How to apply Sunscreen?

Ideally, sunscreen should be applied after cleansing but before makeup, so that it can be next to cells it needs to protect.

Jessica Krant, M.D.

Dr. Jessica Krant is a board-certified dermatologist and Founder of Art of Dermatology on 5th Avenue in Manhattan, as well as Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center. Follow her on Twitter @TheSkinMD

How to Choose a Safe Eco-Sunscreen

How To Choose A Safe Eco-Sunscreen

When buying a sunscreen, here is what you should look for and what you should avoid at all costs:

Look for: Cream based sunscreens that provide broad-spectrum protection, are water resistant and have an SPF of 30+. Make sure your sunscreens include Zinc, Titanium Dioxide, Avobenzone, or Mexoryl SX which are all mineral based and protect your skin from harmful UVA radiation without absorbing into your body. Even when using these sunscreens, make sure to reapply often and stay out of the sun whenever possible.

Avoid: Sprays or powders as they put tiny particles in the air that may not be safe to breathe, as well as sunscreens with an SPF above 50+. Sunscreens with claims of SPFs over 50+ are misleading according to the FDA and provide no proven extra protection. Also, do not use products that contain Oxybenzone, retinyl palmitate (a form of Vitamin A), or added insect repellent.

Oxybenzone is a synthetic estrogen that penetrates the skin and slowly contaminates the body. As sunscreens are commonly used at the beach or river banks, oxybenzone disperses into the water where it threatens marine life, causing male fish to turn into females.  Our seemingly innocuous sunscreen application is hence directly affecting our fragile ecosystem and contributing to making it unsustainable. As for Vitamin A, it is shown to promote development of tumors and lesions on the skin.

Best Eco-Sunscreens

The following sunscreens were rated to be among the best (in alphabetical order) by the Environmental Working Group. They contain no oxybenzone, Vitamin A, or insect repellant. The ratings are on a scale from one through ten, with one being the highest rating a product can get, indicating the product is safe and contains few, if any, known environmental and health hazards.

1. Badger Sunscreen for Face and Body, Unscented

SPF: 30
Price: $16.00
Size: 2.9 oz.
Overall Score: 1

2. California Baby Sunblock Stick, No Fragrance

SPF: 30+
Price: $14.99
Size: .5 oz.
Overall Score: 1

3. Loving Naturals Sunscreen

SPF: 30+
Price: $16.50
Size: 5 oz.
Overall Score: 1

4. Purple Prairie Botanicals SunStuff

SPF: 30
Price: $10.00
Size: 4 oz.
Overall Score: 1

5. Soleo Organics All Natural Sunscreen

SPF: 30+
Price: $21.99
Size: 2.8 oz.
Overall Score: 1

Worst Eco-Sunscreens

Now that we have seen the best of the sunscreens, it would also be helpful to look at some of the worst to know what to avoid. And while there are hundreds of sunscreens that made the bottom of the list, what was very interesting to see was that a lot of these low scorers were brands that were the most highly advertised and widely available in stores. Here are some of the popular brand lowest scorers (alphabetically) and why we should avoid them at all costs.

1. Aveeno Continuous Protection Active Sunblock Spray, SPF 70

Aveeno’s popular sunscreen spray contains oxybenzone, vitamin A, and has a misleading SPF. Its fragrance rates high on the neurotoxicity scale and it contains endocrine disruptors and high levels of reproductive toxicity. In general, avoid sprays as they release more chemicals into the environment and can damage your health even more.

2. Banana Boat Baby Max Protect and Play Broad Spectrum Sunscreen, SPF 100

Banana Boat’s Baby sunscreen is a very bad way to protect your child from the sun as it contains oxybenzone, vitamin A, and allows for UVA radiation to penetrate into the skin, which can cause aging and cancer. This sunscreen also has an excessively high SPF which cannot be proven to be more effective but lures people to stay out in the sun for longer, causing more damage.

3. Coppertone Sunblock Continuous Spray, SPF 30

At first glance this sunscreen may seem to fit the criteria of good sunscreens because it does not boast a very high SPF, but don’t be deceived. Coppertone’s sunscreen also contains hazardous chemicals that cause allergic reactions, immunotoxicity, bioaccumulation, and enhanced skin absorption. So even if this sunscreen can spray at any angle and has a spill-proof cap, it still can’t deliver the protection needed to save your skin.

4. Hawaiian Tropic Sheer Touch Lotion Sunscreen, SPF 15

Of the nineteen Hawaiian Tropic beach and sport sunscreens tested by the EWG, eighteen of them fell into the lowest category while the remaining one is recommended with high caution.  Hawaiian Tropic’s Sheer Touch Lotion Sunscreen is meant to be non-greasy and feel invisible. But unfortunately its new exotic coconut scent does not prevent it from being very harmful. The presence of retinyl palmitate can contribute to cancer and the high amounts of Benzyl alcohol increase the product’s organ system toxicity. Just as it will harm your system, it will harm that of fish and other wildlife that comes into contact with it.

5. Neutrogena Ultimate Sport Sunblock Lotion, SPF 55

Neutrogena is a pretty popular brand in skin care with its proclaimed title of being the number one dermatologist recommended brand. But despite this claim, Neutrogena still has a long way to go in producing safe sunscreens. This product is among the bestsellers for Neutrogena but is rated by the EWG to have high health concerns due to its chemical components. Benzyl Alcohol, Methylisothiazolinone, Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, and Propylparaben are all ingredients that cause irritation, endocrine disruption, neurotoxicity, and immunotoxicity. Parabens are found in waterways where they harm the reproductive system of fish as well as many other animals that drink from that water.

To see the full list of rated sunscreens and to see how your sunscreen stacks up against the competition, check out the Environmental Working Group’s 2010 Sunscreen Guide.

By following these sunscreen guidelines, you will help protect the environment and ensure maximum protection for your family and your skin during the summer months and beyond.