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Chemical Sun Blockers - Are They Safe?
In 2007, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) published the results of independent tests on nearly 1,000 common brand-name sunscreens. Investigating effectiveness and safety, "the analysis found that 84 percent of 785 sunscreen products with an SPF rating of 15 or higher offer inadequate protection from the sun’s harmful rays, or contain ingredients with safety concerns."
Many sunscreens tested did not offer broad range (UVA and UVB) sun protection or contained active ingredients that readily broke down when exposed to sunlight. The most commonly used active sunscreen ingredients were not found to be the safest choice.
Commonly used chemical sunscreens of concern include oxybenzone, which some studies suggest mimics estrogen in the body. Chemicals that act as endocrine disruptors have been linked to cancer.
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Mineral sunscreens, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, are considered safer than chemical sunscreens. Zinc oxide, specifically, has a long history of studies showing its non-toxicity. Zinc oxide particles are too large to become absorbed in the skin and act as a physical barrier to the sun's rays. Zinc oxide effectively blocks both UVA and UVB rays.
The downside to using zinc oxide-based sunscreens is that they are often very white in color and can make your skin look pale or pasty. Recently, natural sunscreen manufacturers have tackled this problem by using nanoparticles of zinc oxide, making the result less noticeable. Although the nanoparticles of zinc oxide used are extremely small (between 1 and 100 nanometers) they have not been shown to enter the body.
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Best Natural Sunscreen Brands
According to the EWG's Skin Deep database, which evaluates the safety of personal care products, several brands of natural sunscreen work effectively to block sun rays and pose little or no threat to your health. You may have to order the top rated sunscreens online, as most commonly available products did not fare well with EWG's rigorous safety testing. Below are the top 10 most safe and effective sunscreens, as listed in the Skin Deep database:
1. Soleo Organics Sunscreen Organic chemical free sunscreen SPF 30+
2. Keys Soap Solar Rx Cosmetic Sunblock, SPF 30
3. California Baby Sunblock Stick No Fragrance, SPF 30+
4. Badger Sunscreen, SPF 30
5. Purple Prairie Botanicals Sun Stick SPF 30
6. Marie Veronique Organics Creme de Jour Tinted, SPF 30 (light face screen made with non-micronized zinc oxide)
7. Devita International solar protective moisturizer 30
8. UV Natural Sunscreen, SPF 30+
9. Trukid Sunny Days Facestick Mineral Sunscreen UVA/UVB Broad Spectrum, SPF 30+
10. Tropical Sands SPF 30 Sunscreen Lotion
For additional information on other sunscreen brands, visit the Skin Deep database's sunscreen investigation.