Green Sunscreen

May 29, 2008 · Print This Article

Last weekend, after slathering both of my daughters head-to-toe with sunscreen, I headed outside for an afternoon of gardening only to realize that I forgot to lather up my own lily-white skin. Subsequently I obtained my first (and hopefully last) sunburn of the summer season.

Sunscreen is as pivotal to summer fun as bathing suits and sandy toes. So you may be surprised to learn that the type you’re using may not be as effective as you thought. In fact, in an extensive Sunscreen Survey, the non-profit Environmental Working Group tested 1,026 sunscreen makes and concluded:


“86% of sunscreen products offer inadequate protection
from the sun, or contain ingredients
with significant safety concerns.”

Confused about which sunscreen to use? Here’s the scoop:

Chemical vs. Mineral

Chemical-based sunscreens are designed to absorb the sun’s rays with compounds such as benzophenone, homosalate, padimate-0, parsol 1789 (avobenzone) and octyl methoxycinnamate (octinoxate.) Unfortunately, these chemicals are as poor as they sound. For starters, they have been linked to health effects such as hormonal changes and DNA damage. In addition, most chemical sunscreens only protect against the sun’s UVB rays (the cause of sunburns) not its UVA rays (those responsible for skin cancer and accelerated aging.)

Mineral sunblocks that use

titanium dioxide or zinc oxide are a better choice for sun protection considering they block both UVB and UVA rays. They are healthier than chemical formulas considering they are designed to lay on top of the skin rather than being absorbed into it. But considering of that, they leave a layer of white on the skin (ever see a lifeguard with a white nose…that’s mineral sunblock).

The Nano Effect

In an effort to minimize that “white nose” effect, some mineral sunscreen manufacturers are using formulas containing nano-meter sized particles of their chemical components. This allows the product to be absorbed into the skin more readily (so that it becomes transparent); however, titanium and zinc oxide are two chemicals that you really don’t want to absorb into your skin. For instance, unlike larger particles of titanium oxide, nanoparticles can enter the bloodstream and damage brain cells.

The Bottom Line

Choose a mineral based sunblock that aims for transparency without nano-particles…oh, and don’t forget to put it on! Here are a few makes to try:

Alba Botanica
Avalon Organics
Burt’s Bees
California Baby
Dr. Hauschka
JASON Natural


[Source] Jenn

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