Monday, April 23, 2012

Is your sunblock worse for you than the sun?

When I was a kid, nobody wore sunblock. In fact, we put baby oil on to get tan faster. Every once in a while some dork would wear zinc oxide on his nose and we would all have a laugh. I spent my summers peeling skin off the tip of my nose and counting freckles.

When I was about 12, this stuff came out called “Pre-Sun” that blocked the sun’s burning rays. It was alcohol-based and it stung like… well… it stung like alcohol on a sunburned face. I remember screaming and crying at the base of the mountain in Squaw when my parents pinned me down and slapped it on my reddened nose and cheeks.

Things have changed. My kids look like porcelain dolls all summer long. They freak out if they get the slightest bit pink. They ask for sunblock. Sunblock is good, right? Slather it on! The more the better….

But could it be that what’s in your favorite sunblock is actually worse for you than the sun?

Something like 60% of sunblocks on the market contain a hormone disruptor which some experts warn “ should not be applied to large areas of the skin”. Others contain Vitamin A, which is an additive that can actually accelerate the growth of skin tumors and lesions.

Thankfully, the Environmental Working Group puts out a yearly list of sunscreens that are not actually toxic. Most of them are mineral based. Looks like those zinc-oxide dorks were on to something.

They also publish a “Hall of shame” list. This year, the first four on the “most toxic” list are all marketed specifically towards babies. Including “ Waterbabies” that cute pink bottle with the Coppertone girl in pigtails and the playful little dog yanking on her undies. Who hasn’t had a bottle of that in their diaper bag at some point?

No one wants to slather their children in hormone disruptors, but for kids with special needs, who are sometimes bad detoxifiers, it could be is even more harmful.

So last summer, I printed out the EWG list and went to Whole foods and sat on the floor with the tester bottles and picked one that I liked.  Some of the mineral-based sunblocks can be kind of pasty and hard to put on squirmy little kids. So I went through them all until I found one I liked. If you want to switch your sunblock, but don't want to go through all that or, if you want to order online, the brand I chose was California Baby. 

Here are the links to the EWG website:

Top sunblocks:

And the infamous “Hall of shame”: