Safer Sunscreen

As summer approaches, we all look forward to more time in the sun. And we reach for the sunscreen expecting it to protect us from sunburn and reduce our risk of skin cancer.

Posted on | Victoria Maizes, MD | Comments ()

As summer approaches, we all look forward to more time in the sun. And we reach for the sunscreen expecting it to protect us from sunburn and reduce our risk of skin cancer.

Unfortunately, only a small percentage of the products on the market deliver on those two promises. Luckily, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) makes it easier for us to find those useful products.

In its 2012 review of 1800 sunscreen products, 25% received the EWG best ratings. While that may seem quite low, the trend is in the right direction as only 20% met the mark in 2011 and 8% in 2010.

When choosing a sunscreen, look for the following active ingredients: zinc oxide or titanium dioxide (safe mineral sunscreens) or 3 percent avobenzone. Avoid products with oxybenzone (an endocrine disruptor) and vitamin A (or retinyl palmitate), which paradoxically may increase your skin cancer risk. And choose one without fragrance, as some fragrances can also act as hormone disruptors.

EWG makes it easy for you to select a better product. Either jot down a few from the best products list, or search for your current favorite and see how it ranks. In any case, remember to apply sunscreen liberally and reapply every 2 hours for the safest sun experience. 

Blog written by Victoria Maizes, MD
Dr. Victoria Maizes is Executive Director of the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and a Professor of...