Finding Safer Sunscreen


Welcome to the 30 Days of Summer – Go-To Guide for Moms!

Day Twenty Nine

I use to be a sun lover – sunscreen was never in my beach bag – it was pure baby oil!  Anyone else remember those days?  I also can recall having a foil like blanket (wish I could remember the name of it) that I would lay down on in order to reflect more of the sun rays onto me to get a deeper and darker tan – quick!  I also was one of those teens that religiously used “Sun-In”, remember, that spray on your hair lightener?  I am dating myself now!

Okay, back to the sunscreen post.  I’ve recently taken a bigger interest in more natural ways to meet the needs of my family, whether with our food, treating illness and injury and now with regard to the use of sunscreen.  A few months back I talked about my favorite sunscreen, Neutrogena Sensitive Skin Suncreen – it was one recommended by my dermatologist in order to help me prevent the symptoms that develop with exposure to the sun with my Lupus.  It has  Titanium Dioxide, which is the active ingredient that helps basically reflect the sun off of your skin.  I loved the product and it worked well.  

After beginning to read more on sunscreen safety and different article with regard to sunscreen actually being the cause of possible skin cancer, I began to look at other chemicals that were also included in sunscreen, which we do not need.  The Environmental Working Group (EWG) issues an annual sunscreen guide, and this year’s updated guide is now available and I spent some time reviewing the guide, looking at the website and discovering more about sunscreen than I ever imagined I wanted to know.

There’s no proof that sunscreens prevent most skin cancer.

Rates of melanoma – the most deadly form of skin cancer – have tripled over the past 35 years. Most scientists and public health agencies – including the FDA itself – have found very little evidence that sunscreen prevents most types of skin cancer-  EWG

Here are some of my concerns:

  • I’ve recently read more on the underlying danger of using some of the sunscreens currently on the market.

  • Using some sunscreens can actually contribute to skin cancer.

  • The added unnecessary chemicals in sunscreens that I’ve used and currently have in my bathroom.

  • Finding sunscreen that is mineral based and free of nano particles and other chemicals that are harmful.

So, if this is all new news to you, I am sure your head is spinning.

Sunblock vs Sunscreen

Let’s clear up this common confusion – the difference between sunscreen and sunblock.   Sunscreen is actually a chemical that works by absorbing into your skin, while sun block provides a physical barrier between UV radiation and your skin, including UVA rays – like the titanium dioxide I mentioned previously that virtually works as a reflector of the suns rays.


What I Tested

I purchased all the sunscreen locally, except for the Hurraw Lip Balm which I purchased through amazon.  I am including amazon links for you so that you may click through the look at the pricing information as well as other reviews on amazon.  That is one thing I love about amazon, reading the reviews before I buy!

Neutrogena Sensitive Skin Sunscreen  Broad Spectrum SPF 30neutrogena-sensitive-skin

This was the sunscreen I was using for several months.  I have since discontinued using it due to the number of unnecessary chemicals it contains that I’ve read about that are harmful and not needed.  I do like that it’s active ingredient is Titanium Dioxide at 9.1%, but the list of other inactive ingredients is a bit concerning.  I could not find this particular item on the EWG guide to find their rating, but a similar product rated a 7.  If you are not concerned with added chemicals, this is a good sunscreen.  It sells on amazon for $21.99, but I have gotten it lower priced on there previously.

kiss-my-face-sunscreenKiss My Face Sunscreen with Hydresia Broad Spectrum SPF 40

Since I have to put sunscreen on my face several times a day, even on cloudy days, I was looking to find one that I could use effectively on my face but would also not make me white as a ghost.  I was very happy with this sunscreen for that matter.  It was a low EWG rating of 2 and it contained both Titanium Dioxide 7.5% as well as Zinc Oxide 10%.  It was easy to apply and went on smooth, not clumping and not creating a white paste on my face.  This is a keeper in my department for everyday sunscreen.  This sells for $12.74 on amazon, but is available with subscribe and save and the 20% discount with 5 or more items in a month shipment, reducing the cost to only $10.19 – which is a great deal!

Badger Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Zinc Oxide Sunscreen Lotionbadger-sunscreen

I was pleased with this sunscreen as well.  It had an EWG rating of 1, which was great and I found that it rubbed in well, was not greasy and had a nice consistency.  It is completely Zinc Oxide at 12%, which makes it a bit ‘whiter’ in color, so is not my first choice for my face, but for overall coverage on arms, legs and feet, it fits the need.  It is a bit more expensive, selling for $17.54 on amazon, but I believe I paid less in my local Central Market.  Even with the higher price, I will purchase this item again since I am very comfortable with it being a safe product for me and my family.

goddess-garden-sunscreenGoddess Garden Organics Sunny Body Natural Sunscreen 30

I have to say that after trying the Goddess Garden product below, I was hesitant about this one – but honestly it blew me away.  With regard to a sunscreen that is easy to apply for kids and to kids, this one hit the mark.  I was very pleased with the non-aerosol spray – making it perfect to spray on and rub in -both for me applying it to my 3 year old and other kids using it.  It did not make a mess and the top locks into place keeping it secure from spraying when you do not want it to.  It rubs in well and coverage is good.  I could not find this exact product on the EWG, but I am certain it would rate between a 1-2 with regard to the Goddess products and their ratings.  This is the most expensive of the sunscreen’s I purchased, but it is also a 6 oz size and I feel with the spray there is a bit less waste.  Amazon sells it for $18.61, which is about what I paid locally.  I would highly recommend this for a general sunscreen for the entire family.  It will be a standard for our family.

Goddess Garden Facial Sunscreen SPF 30 Broad Spectrumgoddess-garden-facial-sunscreen

I was excited to try this product, as it was a “facial” sunscreen.  I was very disappointed.  It was clumpy and not easy to spread evenly on my face.  Actually it was very irritating to me that a product marketed as a facial sunscreen would be so difficult to use.  It does have a EWG rating of 2, which is good, but even with that rating you have to be able to feel good about using it and the product needs to be easy to use – which it is not.  I may even try returning it to my local store I was so dissatisfied.  Amazon sells this for $16.19 – I would highly recommend you avoid this product!  I do not agree with the reviewer on amazon.

Hurraw-lip-balmHurraw! Sun Protection Balm SPF 15

My family uses Young Living Lip Balm which we love, but it does not have sunscreen as part of the ingredients.  Being a family that hangs out at the beach, we need a sunscreen to use while on the sand that can help keep our lips from burning.  I did a bit of reading and wanted to try Hurraw Lip Balm.  I ordered the Tangerine Chamomile and it is to die for!  It smells wonderful and did a great job protecting my lips while down in New Mexico.  It sells for $7.95 on amazon (including the shipping) and it is totally worth the price.  This will be stocked in our medicine cabinet for sure.  I did not find this product on the EWG, but I cannot image that it would rate high, it’s active ingredient is non-nano zinc oxide at 10%.

Obviously I’ve only touched the surface here with sunscreens.  I chose a few that I could grab locally and then tried them out.  There are hundreds of products out there, my goal here was to find ones that were mineral based, low EWG ratings and were not cost prohibitive.  I realize these sunscreens are most expensive than generic brands of everyday “coppertone” sunscreens, but in this venue I truly to do believe you get what you pay for.

If you’re looking for a sunblock that’s right for your family — or to see how your current brand stacks up — Katie from Kitchen Stewardship tested more than 25 natural sunblocks and shared her results.  I urge you to do your own research and determine if what you are currently using is a good fit and is worth the risk you may find out about.  I decided what I was using was not worth the risk of allowing more chemicals into my body, but as a mom – you have to make the right decision for your family.

You can also go over to the Environmental Working Group’s website and look at their 2013 Sunscreen Guide and their Top Sunscreen top sunscreen recommendations (and a ton of information about current research!) – be prepared to stay awhile – grab a cup of coffee and a snack!

Other great articles:

How does your family navigate sun safety?

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