Protect Yourself, Screen Your Sunscreen

07 Jul


Most people I know lather on the sunscreen before going out in the sun. But are you really doing the right thing by coating yourself with sun tan lotion? Maybe not!

If you think you are protecting yourself from harmful sun rays, skin cancer and lowering associated health risks with a push of the suntan spray nozzle you better think again. Reading the labels on your suntan lotion (just like reading food labels) can help you pick the safest most effective sunscreen options across the board.

Skin cancer effects more than 2 million Americans each year despite the fact that sunscreen is a $1.3 billion industry (IBIS World). In fact, melanoma (the deadliest form of skin cancer) has tripled over the past 45 years.


  1. Active ingredients that are commonly used, such as oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate may be hazardous to health. Please see the chart provided by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), Thyroid, sex hormones, endocrine system, skin allergies are all associate with these hormone disruptors.
  1. The sun protection factor (SPF) rating only refers to ultraviolet B rays (UVB) NOT UVA rays. Blocking UVB rays will protect the skin from a sun burn and squamous cell cancer but not against the other types of skin conditions and cancers.  Protecting skin from UVA rays is not simple because they radiate deeper into the skin tissue. Keep in mind, ingredients that help provide higher levels of UVB protection do not mix well with those that protect against UVA rays so typically they are not used together.
  1. While a higher SPF may block UVB rays, this also means that there are higher concentrations of the controversial ingredients that may affect your health.
  1. Sunscreen additives, like vitamin A (retinyl palmitate or retinoic acid) are there for cosmetic (anti-aging) purposes, however evidence suggests that the combination of sunlight and vitamin A may actually increase free radical damage that change DNA and increase skin cancer risk. The National Toxicology Program (the inter-agency federal research group) and the federal Food and Drug Administration’s National Center for Toxicological Research used retinyl palmitate in lotion that was used on lab animals who were exposed to the equivalent of nine minutes of maximum intensity sunlight every day for a year (NTP 2009). At the end of the study, they found developing cancer and skin tumors “dramatically accelerated”, You can do what you want with the information. You are likely not exposed to “maximum intensity sunlight” for 365 days and certainly you are not a lab animal but I prefer to always be cautious where there may be a question on things that potentiate illness.
  1. When tested by EWG, 4 out of 5 brands tested did not measure up to their skin protection claims. Do not get lulled into a false sense of security just because you use sun screen.



  1. The best way to avoid health conditions that are associated with sun exposure is to stay out of the sun and plan activities earlier or later in the day. Use the afternoon for a siesta!
  1. Better sun screen options are zinc oxide (yes it is messy and thick but the safest and most effective option) or titanium dioxide with a 30 SFF.
  1. Read the label to screen your sunscreen. Do not just buy UVB SPF, it should also read UVA, broad spectrum, or multi-spectrum protection.
  1. Reapply, sunscreen as directed. Even sports and waterproof sunscreens need to be re-applied as often as directed.
  1. When it comes to sunscreen, it does not always follow the rule, you get what you pay for. Don’t think that a cheaper brand is any less effective than a more expensive brand. Some brands are cheaper and still contain safe ingredients.

Have your fun in the sun but protect yourself. If you would like to know how the EWG rates your lotion or use it to pick the best lotion option, click here, Be an educated consumer and enjoy your summer!

WANNA READ MORE? These are interesting links too, and,


Posted by on July 7, 2014 in skin cancer, sun tan lotion


Tags: , , ,

2 responses to “Protect Yourself, Screen Your Sunscreen

  1. Valerie Berkowitz

    June 20, 2016 at 9:29 am

  2. Valerie Berkowitz

    June 20, 2016 at 9:30 am


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