Everybody's Free to Wear a Better Sunscreen

I am quite melanin-challenged (red hair, pale skin, freckles, etc.). I also spend a lot of time out in the sun gardening, hiking, biking or skiing so I use my fair share of sunscreen. Frankly, I haven't spent a lot of time worrying about sunscreen because I very rarely get a sunburn. It turns out that was a mistake. Thanks to the Environmental Working Group there is a report that compares the relative safety and effectiveness of sunscreens.

Many, many years ago I once tried to 'lay out' to get a tan. Fortunately, I got bored after a few minutes and went to do something else. At best I would have been covered in freckles and at worst I would have had a nasty sunburn. But, I still spend a lot of time outdoors and often in the mountains. I've been using sunscreen for years, assuming that I would avoid skin cancer. I've discovered that there is much more to sunscreen than the SPF rating.

Here are nine surprising factoids from the EWG 2011 Sunscreen Report:

  1. There’s no consensus on whether sunscreens prevent skin cancer.
  2. There’s some evidence that sunscreens might increase the risk of the deadliest form of skin cancer for some people.
  3. There are more high SPF products than ever before, but no proof that they’re better.
  4. Too little sun might be harmful, reducing the body’s vitamin D levels.
  5. The common sunscreen ingredient vitamin A may speed the development of cancer.
  6. Free radicals and other skin-damaging byproducts of sunscreen.
  7. Pick your sunscreen: nanomaterials or potential hormone disruptors.
  8. Europe has better sunscreens.
  9. This is 34th summer in a row without final U.S. sunscreen safety regulations.

Now, I'm off to buy a new tube of sunscreen from the 'Top-Rated Beach & Sport' list and retire the questionable stuff I've been using. Then I'm headed back into the beautiful, if high-UV exposure, mountain environment that I love.

More Info:

Environmental Working Group: 2011 Sunscreen Report

FDA announces new requirements for over-the-counter (OTC) sunscreen products marketed in the U.S.

Wikipedia: Sunscreen

Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)