Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends

3 quick tips on how to buy a safer sunscreen

Summer is upon the Southland, and it seems like the sun has never been so strong. While many of us might be content to sit out the season under a palm tree, the rest of us are out swimming, surfing, and seriously enjoying Southern California.

So how best to protect our summer skins? Wear a hat, sunglasses and long sleeves. But if that doesn’t work for you, use safe sunscreens highly-rated by the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database. But how best to find them?

First, read the ingredients.

The most important rule of thumb for buying a safer sunscreen (and any product) is to acquaint yourself with the back of the bottle. The Environmental Working Group, a non-profit organization that advocates for health-protective government policies, cautions that there are several ingredients in traditional sunscreens that are toxic.

Two ingredients are the top offenders. One is retinyl palmitate, which can react with the sun to cause lesions and tumors. The other is oxybenzone, which can disrupt hormones in the body.

Second, check the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database.

You want to be cautious of greenwashing, which is rampant in the cosmetics industry. This is when companies throw around terms such as “natural” and “organic” while their products are, in fact, not. The Environmental Working Group has an outstanding cosmetics database called Skin Deep. Skin Deep contains online safety assessments for over 68,000 products – many of which are sunscreens.

Skin Deep just released their updated 2011 guide to the best sunscreens. You can look up most brands to check its rating – the lower the number, the safer your product. They even have a handy app to download into your phone. 

Third, pick the product.

Unsure where to find safer sunscreens? Your local Whole Foods may carry some friendlier products. (Though always keep an eye out for greenwashing.) You can also find some greener products online at eco beauty shops such as Nature’s Basin and Futurenatural. Check out this guide to more online boutiques.

Photo: unconstructive_bry/Flickr