Our safe and effective sunscreen guide
Will You be Outside this 4th of July? Best Sunscreens & Why & Tips to Keep Your Skin Healthy.
What you may not know is that you first want to try to avoid sunscreen if at all possible - The first line of defense against sun overexposure are as follows:
1. Shield Your Skin: Wear hats, shirts, shorts, and pants to avoid the sun's uv rays to avoid skin burns.
2. Time of Day: Plan to spend your time outdoors in the morning or evening when the sun is lower in the sky.
3. Shade: Find shade or make it.
4. Sunglasses: Sunglasses protect your eyes from uv radiation.
5. Check the uv Index: The uv index is the standard measurement of the strength of sunburn - producing ultraviolet radiation at a particular place & time.
1-2 low: no protection required; burn time: 1 + hours
3-5 moderate: hat, sunglasses, spf 15; burn time: 40 minutes
6-7 high risk: hat, sunscreen, spf 30, clothing; burn time: 30 minutes
8-10 very high risk: hat, sunscreen, spf 30, clothing; burn time: 20 minutes
11 + extreme high risk: take all precautions possible; burn time: less than 15 minutes
Sunscreens: All the facts
Gaia beliefs on sunscreens align with those of the EWG (environmental working group). The 5 factors to look at when choosing a sunscreen are -
- Health hazards associated with listed ingredients, based on a review of nearly 60 standard industry, academic, government regulatory and toxicity databases.
- UVB protection – using SPF rating as the indicator of effectiveness.
- UVA protection – using a standard industry absorbance model.
- Balance of UVA/UVB protection – using the ratio of UVA absorbance to SPF.
- Sunscreen stability – how quickly an ingredient breaks down in the sun, using an in-house stability database compiled from published findings of industry and peer-reviewed stability studies.
Active ingredients in sunscreens function as either mineral or chemical UV filters that keep harmful rays from the skin. They should not be irritating or cause skin allergies, and should be able to withstand UV radiation without losing their effectiveness or forming possibly harmful breakdown products. In recent FDA testing, all non-mineral sunscreen chemicals are absorbed into the body and could be measured in blood after just a single use, and many sunscreen ingredients have been detected in breast milk and urine samples.
Avoid sunscreens that contain the following ingredients:
- Oxybenzone – This chemical absorbs and filters UV light and is therefore a common ingredient in sunscreen, despite causing relatively high rates of skin allergies. It also penetrates the skin at very high rates and acts like estrogen once it enters your bloodstream, disrupting your endocrine system, reducing sperm production, and potentially causing endometriosis.
- Octinoxate – Octinoxate is also readily absorbed via the skin and also disrupts your endocrine system by mimicking hormonal activity that can affect the reproductive system and thyroid.
- Retinyl Palmitate – A form of Vitamin A, this chemical is used in a large number of sunscreens and SPF- containing moisturizers and lip balms because it is believed to slow skin aging. But, when exposed to sunlight, it has been shown to speed the development of malignant cells and skin tumors because UV rays cause the compound to break down and produce destructive free radicals.
- Homosalate – This common ingredient also helps sunscreen penetrate your skin and disrupts hormone balances. It can accumulate in your body faster than your body can detoxify it through your liver, lingering in your body and increasing your toxic burden.
- Octocrylene – This is yet another ingredient that is easily absorbed by the skin and produces free radicals that can cause mutations and damage cells when exposed to UV rays.
- Methylisothiazolinone: Lab studies indicate that methylisothiazolinone is a skin sensitizer or allergen. Over the past several years, physicians have reported serious cases of skin allergies, most notably in children exposed to this chemical by baby wipes and products meant to be left on the skin (Chang 2014). The American Contact Dermatitis Society named methylisothiazolinone its “allergen of the year” in 2013.
- Parabens – Parabens are a group of synthetic compounds commonly added to cosmetics and body products because they prevent the growth of fungus and bacteria. They are dangerous because, like so many ingredients in this list, they disrupt hormone functions, potentially leading to increased risk of breast cancer and reproductive toxicity.
Does high SPF (50+) actually provide better protection? NO
5 Key Strikes Against 50+ SPF Sunscreens:
Poor Balance: Higher SPF products offer less protection against UVA rays than UVB rays. UVA exposure suppresses the immune system, causes harmful free radicals to form in skin, and is associated with higher risk of developing melanoma.
Misuse: High-SPF products tend to lull users into staying in the sun longer with a false sense of security and overexposing themselves to both UVA and UVB rays well past the point when users of low-SPF products would head indoors. As a result, they get as many UVB-inflicted sunburns as unprotected sunbathers and are likely to absorb more damaging UVA radiation.
Sunburn protection that is only marginally better. Sunbathers often assume they get twice as much protection from SPF 100 sunscreen as from SPF 50. But the extra protection is negligible. Properly applied SPF 50 sunscreen blocks 98 percent of UVB rays; SPF 100 blocks 99 percent. When used correctly, sunscreen with SPF values between 30 and 50 offers adequate sunburn protection, even for people most sensitive to sunburn.
High-SPF products may not really be high SPF. When Procter & Gamble tested a competitor’s SPF 100 product at five different labs, the results varied, from SPF 37 to SPF 75.
The company concluded that SPF values should be capped at 50+, because the current system is “at best, misleading to consumers” and “may inappropriately influence their purchase decision” (P&G 2011). The FDA recently proposed a cap of 60+.
High-SPF products may pose greater health risks. High-SPF products require higher concentrations of sun-filtering chemicals than low-SPF sunscreens do. Some of these ingredients may pose health risks when they penetrate the skin and have been linked to tissue damage and potential hormone disruption. Some may trigger allergic skin reactions. If studies showed that high-SPF products were better at reducing skin damage and skin cancer risk, the extra chemical exposure might be justified. But they don’t, so choosing sunscreens with lower concentrations of active ingredients – SPF 30 instead of SPF 70, for example – is prudent.
Kids & Babies - https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/best-kids-sunscreens/
Moisturizers w/ SPF - https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/best-sunscreens/best-moisturizers-with-spf/
Find more details on Sunscreen safety on EWG's website at