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Safest Sunscreen Choices Are Not Always Easy

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The Environmental Working Group, Washington, D.C., has just released its 2012 Sunscreen Guide to help consumers choose the safest sunscreen for their particular type of skin and the sun exposure with which they are dealing.

Sarah B. Weir’s article, “Choosing the Best Sunscreens—and Avoiding the Worst Moments of Motherhood” on Yahoo.com, says, “This year's guide rates over 1,800 sunscreens (for both adults and kids), lip balms, and moisturizers and cosmetics with SPF.” [1] (Thankfully, not all 1,800 choices are in your local store.) Type of skin is only one factor in choosing what kind of sunscreen you and your family need. Knowing the kind of skin you’re in will help you make a better decision on what to purchase that will protect you and your family for the degree and duration of sun exposure you will experience. Choosing the right sunscreen for the proper protection is an important decision. The National Cancer Institute cautions that the leading cause of skin cancer is exposure to ultra-violet rays from the sun.[2]

Initially, you may wish to consider the age and the health of your skin presently. Are you choosing sunscreen for an adult, adolescent or child? Is their skin healthy? If you have an ongoing health issue, sometimes symptoms will show up on your skin, and you may need to use a particular type of sunscreen for your health condition. What you use on your skin can also affect your health—so it’s a two-way street. The “feel” of your skin is important when choosing a sunscreen—whether your skin is oily, dry or a combination of oily and dry, to the touch? Is the skin you wish to protect thick and opaque or thin and translucent? What about the shade of your skin? Is it fair, tanned, olive or darker skin? Is it sensitive? Are you allergic to chemical additives, topical lanolin or perfumes? Are you subject to skin “breakouts” for any other reason? Some people get “sun poisoning”, others don’t. All of these questions should be answered before you spend money on a sunscreen—and it may require buying more than one type for you and your family to properly protect your and their skin. There are many choices, but you can bet there’s a sunscreen appropriate for you.

The EWG also calls our attention to the fact that there may be harmful ingredients in some sunscreens, such as Retinyl palmitate (Vitamin A) believed to cause tumors or lesions to develop quicker with the skin’s exposure to sun. Oxybenzone, another common ingredient in sunscreens, can cause skin reactions in some people and may be linked to hormone disruption.[3] Reading the sunscreen ingredient labels will help you recognize anything you know that might make your skin react. Powder and spray sunscreens also carry a caution as they may be dangerous when inhaled. Oh, and those sunscreens rated 50 SPF and above…well, the EWG says they may not be all they’re cracked up to be; they may give you a false sense of security about your ability to remain out in the sun for a long time. If you have the time and the resources, the best way to choose an appropriate sunscreen is by consulting with your family doctor or dermatologist. If the latter is not possible, educate yourself on the ingredients of your various sunscreen choices so that you may make an informed decision.


[1] “Choosing the Best Sunscreens—And Avoiding the Worst Moments of Motherhood,” Weir, Sarah B., Yahoo.com, May 17, 2012, http://m.yahoo.com/w/ygo-frontpage/lp/story/us/2283819/coke.bp;_ylt=AjKkYm8kIpfXHgm3L9Aq7tGx.tw4;_ylu=X3oDMTF1bmI5azlhBGNwb3MDMTkEY3NlYwNtb2JpbGUtdGQEaW50bAN1cwRwa2cDaWQtMjI4MzgxOQRwb3MDMTkEc2xrA2ltYWdl?ref_w=frontdoors&view=today&.intl=US&.lang=en&.tsrc=yahoo

[2] Op.Cit.

[3] Ibid.