Is Sunscreen Really Protecting You? Here's What the Companies Don't Want You to Know.

Photo credit: Rajmani Sinclair

Photo credit: Rajmani Sinclair

With only 6 more days until Memorial Day, it's time to start thinking about sunscreen and skin protection again. As you take to the beach (or pool, river or lake) in the coming days and months, have you stopped to consider how you will protect your skin this summer?

Over the past 10 years, several studies have shown that many sunscreens are actually toxic and do not necessarily protect us from sunburns or skin cancers. In fact, when people end up relying on sunscreens that boast extra SPF and extended protection, they tend to stay out in the sun for extended periods of time, thereby damaging their skin more. 

Photos credit: Shutter Stock

Photos credit: Shutter Stock

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) just published their 10th annual guide to sunscreen in which they list the best and worst sunscreens on the market in the US. The EWG also clearly states that the use of sunscreen should be the last resort in terms of sun protection. Before resorting to sunscreen they suggest these tips: 

  1. Wear ClothesShirts, hats, shorts and pants shield your skin from the sun’s UV rays, reducing risk by at least 27%.
  2. Find Shade or Make ItPicnic under a tree or take a canopy to the beach. Keep infants in the shade, reducing the risk of multiple burns by 30%.
  3. Sunglasses are EssentialNot just a fashion accessory, sunglasses protect your eyes from UV radiation.
  4. Plan Around the SunGo outdoors in early morning or late afternoon when the sun is lower in the sky.
  5. Don't Get BurnedRed, sore, blistered skin means you’ve gotten far too much sun.
  6. Check the UV IndexThe UV Index provides important information to help you plan your outdoor activities in ways that prevent sun overexposure.

While these tips may seem to put a damper on your summer plans, following these guidelines as much as you can will keep your skin healthy and more protected from both burns and skin cancer in the long run. 

Photo Credit: Shutter Stock

Photo Credit: Shutter Stock

If you must be out in the sun for long periods of time and do not want to follow the tips listed above, then do wear sunscreen. When choosing the safest sunscreen, here are some things to keep in mind: 

  • There is no proof that sunscreen prevents skin cancer
  • Don't let high SPFs fool you
  • Vitamin A - a commonly used sunscreen additive - may actually promote the development of skin cancer
  • European Sunscreens proved better UVA protection than American sunscreens
  • Sunscreen doesn't protect the skin from all types of sun damage
  • If you avoid the sun, check your vitamin D levels. If they're low, consider taking Vitamin D supplements

To learn more about these topics, check out this in-depth article on the "8 little known facts about sunscreen."

For lists of the best sunscreens for adults and children visit the EWG website, where they rank sunscreens in terms of safety and effectiveness. 

Written by Rajmani Sinclair, May 24, 2016