The summer of 2008 was a big travel summer for my family. Of the 10 weeks of vacation allotted to us by the school district, we gleefully hit the road for 5 of them. And we went to sunny places.
I looked for something with high SPF (duh), broad spectrum-protection (take that, sneaky UVA rays), and a noncomedogenic formulation (no zits for us, thanks). Furthermore, it had to smell nice, soak in, last a long time, and not cost a fortune.
The winner was a Target knockoff of a Neutrogena sunscreen with Helioplex. Though it smelled a little citrus-y for me, it checked all my boxes. I slathered it on the kids all over Europe , made them wear hats and swim shirts, and felt exceedingly pleased with myself for being an informed consumer.
Not so fast.
I came crashing down to earth when I got home and stumbled upon a new sunscreen study from the Environmental Working Group. They investigated 952 name brand sunscreens and found that 4 out of 5 offered inadequate protection from the sun or contained ingredients with significant safety concerns. Allergens, release of cancer-causing free radicals, and hormone disruption to name a few.
Study in hand, I went shopping again. Of the top ten safest sunscreens, I was able to find two (in the local health food store). One cost $15 for a 5oz bottle. The other was $18. Ouch.
Next I went to my dermatologist.
According to her, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are the safest active ingredients. Studies show that they aren’t absorbed into healthy skin in micronized form. The problem is that most sunscreens have complicated and changing formulations, so good luck reading the labels.
I asked her what she was using on her own kids, and she ran her hand through her hair.
“I’m using the Neutrogena stuff with Helioplex,” she said. “I feel like it’s the best I can do with the information available.”
Anyone else confused? What are you doing?