Green Tip – EWG’s 2012 Sunscreen Guide


GREEN TIP: Before you slather on your sunscreen, check out the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) 2012 Sunscreen Guide and find out what their researchers are saying about sunscreens, SPF lip balms, SPF moisturizers and SPF makeups. 

EWG’s 6th annual Sunscreen Guide rates 257 brands and more than 1,800 products for sun protection.*

Top Sunscreens

The top-rated sunscreens in EWG’s 2012 Sunscreen Guide contain the minerals zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These are the right choice for children, people with sensitive skin and others who want the best UVA protection without potentially hormone-disrupting chemicals like oxybenzone or vitamin A, which may be carcinogenic on sun-exposed skin. None are sprayed or powdered, so they don’t pose inhalation dangers.

EWG recommends that sunscreen users stay away from products that can be inhaled – sprays and powders – and use creams and lotions instead.

Here are some of the best from EWG’s list:

  • Badger Lightly Scented Lavender Sunscreen, SPF 30
  • Badger Baby Sunscreen, Chamomile & Calendula, SPF 30+
  • California Baby Everyday/Year-round Sunscreen Stick, SPF 30+
  • California Baby No Fragrance Sunscreen Stick, SPF 30+
  • Coppertone Kids Pure & Simple Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 50
  • Jason Natural Cosmetics Pure Natural Sun: Mineral Natural Sunscreen, SPF 30
  • Kiss My Face Kids 100% Natural Mineral Sunblock SunStick, Blue, SPF 30
  • Kiss My Face Kids 100% Natural Mineral Sunblock SunStick, Pink, SPF 30
  • Seventh Generation Baby Sunscreen, SPF 30

Many brands formulate children’s sunscreens with safer, more effective ingredients than those in other products. About 63 percent of kids’ sunscreens contain effective mineral ingredients that provide good UVA protection, compared to 40 percent of other sunscreens.

Though you still need to read labels and use EWG’s Sunscreen Guide, chances are you’ll get a better sunscreen if you buy one marketed for kids. Still — buyer beware! There are still many children’s products that don’t meet the mark.

Compared to other sunscreens, those with the words “baby,” “children” or “kids” in the product name are less likely to contain:

Fragrances, which are mixtures of chemicals some of which may cause allergies and other serious health problems. Some 72 percent of kids’ sunscreens are fragrance-free, versus 54 percent of other sunscreens.

Oxybenzone, a hormone-disrupting chemical, is in 37 percent of kids’ sunscreens versus 56 percent of other sunscreens.

Here are some of the worst from EWG’s list:

  • Banana Boat Kids Quik Blok Sunblock Spray Lotion, SPF 35 – 4% oxybenzone
  • Coppertone Water Babies Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 70+ – 6% oxybenzone
  • Banana Boat Baby Tear Free Sunblock Lotion, SPF 50+ – contains vitamin A (shown as “retinyl palmitate” or “retinol palmitate” on labels) which, when applied to sun-exposed skin, this common sunscreen additive may speed the development of skin tumors and lesions, according to government studies.
  • Arbonne Baby Care Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30 – contains retinyl palmitate
  • Australian Gold Baby Formula Lotion Sunscreen, SPF 50+ – contains retinyl palmitate
  • Neutrogena Wet Skin Kids Beach & Pool Sunblock Stick, SPF 70 – sky-high SPF products may protect from sunburn, caused primarily by UVB rays, but they leave children vulnerable to skin-damaging UVA rays.
  • CVS Kids Fast Cover Continuous Clear Spray, SPF 50 – aerosol spray sunscreen packages will soon be required to display FDA-mandated warnings such as “use in a well ventilated area” and “intentional misuse… can be harmful or fatal.” These cautions highlight growing concerns that sprays pose serious inhalation risks. Spray sunscreens also make it too easy to miss a spot, leaving bare skin exposed to harmful rays.
  • Rite Aid Baby Continuous Spray Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 50 – aerosol spray
  • GO!screen Natural Mineral PowderBlock Brush-On Sunscreen, SPF 30 is advertised as “great for kids” on the front of the bottle. It contains zinc oxide particles. Some brands of loose powder sunscreens contain particles of titanium dioxide, which the International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” when inhaled. Powdered sunscreens may also contain nanoscale and micronized zinc oxide, which can cause lung inflammation and worse.

* Statistics throughout this report are based on products in the EWG database as of May 2012.

Source: EWG’s Sunscreen Guide

EWG’s Top Sun Safety Tips

  • Don’t get burned. Red, sore, blistered (then peeling) skin is a clear sign you’ve gotten far too much sun. Sunburn increases skin cancer risk – keep your guard up!
  • Wear clothes. Shirts, hats, shorts and pants shield your skin from the sun’s UV rays – and don’t coat your skin with goop. A long-sleeved surf shirt is a good start.
  • Find shade – or make it. Picnic under a tree, read beneath an umbrella, take a canopy to the beach. Keep infants in the shade – they lack tanning pigments (melanin) to protect their skin.
  • Plan around the sun. If your schedule is flexible, go outdoors in early morning or late afternoon when the sun is lower in the sky. UV radiation peaks at midday, when the sun is directly overhead.
  • Sunglasses are essential. Not just a fashion accessory, sunglasses protect your eyes from UV radiation, a cause of cataracts.

Read more at EWG’s 2012 Sunscreen Guide and check out Sunscreens Exposed: Nine Surprising Truths.

Above all, do not be afraid to get out in the sun. Being outdoors is healthy for you and your family, just use some common sense and smart sun protection.

My Green Side’s web pick of the week:

Environmental Working Group (EWG)

The Environmental Working Group’s team of scientists, engineers, policy experts, lawyers and computer programmers goes over government data, legal documents, scientific studies and their own laboratory tests to expose threats to our health and the environment and to find solutions. Their research “brings to light unsettling facts that you have a right to know”. The mission of the EWG is to use the power of public information to protect public health and the environment.

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