SUNSCREENS are they bad for you?

Are sunscreens bad for you?  Possibly.
There are two major factors that make most sunscreens currently available in the United States potentially harmful to your health:  (1) they do not protect against both UVA and UVB damage, and (2) most formulations contain chemicals that are likely to be harmful by either accelerating growth of cancerous cells in the presence of sunlight (Retinyl Palmitate, or retinol) or hormone disruption (oxybenzone, 4-MBC, e.g.).  Studies have shown that those who use sunscreens actually may increase their risk of developing melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer (which may be the result of simply spending more time in the sun and using a sunscreen that does not block UVA and UVB rays).
What to do?
Clearly the most prudent thing to do is wear protective clothing/ hat when out in the sun and avoid sun exposure during the most intense hours of the day (10am-2pm), but this is just not realistic (or fun) for most people.  Here are some simple tips to avoid the pitfalls of sunscreen use:

Tips:

1.  Choose mineral sunscreens listing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as the active ingredients.  Alternatively, if you cannot stand mineral based sunscreens, choose Mexoryl SX (ecamsule) or avobenzone, which have safer profiles than other “chemical” sunscreen ingredients.  All of these ingredients offer some protection against both UVA and UVB rays.

2. Avoid Retinyl Palmitate (or retinol), a form of vitamin A which may actually accelerate the growth of cancerous cells in the presence of sunlight.

3. Avoid oxybenzone or 4-MBC, known hormone disruptors.

4. Avoid spray formulations, which are easily inhaled (and likely to be absorbed), with unknown consequences (these sunscreens are approved by the FDA for topical application only, and are not tested when absorbed through lungs).

An excellent resource is the Environmental Working Group website, which has a more thorough discussion of nanoparticles in sunscreens, ingredient toxicities, and ratings for many sunscreens currently available in US:  http://breakingnews.ewg.org/2011sunscreen/

BOTTOM LINE:  We use only mineral based sunscreens and find that All Terrain Aqua Sport SPF 30 (active ingredient=zinc oxide 16%) goes on easily, has no scent and offers excellent sun protection.  We buy ours online, but this brand is available at most Whole Foods or other specialty health food stores.