July 03, 2012

It's a sunscreen jungle out there — don't get burned



It used to be so much easier to pick a sunscreen in the "olden" days. I just went to the drugstore and picked up a tube of Coppertone, Sea 'n Ski, or one of the other well-known brands. Now I have to consider whether the tube contains carcinogens, or hormone disruptors, whether it blocks UVA as well as UVB, etc., etc. You can read the highlights of sunscreen issues on the EWG (Enviromental Working Group) Web site, as well as a longer, more thorough discussion of the topic, and get recommendations for which products to choose or avoid. It's complicated, but as with many of the other choices of what to put on or into our bodies, I believe it's worth spending a little time to choose our bodycare products with some discretion.

On top of all the health issues related to sunscreen, for many of us there's the question of which sunscreens are vegan, and EWG doesn't really address this. You have to pour over labels and contact manufacturers. Last year, after careful scrutiny, I settled on *Goddess Garden Kid's Natural Sunscreen. It says right on the tube that it's 100% vegan and reef safe, and it scores pretty well on the EWG list. The Goddess Garden Baby sunscreen gets a better safety score but I couldn't find it when I was shopping, and the tube I chose was the best option I could find.

But, do I like it? Not totally. It goes on white and takes a while to disappear. On my arms or legs that's not such a problem, but on my face, it leaves me looking a bit like a pale cast member from the Twilight series. And not in a good way. I counteract the white pallor by moisturizing first, letting the moisturizer sink in, applying the sunscreen, waiting until it disappears, then adding light makeup. This procedure is only convenient when I'm applying sunscreen at home. On the plus side, the sunscreen does seem to work.

 As far as other vegan choices to try, Loving Naturals Clear Face is vegan, though other products from the same brand contain beeswax. It's specifically designed for the face, and sounds like it would be a lot easier to apply than the product I now have. You can use Loving Natural Clear Face on your body, but it's not waterproof and not recommended for sweaty activities.

Elemental Herbs looks like it's vegan, also. Do you have a favorite vegan sunscreen that scores no higher than 1 or 2 on the EWG safety rating scale? Please share in the comments. Thanks!

*(According to EWG: "Many brands formulate children’s sunscreens with safer, more effective ingredients than those in other products. About 63 percent of kids’ sunscreens contain effective mineral ingredients that provide good UVA protection, compared to 40 percent of other sunscreens.

Though you still need to read labels and use EWG’s Sunscreen Guide, chances are you’ll get a better sunscreen if you buy one marketed for kids.

Compared to other sunscreens, those with the words “baby,” “children” or “kids” in the product name are less likely to contain:

  • Fragrances, which are mixtures of chemicals some of which may cause allergies and other serious health problems. Some 72 percent of kids’ sunscreens are fragrance-free, versus 54 percent of other sunscreens.
  • Oxybenzone, a hormone-disrupting chemical, is in 37 percent of kids’ sunscreens versus 56 percent of other sunscreens.")

16 comments:

  1. Hey, thanks for this! I would like to stay humane as I aim for keeping my skin a nice pasty white. :-)

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    1. If you really like the pasty white look, get yourself a tube of Goddess Garden. :)

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  2. Thank you so much, Andrea! In addition to all you mention, I have multiple allergies. You won't believe how much work it was just to find soap, shampoo, conditioner, laundry detergent, and dish detergent. The thought of having to find sunscreen, as well, leaves me paler than pale--but your fine post will be a good starting place! I, too, have found that, in general, "baby" or "kid" products are often the way to go. Do the manufacturers think adults have somehow become immune to the toxins, etc. as they've aged?!

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    1. It must be really frustrating to find products that don't aggravate your allergies. I hope the EWG Web page will be helpful to you.

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  3. Thanks for the tips; I will keep an eye out for them. It sounds like a better alternative than my usual, "just don't leave the house"

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    1. Not leaving the house works, too, but as you point out, it can be inconvenient. I don't wear sunscreen as often as I should and I'm trying to be better about it. In Seattle, it hardly ever looks sunny, but the UV rays are still there. I guess.

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  4. Man, I know what you mean about the good ol days of being in the dark. Sometimes I hate knowing so much. I really don't have a suggestion as I'm not loyal to any one brand. I don't wear sunblock too much (although there's a bit in my make-up) as I'm not really in the sun very much and usually rely on hats or umbrellas or something. :) I only usually put it on when I'm going to be at a body of water all day, which is rarely and hasn't happened once this summer amazingly. But I know what you mean about the whiteness as that's how it always looks on my kids.

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    1. The more you know, the harder it gets, I know. I don't wear it much either, but I've been trying to wear it more often at least on my face. I just wish I could find one I really like.

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  5. We usually use All Terrain, but have some Alba Botanica right now. I prefer the All Terrain, though. It's vegan and all but the sprays have low scores. They also work great!

    Awesome post, btw. :)

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    1. I tried All Terrain and had trouble with it flaking off. I'll try again though since I have a tube and it wasn't cheap. Still looking for the perfect one.

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  6. This was a really useful post and timely too! It's been in the triple digits all week here! I haven't found a sunscreen yet that I love. I always pick up something different from the natural grocery store. That's good to know that the kids' version is generally safer. I'll keep that in mind. I feel like it's so hard to balance the need for sunscreen and avoiding skin cancer with needing vitamin D from sun exposure.

    My favorite line from this post was, "it leaves me looking a bit like a pale cast member from the Twilight series. And not in a good way." Hilarious!

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    1. I'm in Wisconsin and I know what triple digits you're talking about. Yikes. Thank heavens it's a little cooler today - you could even say "pleasant."

      I was hoping someone would tell me about the perfect sunscreen in the comments, but I think all the "safe" ones probably have the same problems. As for vitamin d, there are certain areas of the country where the angle of the sun for much of the year makes absorbing vitamin d difficult.Seattle is definitely short on sun, but so is Madison in winter. I take vitamin d supplements to be sure I'm getting enough.

      The vampire reference may have been humorous, but sadly, it's also true. Sigh.

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  7. Yes this sunscreen please. A perfect partner for my summer adventures. Got my eye on your blog now.

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    1. I've been using the goddess garden on arms and legs, and all terrain face on, my face. Seems to be working.

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  8. Very helpful and informative, I haven't been able to find a good sunscreen yet either. Why, oh why, does it have to be so hard? :-)

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    1. I guess it's hard because it was all the 'bad' ingredients that made the old sunscreens seem 'good.' The newer, less toxic products don't go on as smoothly or disappear as quickly. I miss the old ones, but am using the new ones because they may be safer. I hope. There's a lot of controversy surrounding sunscreens.

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