy your next bottle of sunscreen.

Check out this list of sunscreens that meet the approval of the Environmental Working Group, you can find this year’s list here. These are for beach/sport sunscreens, which let’s be real, you probably want since it is summer and you and the kiddos are pretty active. According to EWG, all top-rated products contain either zinc or titanium minerals to help cut UVA exposures for sunscreen users and they offer broad spectrum protection with fewer hazardous ingredients.

Are they probably more expensive than what you typically buy? Yep (though I saw a Walgreens one on the list).

Nneka Leiba, a research analyst at Environmental Working Group who works on their cosmetics and sunscreen databases, gave these tips that will help you make better choices without breaking the bank:

1. Zinc or titanium dioxide? Zinc is a better UV filter, but titanium dioxide works well too.

2. Parabens, which function in sunscreen and cosmetics as preservatives – yea or nay? There are a lot of big words listed here. If you want to commit these to memory, go for it. Avoid products with longer-chain parabens – butylparaben, isopropylparaben, isobutylparaben and propylparaben — which can mimic estrogen and disrupt normal hormone function.

3. Avoid sunscreens with oxybenzone, which can disrupt hormone function

4. Steer clear of retinyl palmitate, despite its anti-aging properties. An FDA study showed it can speed the development of skin tumors and lesions on sun-exposed skin.

5. Pay attention to where a questionable chemical falls in the ingredient list. “It’s like food,” explains Leiba. “What you see first is the highest percentage.”

The above list is too much for my mind to grasp right now, so I’m sticking with “Broad Spectrum” and “SPF 15 (or higher) for my guidelines. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll jot down some brands on the EWG list to look for, but probably not.

If you don’t want to remember any of this, then wear long sleeves and pants. Problem solved.


About kareiner

I'm an active mom who loves to cook. I'm passionate about health and fitness. I'm no expert, nutritionist, personal trainer or miracle worker. I just like being active and I like good food.
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