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An Easy to Understand Sunscreen Guide

June 6, 2011

There are a wide variety amount of sunscreen brands currently available at both drug stores and gourmet markets, that it can be hard to know which is the best product.  The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has come up with a guide to understanding sunscreen, as well as a system to rate the effectiveness and safety of sunscreens.

Sunscreen is a liquid, spray, or topical product that absorbs and reflects some of the UV rays from the sun.  Sunscreen contains many ingredients, some more toxic than others.  Normally sunscreen will have an organic chemical to absorb UV light, an inorganic chemical to reflect the UV light, and/or organic particles that both absorb and reflect the UV light.  There are two types of sunscreen according to the chemicals used – physical and chemical sunscreen.  Physical sunscreens are those sun blocks that reflect the UV light while chemical sunscreens are those that absorb the UV light.

Sunscreens are rated by their Sun Protection Factor (SPF), which is a measurement of the protection against UVB rays.  The SPF is the amount of the UV radiation required to cause a sunburn with the sunscreen on, relative to the amount required without the sunscreen.  SPF does not relate to the amount of time the sunscreen is effective for.  There are many factors that go into which sunscreen is best for an individual such as skin type, frequency of application and activities one is engaging in.

Some of the biggest issues with wearing sunscreen are the consistency, the smell, and the fashion of wearing sunscreen.  Sunscreen can be very oily or thick which can make it unpleasant to put on.  Most sunscreens also have a fairly similar smell that some find unappealing.  The last problem is what sunscreen looks like once put on.  When putting sunscreen on the face it can leave an oily residue, which leaves the face looking oily.  If one uses sunscreen with natural minerals (such as zinc) it can leave a white color, which is hard to rub out.  Sunscreen can be hard to wear.

Recently chemicals have been found in sunscreens that can be potential hormone disruptors.  The main chemical to watch out for is Oxybenzone.  This chemical has been found to create free radicals, which can change into photocarcinogens when illuminated, which is a substance that causes cancer.

The EWG created a guide according to the best UVA protection without chemicals that are considered to be a potential hormone disruptor.  They rated the sunscreen 1 – 10, with 1-2 being low hazard, 3-6 being moderate hazard and 7-10 being high hazard.  EWG also lists a data score, which are the amount of scientific literature on the product as well as the scope of the ingredient safety. They have both mineral and non-mineral guides as well as guides for certain activities such as swimming or sports.  EWG has also created guides for make-up, skin care, hair products, eye care, fragrance, and oral care.

A great alternative to wearing high hazard sunscreens is to wear sun apparel clothing.  It offers a fashionable alternative to having to lather up yourself and the little ones.  Sun Protection Zone offers lightweight, all season protection from the sun for both adults and children.  The apparel can be worn in the water, and it has SPF 100/UPF 50+ rating.  Check out our variety of sun apparel clothing such as hats, rash guards, and sunglasses at http://www.sunprotectionzone.com.

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