means picnics, jumping off the dock, boat rides and lots more
outdoor fun in the sun.
those long hours spent soaking up rays can lead to painful
sunburn ó or worse. Melanoma rates have tripled over the
past three decades, according to the National Cancer
Institute. And just a few bad sunburns in childhood can double
your risk of getting skin cancer later in life.
good sunscreen can help protect skin from exposure to harmful
ultraviolet rays. But with about 750 sunscreens on the market,
the choices are daunting.
us better navigate the sunscreen aisle, we turned to the
Environmental Working Group (EWG). The consumer watchdog
organization just released its annual sunscreen guide (ewg.org/sunscreen),
finding that nearly three-quarters of the products tested this
year offered inadequate protection or contained ingredients
that may harm the skin.
some careful label reading, itís possible to pick an able
sun-blocking partner to help you and your family stay safe
this summer. Here are the answers to common questions about
much should I use?
than you think. The SPF values listed on the product labels
are measured using a very thick coating of the product,
explained Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst with EWG.
youíre putting on a lot, youíre not going to get close to
the value on the bottle," she said. Recommended amounts
vary depending on the size of the person and skin exposure,
but in general, an adult wearing a swimsuit needs the
equivalent of a shot glass full of sunscreen.
important as how much to use is how often to apply it. Because
sunscreen tends to rub or wash off ó thereís no such thing
as a waterproof sunscreen ó itís best to reapply every two
about products that combine bug spray with sunscreen?
reason, said St. Paul dermatologist Dr. Pierre George, is that
sunscreen should be applied every couple of hours. Insect
repellents typically contain DEET, a strong chemical that
could reach toxic levels if applied to the skin as frequently
as sunscreen. He suggests using two separate products, rubbing
the sunscreen on first. Then add the bug spray ó and itís
better to apply it to clothing rather than directly onto the
skin. Reapply separately, as needed, being careful not to
overdo it with the bug spray.
ingredients are effective ó and safe?
Sunscreens typically fall into two categories: mineral-based
with minerals are better for kids because they produce lower
rates of skin allergies and reactions, Lunder advised.
Typically, they contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as
active ingredients. Products with zinc oxide also hold up
better than chemical sunscreens, which tend to break down
under the sun.
downside with mineral sunscreens is they usually leave a
white, chalky residue on skin, causing some people to avoid
out for two common ó and potentially toxic ó ingredients:
oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate. Oxybenzone is a hormone
disrupter that mimics estrogen.
palmitate, a form of Vitamin A, is said to bolster the bodyís
defense system against ultraviolet A rays. But, Lunder
cautioned, a federal study found that animals exposed to this
ingredient and UV light had more skin tumors and lesions than
other animals whose skin was not treated with it.
level of SPF protection do I need?
sunscreens claim they have SPF values of greater than 50. But
the EWG report took issue with those claims, noting that other
countries have banned products with SPF values higher than 50.
sunscreen can reliably protect you for more than two
hours," Lunder said, "so nobody needs an SPF value
of higher than 50."
what age can I start putting sunscreen on my child?
months. Children younger than that have very tender skin.
"Kids overheat quickly at that age," Lunder said.
"Itís much better to cover them up and keep them out of
Sprays are popular, especially with parents who know how hard
it is to get complete coverage on fidgety kids. But Lunder
said lotions offer better coverage than sprays, which provide
only a light coating of protection. He also warned that with
spray cans, itís easy for you or your child to accidentally
inhale the chemicals emitted as you apply it.
else can I do to protect my skin from sun damage?
of sunscreen as a last resort.
shade and staying out of the direct sun during peak hours ó
10 a.m. to 2 p.m. ó offers the best protection. Another
foolproof method: Cover up. Wear a hat, sunglasses and
a light shirt offers better and more stable protection from UV
rays than sunscreen," Lunder said. "Our goal is for
people to have a more realistic expectation of what kind of
protection sunscreen offers ó to not rely on it as a first
line of defense."