Natural Parenting

3 Tips to Ditch Dangerous Sunscreen

brunette girl sitting in beach chair applies sunscreen from a bottleIt’s sunscreen season—there are aisles devoted to it in drugstores and stacks at supermarket checkout stands.

A new study published in Pediatrics shows that melanoma rates have increased among children and teens at two percent a year from 1973 to 2009—the American Cancer Society predicts that the condition will affect nearly 80,000 people in 2013.

Yes you know that UVA fights aging and UVB combats burning. But do you know what’s safe—and what works? You could get a degree in toxicology and try to decipher the ingredient list on the back of the bottle, or you could take the lazy mom’s way out.

After a 34-year effort to regulate sunscreens, the FDA finally established some logical protocol, which went into effect at the end of 2012. Here’s how:

1. Avoid “fragrance,” typically synthetic phthalates linked to endocrine disruption—meaning they mess up your hormones.

2. Stay away from “oxybenzone,” another hormone disruptor, which is easily absorbed through the skin into the body and contaminates 97% of Americans, according to the CDC. It’s also known as “Parsol 1789.”

3. Check out brands on the Environmental Working Group’s latest Guide to Safer Sunscreens.

According to Ken Cook, President of EWG, the sunscreen picture seems to be getting better.  “We’re giving our stamp of approval to 1-in-4 of the more than 800 sunscreens reviewed,” he said in 2012, “a nice jump from last year’s 1-in-5 and an incredible leap from the 1-in-12 of 2010.”

And the news gets even better. After a 34-year effort to regulate sunscreens, the FDA finally established some logical protocol, which went into effect at the end of 2012. Manufacturers must now test for UVA and UVB protection; those that pass will get a “broad spectrum” SPF rating. If the SPF is 15 or higher, the sunscreen can market that it reduces the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging. Less than SPF 15 will only be able to say they prevent sunburn.

But what about those “sweatproof” and “waterproof” labels on goop that’s anything but, and the hormone-disrupting fragrance and/or oxybenzone in pretty much every non-mineral sunscreen on the market?

Or the fact that the FDA found links between vitamin A and cancer, yet manufacturers continue to slap the stuff in one-fourth of the sunscreens tested?

For those questions, you have to do your research so you won’t get burned. But as for the screen itself, here are a few ranked lowest by EWG that I love:

I use Green Babies SPF 30 Zinc Oxide Pomegranate Sunscreen-Unscented every day on my face. Although it’s zinc, it rubs in clear and doesn’t block my pores. I also slather it on my entire family’s face and body before we go to the beach.

My husband likes Thinksport Livestrong Sunscreen SPF 50+, Water Resistant, 3 ounces, probably because of the very masculine yellow label.

And for on the go application, nothing beats a spray like All Terrain KidSport SPF30 Oxybenzone-Free Natural Sunscreen Spray- Disney Phineas and Ferb (3-Ounce). Yes, the spray makes for higher potential toxicity, because kids can inhale it while you’re applying, so just make sure they hold their breaths for the seconds that you’re spraying.