Sun Safety – Sunscreen Do’s and Don’ts

Summer is right around the corner. The kids can’t wait to head to the beach. YOU can’t wait to head to the beach. Before you go, find out which sunscreens are the best and which are the worst. And don’t miss the important information below to help keep your skin safe in the sun.

Important note: Per the EWG, sunscreen should be your last resort. That’s right. Your first step toward being safe in the sun is not to smear yourself with sunscreen.  Instead, follow these tips from the EWG:

  • Wear clothes, sunglasses and hats to shield your eyes and skin from the sun’s UV rays.
  • Find shade during the hours when the sun is high in the sky.
  • Check the UV index before you head out and stay out of the sun when the index is greater than 5.
  • Plan outdoor activities for the morning or late afternoon.
  • And, most importantly, don’t get burned.

Why is sunscreen a last resort?

  1. You’ve head the expression ‘you are what you eat’? You’re also what you put on your skin. Your skin is the largest organ of your body and absorbs whatever you slather on it. And your face, where sunscreen is most often applied, is even more permeable than the skin on the rest of your body.1  A study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that the skin absorbed an average of 64% of the contaminants in water.2  Another study published in Contact Dermatitis showed 100% absorption for fragrance ingredients.3 So it’s extremely important to be careful about what you put on your skin.
  2. Oxybenzone, a common active ingredient in sunscreen, enters the bloodstream and acts like estrogen in the body. Research studies have linked oxybenzone to endometriosis and low birth weights in newborns.4
  3. Retinyl palmitate, another ingredient found in sunscreen, may speed the development of skin tumors and lesions on sun-exposed skin. So if your sunscreen contains retinyl palmitate, that very stuff you are putting on your skin to go into the sun, may be even more dangerous in the sun than it is out of sun. However, before all the dermatologists and Vitamin A fans throw tomatoes at me, the American Academy of Dermatology asserts that there is “no convincing evidence” that retinyl palmitate causes cancer. But since they do recommend that you avoid sun exposure when using products that contain retinyl palmitate, I’ll pass on using sunscreens that contain this ingredient, thank you very much.
  4. Suncreen gives people a false sense of security which often translates into staying out in the sun longer than you should. Prolonged sun exposure means more UVA ray damage, the type of damage that accelerates skin aging, may suppress the immune system, and may cause skin cancer.5
  5. Spray sunscreens, an ever-popular option among parents, pose serious inhalation risk and their safety and effectiveness has even been called into question by the FDA.


EWG Sunscreen Guide

When you do use sunscreen, I recommend the EWG’s guide to the best and worst sunscreens.

For 2015, the EWG examined 1700 products, rating each from 1-10, 1 being the safest and 10 being a cocktail of potentially toxic ingredients to avoid.

Please note that some of the brands self-promoted as being recommended by dermatologists and “hypoallergenic” are among the worst when it comes to allergic reactions and potential hazards. One popular brand in particular, marketed for sensitive skin, caused a terrible allergic reaction in me years ago. More than once, I’m embarrassed to say, because I’m an idiot and used it again, never imagining that the widely recommended by dermatologists, sensitive skin formula, could be the cause of my swollen, red face until I did a skin test on my arm. I’m happy to see EWG calling them out on their advertising hype this year.

So, here they are, click on the links below for the EWG’s best and the worst sunscreens:

Best Sunscreens (217 to choose from!)


Worst Sunscreens



Studies referenced above:
1. Kasting and Kretsos.Skin Pharmacol Physiol 2005;18:55-74
2. Brown et al. The role of skin absorption as a route of exposure for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in drinking water. Am J Public Health. 1984 May; 74(5): 479–484.
3. Robinson et al. The Importance of Exposure Estimation in the Assessment of Skin Sensitization risk. Contact Dermatitis 2000; 42:251-259.
4. Kunisue et al. Urinary Concentrations of Benzophenone-type UV Filters in U.S. Women and Their Association with Endometriosis. Environmental Science and Technology. 2012; 46(8): 4624-4632.
5. Ullrich et al. Suppression of an Established Immune Response by UVA: A Critical Role for Mast Cells. Photochem Photobiol. 2007; 83(5): 1095-1100.

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