Cleaner Living: Best Sunscreens for 2013

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Our sunscreens need to hold up to sun, water, AND pavement!
Photo Credit: Dena Fleno

So it is no secret that I turn to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) as a source for information on what is in conventional products and what effects certain chemicals can have on our (and our kids’) bodies.  When it comes to sun protection, their Sunscreen Guide is my go-to source for making sure the ones I pick are safe and effective.

The task of purchasing sunscreen can be daunting.  Usually it entails a HUGE assortment of bottles, cans, and colors by an end-cap that is somehow always strategically placed next to completely unnecessary toys and collectibles that your child!  This leaves mom about 2.2 seconds to read labels and just give up and grab the first one that looks semi decent and get out before Susie “has to go pee” for the 11 billionth time.  Don’t get me wrong, any sunscreen is ALWAYS better than NO sunscreen, but there are some pretty harmful things lurking in those bottles that can actually be just as harmful as a sunburn.

During my toxins series last year, I highlighted two chemicals, Oxybenzone and Retinyl Palmitate, that are prevalent in sunscreens, and can leave you more exposed to unwanted health risks than slathering on some baby oil.   Oxybenzone is a known to penetrate the skin, get into the bloodstream, and act like estrogen when illuminated (ie, playing in the sun).  Retinyl palmitate (aka. Vitamin A, retinol) may be in your anti-aging cream, but when exposed to the sun can actually speed up the development of skin tumors and lesions.

So, with the unofficial start of summer, Memorial Day, coming this weekend, and now that I having added “Get Non-Cancerous Sunscreen” to your to-do list, I will try to help make that shopping trip a little easier.  EWG has a list of the best sunscreens they rated, however many of them are VERY expensive, come in a size comparable to a chapstick tube, and/or are impossible to find anywhere but online.  I have compiled a list of some those on the EWG “best of” list based on them being personal favorites or faves of other bloggers) and to them being cost-effective and fairly easy to find in the stores.  Hope this make your choice a bit easier!

sunscreen table
Table Created by: Dena Fleno
Photos from product websites

Other tips:

  • Don’t be fooled by high SPF numbers!  It has been found that anything over SPF 50 is a crock o’ you-know-what.  Get the 50 and reapply, reapply, reapply.
  • If you already have sunscreen, check the EWG list to see how it stacks up for safety!
  • Just because you find a safe sunscreen don’t assume that all of the formulations in that brand are safe!
  • If you find your safe brand of sunscreen at the Dollar Store or the little shop by the beach, make sure you check the labels.  Many brands are new to the safer formulations and the one you find at Ocean State Job Lots (which I love, btw) may be last year’s version!
  • You can find some great sun protecting products like umbrellas, and sun-suits to cut down on reapplication if you will be spending a day outside!  See my post from last year for recommendations!

Do you have a favorite safe sunscreen not on the list?  Leave it in the comments!


5 thoughts on “Cleaner Living: Best Sunscreens for 2013

  1. Interesting re: the Coppertone Water Babies. We have leftover from last year and also bought new bottles this year. Whenever we use the new stuff, we notice that my daughter has been breaking out in hives and we all said that it’s unlikely to be the sunscreen since we’ve used it for two summers in a row. It’s interesting you say that the formulation is new – I’ll have to look into this more to see what’s changed. Thanks for the heads up!

  2. I actually was meaning to research safe sunscreens this week so thanks for doing the dirty work for me! I’m so glad some of these are easily accessible in stores.

    1. This was a big debate in our house bc my husband’s dermatologist said the most protective sunscreens have avobenzene as an ingredient, but most of those also have oxybenzone. We ended up with: CVS oil free sun stick, banana boat kids spray, and copper tone water babies pure and simple. The banana boat and the stick have avobenzene.

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