It’s more than just a passing trend. In recent years, the concern about the effects of toxic chemicals on our health and the environment has caused many companies to “go green” and start selling items that contain natural ingredients rather than potentially harmful chemicals. Some companies have always offered natural options, while others have more recently given up using unhealthy ingredients in favor of offering safer products.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a U.S.-based lobbying organization focusing on health, energy, and other natural resources, routinely publishes the findings of its research on the safety of personal care products. While sunscreen generally provides overall protection from the damaging effects of the sun, the EWG has conducted many years of research and concluded that many of the best-selling brands of sunscreen can actually do more harm than good, even contributing to skin damage and cancer. They claim that green sunscreens, on the other hand, contain no dangerous chemicals and are environmentally safe as well.
Some sunscreen ingredients offer more protection than others do. Oxybenzone is a chemical that absorbs some radiation into the skin, but research has shown that it does not fully protect against UVA rays. Avobenzone, Mexoryl SX, and Tinosorb are chemicals that offer more protection by absorbing those UVA rays. Yet there is an ongoing debate over whether any of these chemicals are as safe as non-chemical alternatives. Those who favor natural ingredients argue that certain chemicals and preservatives should be avoided altogether. Some preservatives, such as parabens, have been associated with cancer risks, and they have been found to cause adverse reactions in people with sensitive skin.
Natural ingredients to look for when choosing sunscreen include zinc, titanium, and other minerals that reflect the sun’s rays rather than absorbing them. Creams and water-resistant formulas also tend to protect skin better and are more natural than sprays or powders.
Many people believe that using a sunscreen with a high SPF always offers the best protection. However, scientific investigations have revealed that high SPF sunscreens typically contain larger amounts of harmful chemicals, while not necessarily providing greater sun protection. This is true especially when people apply them improperly or not frequently enough.
Cost is often a factor when deciding among organic or natural products, yet protecting your skin and your general health might be worth the extra investment. Furthermore, many “green” items are becoming more affordable as awareness and consumer demand for natural products have influenced the makers of sunscreens.
“As Summer Nears, Sunscreen Controversy Reignites.” CBSNews.com.
Environmental Working Group’s 2010 Sunscreen Guide. EWG.org.
“Go Green with Your Sunscreen,” planetgreen.discovery.com.
“Sunscreen: Full Report.” ConsumerSearch.com.