The Champagne Life on a DIY Budget Since 2007

What I Didn’t Know About My Sunscreen

sunscreen safety

Now that I’ve been out of school for two weeks and the daily temperatures are reaching ninety degrees, I can’t help but think it’s about time for me to get a tan. Driving to the office this morning, I was more than aware of my pale complexion shining in the corner of my eye from the rearview mirror, practically blinding me through my sunglasses. However, as I become older and wiser (approaching the ripe old age of 21 this fall), I’m realizing the importance of protecting my skin’s natural luminance and beauty against the sun’s dangerous ultraviolet rays.

What’s supposed to be a quick venture into a local drug or beauty store for some sunscreen can easily turn into half an hour of wandering up and down aisles, comparing prices and ingredients. We all have the product we gravitate to; for me, it’s Neutrogena’s Sensitive Sunblock Lotion. However, readingĀ  Ariel Schwartz’s recent article, frighteningly titled “Your Sunscreen May Give You Cancer,” in Fast Company has caused me to question my sun protection routine.

Schwartz outlines a newly-published study by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) that surveyed 500 popular sunscreens. She writes that of these 500, “the EWG recommends just 39 (8%) of 500 beach and sport sunscreens tested.” If you find this figure shocking, you’re not alone. Trust me, it never crossed my mind that the product I buy to protect myself against skin cancer may actually be contributing to my risk! Following Schwartz’s links directly to the EWG’s website, I looked up Neutrogena myself to look into the evaluation of my regular product. While the Sensitive Skin Sunblock I used received a mild evaluation (a score of 4 on a 0-10 scale, with 0 being the safest and most effective and 10 being the sunscreens to absolutely avoid), you can imagine my surprise when I read on to discover that many Neutrogena products were determined dangerous by the EWG for having misleading SPFs, containing the synthetic estrogen oxybenzone, and providing unbalanced protection, among other issues.

I’m no sun protection expert, so it’s important that you read Schwartz’s article and peruse the EWG study yourself before you make decisions about your own sun routine. Even so, my first week at Shoestring has made me familiar with a few great sun products that are both eco-friendly and offer exceptional protection, as outlined by Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff in her newest Queen of Green article, “Sustainable Swimwear Under $100.” And as a loyal New Hampshirite, I’d also recommend sun products by the NH company W.S. Badger (widely available at Whole Foods), all of which are organic, affordable and scored excellent ratings on the EWG site.

With a long Memorial Day Weekend around the corner, it looks like I’m going to be forgoing my usual suncare routine (and my dreams of being bronzed at the beach) in favor of a healthier and more sustainable option. But this doesn’t have to mean I’ll never rock a tan again; I sense an investigation into effective and sustainable self tanners coming on.

Copyright 2010 Shoestring, LLC. Photo: iStock