All About Sunscreen (and Why Choosing Safer is IMPORTANT)
Hi Friends! Guess what! THE SUN IS BACK! Warmer temps are creeping up, and with the onset of spring and summer it's time to start considering how we're going to protect our skin from the potential damage of too much sun exposure. If you're like me, you've been slathering or spraying on Coppertone for years because it's cheap, it's easy to find, and it's easy to use. Chances are you know all too well the drill of trying to get your kids to stand still, and screaming "close your eyes, hold your breath!" and then spraying the ever loving crap out of their bodies while trying to get them to rotate around AND also holding your breath because FUMES!
If this is you, like it totally was me, then I'm here to gently provide some crucial information on WHY you might want to rethink your current brand and type of sunscreen(yes, ESPECIALLY the baby targeted products that claim to be for sensitive skin). The sunscreen industry is truly rampant with toxins and false claims about ingredients and sun protection ability. While certain companies continue to work towards more transparency and safer products (I'll share some later), the truth is, there is much we should avoid when selecting the products we're going to wear sometimes daily throughout the summer. Let's talk the why and the science.
Currently, most sunscreens provide protection through one of two mechanisms: Chemical or Mineral. Most sunscreens on the market today are of a chemical nature, especially the spray kind. So what, you might be saying...welllll, here's why chemical protection can pose a significant health risk. Most of the ingredients used in chemical protection formulas contain hormone disruptors, coupled with penetration enhancers that may increase sun protection but also increase the absorption of these harmful chemicals. WHOMP WHOMP.
Let's dive deeper into the science of these chemicals. First and foremost, the FDA only began reviewing ingredients in sunscreens in the 1970s--but guess what, instead of banning anything at that time, it grandfathered in many, many potentially toxic ingredients that were already in use in many products. WHAT?
There are a few chemicals currently allowed in sunscreens that have been extensively known to be harmful in various ways. Oxybenzone is found in almost 65% of non-mineral sunscreens on the market right now AND found to be an estrogen mimicker and provide anti-androgenic effects (anti-male hormone). Several others are known to affect reproduction and development by altering reproductive and thyroid hormone production and utilization. Oxybenzone, as well as several others have been found in human breast milk, telling us that yes, even our unborn and newborn children can be exposed to these potentially harmful substances by our use.
Another harmful ingredient for consideration is methylisothiazolinone, a preservative. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) found this particular chemical in 94 sunscreens, including multiple products geared towards use on our babies and children. Currently, this ingredient is considered UNSAFE in ALL concentrations in the European Union--ie this stuff is NOT allowed to be used in sunscreens in the EU but here in the US, it's still permitted and widely used.
Lastly, lets talk about our beloved spray sunscreens, besides still having all of the toxic possibility of regular ol' chemical based sunscreens, they also take things to a whole other level. The EWG warns people to avoid these products because not only do they pose an absorption risk, but also an inhalation risk through the lungs, and have been found to NOT provide a thick enough barrier for protection anyways! Even the FDA, who has since rarely intervened has threatened to ban these products if companies cannot provide data that they actually protect skin and pose no health risks. That's saying a lot coming from the FDA!
Since 2011, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has actually started to try and bring some more regulation to the use and claims of sunscreen in the US, but we still have a LONG way to go! We still need stronger testing of broad spectrum products--and for reference, half of the products that are currently available for purchase in the US could NEVER be sold in Europe. That really tells us we have a lot of work to do!
Ok, so now that I've told you all about what NOT to use, let's talk about some safer options for you. I bring you MINERAL BASED SUNSCREENS. Mineral based sunscreens use zinc or titanium dioxide as their main sun protectant--these mineral based sunscreens rate better on the EWG database because their is evidence that if any of these minerals absorb into the skin, they rarely penetrate to living tissue...SCORE! But it's also not enough that companies use mineral based sunscreens, they should also make an effort to coat the minerals in inert chemicals to reduce photo activity, this step will help to assure that users don't have skin damage.
WOOHOO! We have safer options! Let's talk about some of the brands I know and trust, and rank really well on the EWG database for safety. Most of you know by now I work for Beautycounter as an advocate because I love the products and what they've done for my skin, what you might NOT know is the other reason is because I love science. I LOVE reading studies, diving into the whys behind things, and this is one of the MAJOR reasons I chose to join the fight to bring safer products into the hands of EVERYONE by becoming an advocate for change in the personal care industry. Beautycounter is DOING THIS--they're holding themselves to the highest standard and fighting to bring those safety standards to the US, who is light years behind safety standards compared to the EU.
They screen EVERY. SINGLE.BATCH. of product that goes out, rather than relying on suppliers, they use the largest database of scientific literature available (the same one the EWG uses) to determine the safety of any ingredient that goes into their products and if a study doesn't exist, they commission their own. They are absolutely dedicated to transparency and the pursuit of safer skincare. There is no greenwashing going on ( a term to describe what some companies do, making false claims about things like "organic" or "natural" or "chemical-free" in an effort to trick consumers). I trust them fully when choosing products that are safer for me and my family to use. So it would make sense that my absolute top picks for safer sunscreen options would be from Beautycounter!
Other than that, there are a few brands that I also can recommend based on the EWG rankings, and personal use! My mission is not that everyone should buy Beautycounter (the truth is some people aren't into it, and that's ABSOLUTELY OK), my mission is to educate and then give you safer options, and if I empower you to make a safer choice that isn't Beautycounter I'm STILL thrilled--I'm ecstatic! See the list below for some of my top finds!
I hope you guys found this incredibly helpful, feel free to visit the EWG's Sunscreen Guide here to dive through their complete list of recommended sunscreens! My motto is always KNOW BETTER, DO BETTER. The more we educate ourselves and arm ourselves with information, we can make better choices for our family with our dollars. Believe it or not this is a powerful tool to advocate for change in the personal care product industry! You can do this!