By Terri Bennett
(MCT)—One of the best parts of the summer for me is hitting the lake with family and friends. I love relaxing on the water and feeling the sun on my skin. What I don’t love is jumping through hurdles to find the safest sunscreen among all the different varieties on store shelves. This year though, sunscreen manufacturers are required to make a few important changes to their sunscreen labels. While these changes will help you Do Your Part to make the healthiest sunscreen choice for your family, there’s still plenty of homework for you.
Let’s start with the label changes. Last year, the Federal Drug Administration informed the makers of sunscreen that by June, some of the claims on their packaging needed to be revised. However, while you will see many changes now, that deadline has recently been pushed back to December because of sunscreen shortage concerns. The new guidelines will force manufacturers to stop claiming that their sunscreen is sweat-proof or waterproof. That’s because those claims influenced people’s decisions to not reapply sunscreen after getting in the water. Also, products labeled “Broad Spectrum” must meet the FDA’s standards for protecting against both types of ultraviolet rays, UVA and UVB. Anti-aging products will also have to be “Broad Spectrum” with a Sun Protection Factor, or SPF of at least 15.
Now, while these changes to the outside of the sunscreen package will help consumers, the FDA is not requiring changes to deal with the potentially dangerous ingredients found inside the bottle and that’s what worries me the most. If you look at the label of most sunscreens, you’ll see oxybenzone listed as an active ingredient. Here’s the problem: Once absorbed into the skin, oxybenzone can be easily converted to free radicals when exposed to sunlight. Those free radicals in our skin can lead to everything from wrinkles to cancer.
Your best option is to find sunscreen without oxybenzone. Mineral-based sunscreen containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide provide powerful protection without the health concerns. However, finding these safer sunscreens takes a little work. When I went shopping for sunscreen a few weeks ago, I checked dozens of bottles before I found one without oxybenzone. And, one word of warning, don’t be tempted by the new spray and powder sunscreen options. As you apply, the particles can easily get into your lungs.
So, how can you find the right sunscreen for you? The Environmental Working Group makes it easy at www.ewg.org. Each year they update their database where you can search by specific brand name to see how it rates. You can even download a free app to make it super simple to check specific sunscreen while you’re shopping.
A little extra work will help you Do Your Part to keep your family safe in the hot summer sun.
Terri Bennett is a national speaker, eco-expert, and author of “Do Your Part: A practical guide for everyday green living” available at DoYourPart.com.
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