Consumer Reports’ new ratings of sunscreen stirred quite a reaction on one of the local parenting listservs I read. One mom said the article “made me feel terrible” since she has used many of the not recommended brands of sunscreen that Consumer Reports said are not effective: California Baby, Badger, All Terrain, Kiss My Face. Other moms responded to her post saying they thought Consumer Reports was notoriously unreliable and that they used those brands as well and had never had a burn.
Last summer, when looking for sunscreen for Adelaide, I used the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Sunscreen to help me select a sunscreen that wasn’t filled with chemicals, but also not 1 million dollars a tube. I opted for Coppertone Water Babies Pure & Simple and the Aveeno Baby Natural Protection Face Stick. Both had a moderate “2” rating. The small tube was more expensive than the cheap sunscreen I usually bought for myself, but not $25 a tube like some of the other boutique brands.
After reviewing all the chemicals listed, I realized the Coppertone brand has some ingredients I want to avoid (Octinoxate and Propylparaben) and the Aveeno brand had BHT. Then, after reading the article about Consumer Reports and the back and forth of the parents in my neighborhood, I felt even more confused. What really works? And what chemicals do I definitely need to avoid?
Finally, a post by Tracey Timko broke it down for me in a way I hadn’t seen before. Tracey is a local mom, but she’s also an esthetician, instructor and makeup artist. Tracy reminded everyone that the cosmetics industry is run by the FDA and suggested we always question who is sponsoring reports and surveys. Then, she explained why the skin reacts the way it does and what to look for when buying sunscreen. I found her response so instructive that I asked her permission to share it here.
She said there are two ways sunscreen products are designed to protect. Here’s an excerpt from her post:
1) Physically, by working as a shield. The sun’s rays basically bounce off the skin–these physical sunscreens can be applied as soon as you are in the sun because they start working right away. There are only two ingredients that work this way and those are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Best for everyone, especially kids. Just reapply every one to two hours and apply it thick. Read the ingredients!!!! I almost bought a CVS SPF that was called “zinc” and I got excited that I could buy this type of SPF there…well, I read the back and of course, octinoxate was the 2nd ingredient, so I know that it irritates my rosacea to use chemical sunscreen and [my daughter] got a rash when I used coppertone on her once, so back to whole foods for the physical sunscreen. Expensive, but who cares?! There are three rays now because of the ozone thinning–UVA, UVB, and UVC. So yes, broad-spectrum but either way, physical sunscreen will work. The other way they’ve designed them is to work is
2) Chemically, by absorbing the suns rays and causing heat as a result. THIS is why so many people react to sunscreen because of this chemical reaction that is happening. Dermatitis, rosacea, etc… are common challenges that can be caused and/or exacerbated from this sunscreen. They are cheaper to make and all the drugstores carry them. Consider them to be like the junk food at the supermarket…strongly advertised but no nutrition and not good for your health. (remember…FDA)
Any ingredient ending in -ate, -ote, …if it’s not just zinc oxide or titanium oxide in the ingredients, then it’s chemicals and can potentially irritate the skin.
SO!!! any product brand out there that uses just those two ingredients will do the job.
I hope this helps and trust me, all my clients who have stopped using chemical sunscreens have noticed a significant improvement in their skin. And just a side note, it causes inflammation/aging of the skin to use chemical sunscreens on your face.
I decided to give more weight to the Environmental Working Group’s recommendations and not worry too much about Consumer Reports. The key is to get a physical sunscreen and reapply often. I don’t want to protect from the sun only to expose myself and my child to other chemicals in the meantime. Although it makes me cringe, it’s probably worth it to spend the extra money for the good stuff. I haven’t tried it yet, but this Badger Broad Spectrum All-Season Face Stick and Badger Unscented SPF 30 seem to be safer bets as far as ingredients go, and they’re on the low-end of expensive sunscreens. As we head into July and public pool season, I think I’ll make the investment.
Tracey Timko lives in the Philadelphia region and works at Bernard’s salon and spa in Cherry Hill, NJ where she found her home in the spa industry. After many years of experience and being an educator, her mission is to combine eastern therapies with western. Ayurvedic techniques/acupressure along with enzyme peels and microdermabrasion, hydro-contrast therapy with hot/cold stones, raw honey/yogurt treatment masks and so much more can be used to detoxify the skin/body and keep the skin healthy and glowing. Tracey specializes in facials, waxing/brazilians and makeup.