Jun 16, 2010

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Go Green / Toxin Free Your Home Tip #2: Sunscreen!

Since spring is here and the weather seems to be sunnier and hotter then the past couple years, I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to bring up a summer must have that many families are not educated about enough! Well not anymore!

This week’s Culprit: Unsafe Sunscreen!

So, wait a minute, isn’t sunscreen GOOD for you? Are you telling me NOT to use sunscreen? NO!! I am not telling you that at all, so please just read on and see what I’m talking about!
Many people believe that everything they buy is safe and regulated by the government. If it’s in the stores, it must be safe, right? Well with sunscreen, not necessarily. The FDA has never finished creating it’s sunscreen safety standards for companies to follow. Not only this, but companies do not have to print and let you know at all what is in their product.

So let’s reiterate…there’s no regulation on what can be in a sunscreen, and companies don’t have to tell us what’s in their sunscreen? Now this is just asking for trouble!

And trouble we have. There are tons of sunscreens on the market these days, each saying they’re better than the other, some sporting on their bottle little things like “PABA Free” or “50+ SPF”, or “Vitamin A for healthy skin!”. So what do any of these things mean, and is any of it good for you?…or is any of it bad for you?As we are finding out, not everything, and in fact most things, that the sunscreen companies claim are not proven to be true, and in fact may be harming you.Want 9 Surprising Truths? The Environmental Working Group has come up with their 2010 sunscreen guide, and they have come up with some pretty surprising things to tell us!

(9 Surprising Truths are taken from EWG’s 2010 sunscreen guide available HERE, but descriptions and information are my own words)

1. There’s no consensus on whether sunscreens prevent skin cancer.

Wait a minute, isn’t that why we wear sunscreen? What do you mean it doesn’t prevent cancer? Well, we as humans don’t know everything, and as such, we do not know what causes all forms of cancer. We know that UVA and UVB rays cause cancer for sure, and sunscreen claims to protect against one (sometimes both, depending on brand) of these types of rays, yet there is no scientific evidence that it prevents well enough to prevent cancer.

2. There’s some evidence that sunscreens might increase the risk of the deadliest form of skin cancer for some people.

Wait a minute, it’s one thing to tell me sunscreen doesn’t really work against preventing cancer, now you’re telling me it may be CAUSING cancer?! You’re nuts! But no, it may actually be true. Recent research has seen an increase in skin cancer even with the increase in sunscreen use in recent years. Could this be caused by increased time in the sun by sunscreen users, or by the decrease in quality sunscreen or change in ingredients in sunscreen products? No one knows for certain, but we do know cancer is increasing among sunscreen users.

3. There are more high SPF products than ever before, but no proof that they’re better.

The FDA has proposed that SPF’s higher than 50+ do not protect any better than those at 50 SPF and gives consumers a false impression that they are safe in the sun, yet sunscreens are still claiming SPFs of 100 even! Everyone thinks they’re better protected but do not realize that they are no better protected than with sunscreens of a lower SPF.

4. Too little sun might be harmful, reducing the body’s vitamin D levels.

Yep, now I’m telling you to go in the sun! Without sunscreen! NO, not for a long time, but periodically. In the old days walking outside to work or playing outside with the kids for 10 minutes a day without sunscreen was sufficient to get the Vitamin D from the sun that you needed, but now everyone is indoors. We have Wii and other video games, TV up the wazoo, movies on demand and internet that lets us discover almost anything we want (like my SAPsMaMa blog!), so why go outside? Kids these days as well as adults are spending so little time outside and becoming so lazy that they are actually not getting that “little” amount of sun exposure needed to give them the vitamin D they need! Infants, too are vulnerable. Yes, you most definitely need to protect your infant from the sun, but it has been well known for a while now that infants at about 6 months, especially those breastfed, start losing their Vitamin D stores in their body and a lot of them need a supplement daily to get what they need. Some light sun exposure actually helps infants at this age get their needed Vitamin D, as long as it is in safe amounts. You can find out current guidelines from your pediatrician.

5. The common sunscreen ingredient vitamin A may speed the development of cancer.

New research has come alight with a study done by the FDA that Vitamin A, which has been added to many sunscreens recently and marketed to help with anti-aging and keeping skin looking healthy, actually causes cancer. The only reason that Vitamin A is a concern in sunscreens and not in your normal lotions etc. you use is that it is exposed to direct sunlight. The test that the FDA conducted showed increased growth in tumors developing on test animals over a years time than on test subjects without the vitamin A added to sunscreen. This worries me, and I hope it worries you, but it definitely worries the FDA.

6. Free radicals and other skin-damaging byproducts of sunscreen.

Free Radicals are what damage your DNA and cause skin problems like cancer. So where do find free radicals? Well most people know free readicals can be cause via sunlight exposure, hence why the UVA and UVB light causes cancer. What most people don’t know is that sunscreen additives also can cause free radicals that can negatively affect the skin and cause ailments such as cancer. So why are we putting sunscreen on?! Well most sunscreen actually prevents more free radicals from the sun than it creates itself, which is good! That’s why we use it! However, when you stay out for a long period of time and it wears off, or if you apply too little of it and it doesn’t work properly, or if you reapply it over and over many times a day when you’re out in the sun alot, you are adding more of those additives onto your skin, hence increasing the free radicals that you come in contact with.

7. Pick your sunscreen: nanomaterials or potential hormone disruptors.

Yes, neither of these two are good, but we humans are not perfect, as mentioned before, and so we have not figured out what the perfect sunscreen is. Today, your choice is between sunscreens with nanomaterials or hormone disruptors. Now no one knows exactly how harmful nanomaterials are, they are pretty new, but there is a lot of worry in the scientific community for good reason. Unlike micronized particles, nano particles generate free radicals more so, mostly from photo-reactivity, meaning this only happens with sun exposure for the most part. These free radicals can then damage cells. Because they are much smaller than normal materials they can slip into your cells easier and damage them more. This also makes it so sunscreen looks clear on your skin when it’s “rubbed in”, sunscreen free of nanomaterials will not look fully clear on your skin!

But then, what about the hormone disruptors? Hormone disruptors are chemicals that bind to your hormone receptors instead of the hormone that should be binding there. For instance, the hormone disruption caused by PVC binds to the receptors for estrogen, hence acting like the estrogen hormone. This can cause hormone imbalances and developmental problems especially for young children and infants. The hormone disruptors in sunscreens can do similar hormone disruptions and should be avoided if possible. At this point in time the Environmental Working Group chooses products with certain types of nanomaterials over any product with hormone disruptors, and at this time I believe this is a safe choice based on the science available

If you would like some more detailed info on nanomaterials check ZREcs guide HERE!
8. Europe’s better sunscreens.

Can you believe it? Europe better than the U.S.? Yes, it’s true, European sunscreens can not only use more types of chemicals for UVA protection in their sunscreen but the chemicals they use are 5 times more affective at UVA protection. These sunscreens are required to provide strong UVA protection, but the U.S. ones are not. Not what I like to hear! The SPF rating on sunscreens in the US relates to how well they preven UVB rays, but UVA rays also cause cancer! Europe is much better at covering this area, we need to too!

9. The 33rd summer in a row without final U.S. sunscreen safety regulations.

Wow, it’s been that long? Yes, it has. It has been hoped that when the new safety regulations are passed that sunscreens will be better regulated and safer to use, but many loopholes have been found by the Environmental Working Group that many sunscreen companies will use that will continue to make the sunscreens on the market unsafe. So do we want it passed anytime soon? Not without changes!

The Solution: Toxin Free Sunscreen, Shade, clothing, sunglasses and sunhats!

Now you know, sunscreen isn’t all it’s hyped up to be, so what do you do to protect yourself from the harmful rays of the sun? The overwhelming answer is staying in the shade, wearing sun protective clothing (any old clothing will do!), wearing sun hats to protect the face and sunglasses to protect those eyes!
You can find more Sun Safe Tips on the Top Sun Safety Tips by the EWG!

Now now not all sunscreen out there is the hormone disrupting, high SPF misleading, Vitamin A holding kind, but unfortunately the kinds that aren’t are in the few. This year the EWG released a report that only 8% of 500 sunscreens were recommended to use at all! That’s a mere 40 sunscreens to choose from! (You can view the entire EWG Press release HERE and the entire EWG report on sunscreen HERE. Search their data base and find out what yours rates!)Surprised? You’ll be even more surprised to see which sunscreens are on their Hall of Shame list!

Number 1 was one I was very surprised at at first, but now that I’ve learned more about sunscreen, makes complete sense: Banana Boat Baby 100+ SPF Sunscreen! I know so many moms that have this! Other common sunscreens I’ve seen families use alot that are on the Hall of shame include Aveeno Baby Continuous Protection SPF 55+, and Banana Boat Sunscreen Stick as well as others! Check it out yourself!
And what is recommended? Take a look on the EWG’s Best Sunscreens List, they even list best sunscreen lip balm and more! Find out what you can find in your local store and what you’re comfortable using!
Another sunscreen list I’d like to mention is the SafeMama 2010 Safer Sunscreen Guide, which makes a wonderful cheat sheet! She conducts her own research and looks for sunscreens free of Parabens, Phthalates, PEG’s, Propylene Glycol, Phenoxyethanol, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Benzoate, Dimethicone, SLS and other chemicals to keep the chemicals you are putting on your skin as safe for you as possible. What I love is that she comes up with a lot of the same recommendations as the EWG, so there’s a double recommendation for some sunscreens for you!

So here you can choose which guide is for you, each guide considers different chemicals in their choices for top sunscreen picks, but the main highly toxic chemicals that matter stay the same in each guide when they make their recommendations. Just remember, don’t just pick one off the list, learn to read the labels and look at the active ingredients, what do you feel safe putting on your skin?

Don’t see any you like or can get ahold of easily where you live? Well check out the brands you own or have access to in your local stores and find out what they rate on the EWG Search for the Best Sunscreen For You page! A great tool I think!

The SAPsMaMa Solution!

So want to know what I’ve found works best for SAP? Here’s our recipe for safe summer fun!

For our 16 month old very active little girl, we do own some UV Skinz Sun protective clothing for SAP that we have her wear when we plan on being out in the sun for more than a couple hours. This clothing covers all her arms and just past her knees, and offers UV protection that can’t wash off in water etc.. This is great for outdoor swimming in the summer, but also we use it for long bike trailer trips or when hiking with her in the ERGO baby carrier! It’s more breathable than some clothes! We have a cute green colored one for SAP like above!
We also always have a bucket or other sunhat on her head. A Velcro chin strap helps keep this on or from falling back on her head so it covers her face! We have a few (since we want one for daycare too, and we never can seem to find any at home!), and my favorite by far are the iplay summer hats! They come in many styles, in patterns for girls and boys, or just solid colors! We used a orange palm tree bucket hat for SAP when she was younger, and now that she’s older use the Daisy Hat, which has a wide brim like in the picture above, except a less girly pattern! lol
We use Eyes Cream Shades in black licorice color. These I love because they not only offer high UV protection of the eyes, but they are very shatter resistant! SAP loves to bend her glasses and her Frubi Shades she had when she was only a few months old last summer were pulled into pieces this summer when we tried using them on her! These Eyes Cream shades were not pulled apart and she likes being able to put them on since she’s in that independent and copy daddy phase. So cute! We of course got the black licorice color so she matched Daddy!
Our main sunscreen, for ourselves and for SAP, is THINKsport and THINKbaby sunscreen. Not only does this sunscreen work great at protecting from harmful UV rays (I’m evidence, since I work 7am-4pm in the sun all day and come home without sunburn!), but I feel completely safe using it since it is non-toxic! It is a white sunscreen that will not turn clear when rubbed in the skin, and that’s how you know it’s good, but this may bother some people. But you don’t have to use very much of it to get desired coverage so it lasts quite a while! Just an fyi, it comes out runny so be careful when first using it it might come out quick!

For squirmy infants and those moments you need a quick application of sunscreen, I use Supergoop! Sunscreen Wipes. I also think these work well for face and other small areas! I don’t use these all over since there is concern with even application and how much protection wipes provide versus regular sunscreen but I feel they serve a good purpose in the household of young children! Although they don’t rate as well on the EWG rating list as THINKbaby does, they do follow the strict standards of Healthy Children Healthy World, which strives to protect our children from toxic chemicals, so I feel pretty safe using these on those rare moments. I usually keep them in my diaper bag! One of the only reasons I wouldn’t use Supergoop all the time is that they use phenoxyethanol in their products, which is used mostly as a preservative in many products, but other than that their ingreadiants seem to be ok with what I look for in sunscreens.


I hope you all enjoyed this entry on sunscreen and the you’ve learned some very helpful information! Use the links well, they are very helpful in leading you to more detailed information on anything you may want to know! This topic is not well known to many families so spread the word and hopefully we’ll get some healthier kids this summer!

Check us out at SAPsMaMa!

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  1. MelissaAggie98 says:

    Thanks for the follow! I'm already following. Have a wonderful weekend!

  2. Witchie's Place says:

    Awesome article! Who knew? Following you from Fun Follow Fridays! And will continue to follow!

  3. earthlymama says:

    great article! I am actually reviewing supergoop right now and it's great! 🙂

  4. Thinksport is awesome! I use that in combination with Biotique red sandalwood for my face, I just love the smell of it lol.