Is Your Sunblock Effective?

Yesterday several news outlets published the results of a study that said “four out of five brand-name sunscreens either provide inadequate sun protection or contain chemicals that may be unsafe.” The report comes from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and has been heavily criticized by sunblock makers, although their complaints are of the general sort (“they don’t understand sunblock!”) or vaguely hysterical (“they’ll convince people to stop using sunblock!”). We don’t know how valid the study ultimately is, but here are the basics—and regardless of the more sensational claims, their list of the best sunblocks may help you when choosing a product.

First, the controversy seems to center around whether sunblocks protect against UVA radiation, which the current labeling system doesn’t take into account:

For the first time, manufacturers would have to test and label their products for protection against ultraviolet A (UVA) radiation, which does not cause sunburns but can damage collagen and cause wrinkles and sunspots. Research suggests that UVA is a cause of skin cancer.

The labeling upgrade was proposed by the FDA last August, but the changes have not been finalized.

The current sun protection factor (SPF) labeling system, which was implemented three decades ago, measures only protection from UVB rays – the ultraviolet rays that cause sunburns.

“You can buy a high SPF product and still have no assurance that you are being protected from UVA, as well as UVB rays,” EWG research director Jane Houlihan tells WebMD.

The next issue concerns how long the protective ingredients last in sunblock. Here’s where industry claims run up against the EWG’s study, although the industry responses in this CBS News article are entirely devoid of factual arguments against the study’s claims, which makes them sound an awful lot like spin.

The EWG analysis suggested that nearly half of the products contained ingredients known to become inactive in strong sunlight.

Finally, the EWG study raises the question of whether the chemicals used in many sunblocks are safe:

Many sunscreens contain nano-scale ingredients that raise potential concerns. Micronized and nano-scale zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in sunscreen provide strong UVA protection, and are contained in many of our top-rated products. Repeated studies have found that these ingredients do not penetrate healthy skin, indicating that consumers’ exposures would be minimal. Powder and spray sunscreens with nano-scale ingredients raise greater concerns, since particles might absorb more easily through the lungs than the skin. Studies of other nano-scale materials have raised concerns about their unique, toxic properties. FDA has failed to approve effective UVA filters available in Europe that, if approved here, could replace nano-scale ingredients.

Some sunscreens absorb into the blood and raise safety concerns. Our review of the technical literature shows that some sunscreen ingredients absorb into the blood, and some are linked to toxic effects. Some release skin-damaging free radicals in sunlight, some could disrupt hormone systems, several are strongly linked to allergic reactions, and others may build up in the body or the environment. FDA has not established rigorous safety standards for sunscreen ingredients that fully examines these effects.

On a related note, and to make things more complicated, there was a widely circulated report earlier this year that certain chemicals used in some sunblock formulas may be killing off coral reefs, by waking dormant viruses within the symbiotic algae that lives within the coral. I know, crazy! Others, however, say this is an untested theory and that certain pertinent factors have been overlooked. At any rate, the possible reef-killing chemicals are:

  • Butylparaben
  • Methylparaben
  • Ethylhexylmethoxycinnamate
  • Benzophenone-3
  • 4-methylbenzylidene camphor

Bottom line: if you really want the maximum protection against ultraviolet radiation, go with a broad-spectrum sunblock—the products suggested by the EWG are a good place to start. If you’re in the store and don’t have the list with you, look for something that contains zinc oxide and doesn’t contain oxybenzone. If you’re a real worrier, stick with creams and lotions over inhalable sprays.

Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database [Environmental Working Group]
“Many Sunscreens Ineffective, Group Says” [CBS News]

RELATED
“Swimmers’ Sunscreen Killing Off Coral” [National Geographic]
“Are Sunscreens Bad for the Environment?” [BeautyBrains]
(Photo: Getty)

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. Doesn’t everyone use liquid nano solar panels to block the sun like I do? I use them to power my ipod and drown the proles out.

  2. quirkyrachel says:

    A few months ago I got the fancy Neutrogena sunblock. The first day I used it, I burned. I figured I’d been light on the amount since it was December and I did want a tan (on vacation). The second day I put on a load, still burned! My friend gave me her cheap Walgreens suncreen. No burning the third day.

  3. HFC says:

    The sunblock I use on my daughter (Banana Boat Baby Tear Free Sunblock Lotion, SPF 50) is 206. All right, top 250!

    I don’t recognize many of the brands in the top 10, I guess I’ll be headed to CVS for sunblock, now. I hope I don’t get stuck in the teenager line.

  4. theblackdog says:

    How nice that their top products are brands I have never even heard of, much less seen in a store.

    I do wonder if the recommended “common brand” CVS sunscreen is made by the same manufacturer that makes Rite Aid’s sunscreens.

  5. @theblackdog: How nice that their top products are brands I have never even heard of, much less seen in a store.

    So is this going to turn into a beer snob-type thing?

    “I use Rotten Gator Export 45 if I’m hitting the water park, but for a day at the beach, nothing beats YoMama Extra Pale 50. Best session lotion I’ve found.”

  6. MayorBee says:

    I sure hope the people at the clothing optional pool read this article. Nothing worse than sunburned naughty bits.

  7. boss_lady says:

    Thank you, Chris, for having posted this. I’m a huge supporter of the EWG and got their email concerning sunscreens this morning. It’s important to me because I’m of the uber-fair variety and burn very easily, but don’t like to put petroleum products on or near my skin (which is why I skim the Skin Deep database regularly). People don’t seem to be aware, overall, that the junk you put on your skin is absorbed.

    For people who are pissed that they’ve never seen some of the products listed in a store, give their website or ebay a try (if you care, that is). I live in Canada and regularly have to order my products, but it’s worth it for the peace of mind.

  8. Yurei says:

    Does anyone know where to find these top rated, suggested sunblocks? I’ve never hard of them and I haven’t seen them in your average store. And I suspect that they can’t be found in such places as Wal Mart and Target, grocery stores and pharmacies. I’m wondering if some of these have to be found in health food type stores. We have one about 15 minutes away from me, i might take a look this weekend and see what they have. I burn super easy in the sun and I definitely would like to use a sunblock with more natural and safer ingredients. Lord only knows what some of the side effects of this stuff could be. @_@; Definitely going to start reading the labels of this stuff now.

  9. boss_lady says:

    @Yurei: Hey, if you have a Whole Foods Co-Op or even basic health-food store in your town, start there. I worked once at a small, locally owned health-food store, and even they had a small personal care section, which is where you’ll find the sunblock… to save yourself a trip, give them a call first to see if any is in stock. You’ll probably have most luck finding the Jason brand there.

  10. Ringl says:

    I’m not sure I’m familiar with this “day-star” you all speak of…

  11. DanC922 says:

    I sure wish this was posted a week ago. I just got back yesterday from camping for two days, and I have a bad sunburn over most of my body despite using 50 SPF Banana Boat spray sunblock.

  12. One other thing that I’ve heard was a problem is the way that sunscreen is worn versus how it’s rated. I guess it’s hard to regulate dosage when you’re trying to hit the beach. To cite wikipedia (I know, it’s bad but it’s a nice day and I don’t care that much), people typically only apply 1/2 of the dose they should be using to get the proper SPF [en.wikipedia.org]

    On top of that is making sure to apply in all areas and to reapply in a consistent manner.

  13. @Yurei: For the lazy among us (or the green or cheap), who don’t want to make a special trip for one thing, Amazon indirectly carries at least the first three on the list. There are probably several other web outlets that do, as well.

  14. nsv says:

    Hrm. No-Ad, the brand I’ve used for years, contains oxybenzone. Wikipedia says that oxybenzone is a photocarcinogen. Am I the only one who thinks that it’s odd to put a photocarcinogen in sunblock?

  15. theblackdog says:

    @Ash78: Hey now, don’t be dissin YoMama. It works hard for the money ;-)

  16. Veeber says:

    I’ve always had a major problem getting sunburned. It became easier just to stay in doors or cover up. Thank goodness for air conditioning.

  17. Thunderpants says:

    California Baby is sold at Target, I’m pretty sure, in the baby section. I’m lucky to live in a big city but amazon would probably carry all of that stuff through its merchants.

    It’s nearly impossible to find Vanicream lotion anywhere except online, I’m curious about the sunblock now.

    Thanks for posting this, as a mom I am going to dump the Coppertone and pick up something a bit friendlier.

  18. choinski says:

    My sunblock is a coffin filled with my native soil stored in a basement of a ruined abbey. (was that relevant enough? please don’t hurt me, new comment lady).

  19. Yes, California Baby is carried at Target (and you can always ask your Target to carry it or order it for you if they don’t have it, mine’s pretty helpful like that); all of California Baby’s products are high on the “safe” scale, shampoo and whatnot too.

    Another option for “sunblock” is always physical blocking of the sun; tightly-woven lightweight linen is my fabric of choice. It’s not all that hot unless it’s stinky humid out (sometimes it’s cooler with your skin covered so you’re not soaking up the sun directly). And big gigantic hats, which not only keep the sun off my face and neck, but get me lots of attention everywhere I go. :P Midrange department stores are good places for big straw hats (for women). For men, I’ve found mail order to be a little easier to find things my husband will wear that provide adequate sun protection. (They’re all more crocodile dundee kinds of hats; he’d look terribly silly in straw.)

    I’m a very pale redhead (my picture is right there in the dictionary next to “skin cancer risk”), so I’m very careful.

  20. emona says:

    Wonder if any of this takes makeup into account. I know lots of women who sunblock their body but rely on SPF-15 foundation for their face. My face powder totes a claim from the National Skin Cancer Foundation or somesuch thing. Just curious…

    I personally stay indoors. I am proud to be pale and have gone to extremes to keep it that way (not to mention I can pass by a sunny window and walk away red).

  21. Cafezinha says:

    I have spent most of my life seeking sun protection that doesn’t break me into a bloody rash and/or acne a thousand times worse than sunburn. It’s gotten to a point where even though I know I should be wearing sunscreen, I never do, because I can’t find anything that will work for me. Now I wonder if it’s some of these common ingredients that are doing me wrong. Time to start researching some of these fancy, obscure creams in the Top Ten!

    Anyone else with excessively irritable skin? Have you found something that works? I’m lucky enough not to be fair-skinned, so that I don’t turn red passing by a sunny window, but I imagine the effects of unprotected sun exposure will add up after a while.

  22. thepassenger says:

    @Veeber, @emona: I’m with you. As I like to say this time of year, “outside bad, inside good.”

  23. whatdoyoucare says:

    HELP! I am really confused after reading this and looking at the links.

    So we should avoid oxybenzone, but I noticed that some of the one’s on the acceptable list have oxybenzone in it. So what is an acceptable level? My coppertone ultra guard spf 50 says it has a broad spectrum of uvb/uva protection. It contains 6% oxybenzone.

    I am not familiar with almost all of the brands on the list. Are any of them in spray form? I hate trying to apply lotions. I am more likely to apply sunscreen if it is messy.

  24. @Cafezinha: Try the California Baby stuff … it’s good for sensitive skin. Mine’s not quite as sensitive as yours, but pretty sensitive. :)

  25. While everything in this article appears to be sensible and on the level, I’m sort of reflexively disinclined to accept one of these surveys as accurate without knowing the motivations of the originators. In the interest of balance, here’s a rather skeptical profile of the EWG:

    [www.activistcash.com]

    EWG may in fact be an objective organization with no other agenda than to provide useful information to consumers, and this profile could be a hatchet job by a corporate concern; or they could be a group which has crafted this study in order to promote an environmentalist agenda, not skin cancer safety. I figured that this should at least be injected into the dialog. Hopefully, in the spirit of today’s Comment Code posting, I won’t be lambasted as some sort of Big Sunblock shill for simply questioning this.

  26. Parapraxis says:

    I’ve always used bullfrog, since it was so waterproof and easy to apply…

  27. thenotwho says:

    In NYC, an unofficial selection of stores (that I can think of off the top of my head) where you’ll be able to find some of these brands is:

    Target (as previously mentioned)
    Whole Foods
    Ricky’s (has several of the “natural” brands like Kiss My Face in their organic aisle)

    … That’s all I know. Hope it helps those in the area!

  28. crackers says:

    For readily-accessible store brands: I recently used the Aveeno Sensitive Skin lotion (SPF 70!) on a vacation in Puerto Rico, and I was very, very pleasantly surprised to not even get a tan! It’s not greasy, and worked quite well for my sensitive skin. It’s #105 on the list.

    The California Baby stuff is great, too, though I sometimes have trouble finding it in stock at my local Target.

  29. pollyannacowgirl says:

    So glad to see that EWG is getting the attention it deserves. It’s a great site that does a great job. I’m sure Consumerist readers who haven’t discovered it will find it as addictive as I have!

    It’s interesting that just last weekend at the beach, I applied the same 50 sunblock THICKLY on both my children; the little one wound up with sunburn and the other was fine. WTF?

    I still believe that gradual sun exposure is the best way to avoid sun burn and damage. I’m in the minority who believes that carefully moderated sun exposure is beneficial to body and mind. I only put sunscreen on us when we’re at the beach or if we’ll be in the sun for a long period. And I always have coverups and hats anyway.

  30. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot says:

    Its good information, but being that it seems a good majority of us haven’t even heard of more than half the brand names listed, I think they would have been better served to include of WHERE these could be purchased at the very least. Not everybody has internet access and can try to google up the top names, especially if this has been making the rounds in news broadcasts etc. Lots of people are probably wondering just where they can get “the best.”

  31. thesepretzels says:

    Zonker Harris is not pleased.

  32. duncanfj says:

    Blue Lizard is a sunscreen from an Australian company, available in CVS, some Kroger and other national grocery chains, and from Amazon. If you know/have a dermatologist, alot of clinics carry Blue Lizard, cause it actually works. It has a physical barrier (zinc oxide) as opposed to a chemical barrier, which do break down in sunlight. I think some of the EWG’s concerns about sunscreen ingredients causing cancer is a little overblown, as they haven’t actually done any research themselves. A fairly good rule of thumb is to check and see what Australians are using for sunscreen. They do not F around when it comes to skin cancer prevention. I also like Blue Lizard because their bottles change color when exposed to UV light. You ever think you’re not getting much UV, grab the bottle and see how wrong you are.

  33. icingsugar says:

    The thing that always bothers me about these advocacy groups is that many times the things they are talking about are usually out of date. This group did it, and my biggest pet peeve is that book “Don’t go to the cosmetics counter without me!” Their facts are usually years off, and most of the time list products that have been discontinued anyway.

    I represent Kiehl’s at a department store, so I always check what is said about it. That data base didn’t even list the sunscreens we recommend for going to the beach, etc. which is the Vital Sun line. Also they make no mention of the newest line of sunscreen we have that contains Mexoryl which is the UV Protective line. Mexoryl protects from the UVA as well as UVB rays. It’s a product that has been out for a year. They also mentioned the SPF 15 sunscreen cream, a discontinued product.

    A couple of things about sunscreen, most people don’t use enough, or apply frequently enough. If you sweat or swim, re-apply. Use a bit more than you would think will cover, you don’t want a thin layer that doesn’t cover.

    Also, the number on the bottle means this: if you go into the sun without any sunscreen and you naturally start showing signs of sun after say, in my case, ten minutes, I would multiply that number by the number on the bottle, say 15, so I would get 150 minutes of protection. However if I sweat or get in the water I would re-apply. Some sunscreens do work in the water, but only for a limited amount of time. I am completely fine with 15-25 SPF because I re-apply, and trust me, I turn into a lobster in the sun. I used to burn when I would apply my 50 once a day before going swimming and couldn’t figure out why.

    I’m glad so many of you are genuinely concerned about using sunscreen, because the average consumer shrugs off the suggestion because it isn’t sunny everyday or it might make them shiny. sigh.

  34. StellaSquash says:

    I’ve been slathering my kids with Banana Boat spf 30 this summer, bottles I bought last summer. Reapplying after swimming or a couple hours and Voila! I’ve managed to keep them relatively sunburn free.

  35. Lola del Rio says:

    and i thought i just bought that burqua as a halloween gag… now i have to use it for reals?

  36. mythago says:

    I am really not sure what to make of the EWG report. Yes, they point out many good things, but it’s extremely difficult to tell just what criteria they used to rank these sunscreens, and they are vague on things like ‘how long it breaks down in sunlight’. I’m also a little concerned that they apparently think oxybenzone is A-OK.

    And then there’s the question of whether the fact that so many ‘independent’ brands made the top of the list is mere coincidence.

    It’s a good thing to inform people about hazardous ingredients, and to caution about UVA protection, but the way this is put together is not helpful.

  37. JoeTan says:

    STOP IT with the SPF. They make things worse not better. On top of the above mentioned ingredients that have been found to CAUSE SKIN CANCER, all it does it block Vitamin D production which also CAUSES CANCER if your levels are too low which they most certainly are now that “SPF” is in everything.

    Also it doesn’t block the DAMAGE done by the sun just “masks” it by not allowing a burn to show…which is your body’s immune system reacting to the over exposure. It’s kinda like removing your smoke alarms to avoid a fire! Well, the alarm isn’t going off so there must be no fire!

    Their “rational thought process” is

    UV causes skin cancer
    SPF blocks UV
    therefore SPF blocks skin cancer

    Which leads be to what maybe a future Consumerist post. Why is it that WD40 which is a Petroleum product have a skin cancer warning (for the petroleum ing) and SPF also contains Petroleum and doesn’t list this warning?

    The best is how skin cancer has gone UP as SPF usage has gone up!

    Do yourself a favor and THROW OUT THE SPF. The only REAL SPF is SHADE!

  38. whatdoyoucare says:

    @StellaSquash: I thought I was a fairly well informed sunscreen user until I read this. However, I do know that sunscreens expire so you may want to check the expiration date on the products you bought last summer. That is why they may be burning sometimes even though you are diligent.

  39. JoeTan says:

    That or the bottle of sun screen is sitting in your trunk that goes from too hot to too cold and ruins the formula. OR you aren’t using enough (8 uses per bottle not 80) OR you are still burning cause your body isn’t reacting to the UV exposure cause it doesn’t know it’s happening.

    Why does it have to be all or nothing in the USA???? Moderate sun exposure and you’ll be fine.

    The best part of this? Overexposure to UV does NOT cause Melanoma cancer it causes Squamous cell carcinoma which is just a superficial skin lump.

    Guess which cancer the SPF and Petroleum products cause? That’s right folks, Melanoma, the deadly skin cancer. Ask your derm the most common place you get melanoma and it’ll be most likely in a place that never sees the sun like the back of a leg or under an arm.

    Your skin is an organ. And like all organs they need to be used or they stop working correctly. Turn on your skin with a little sun!

    Yeah, so keep using that SPF and make sure you get the cheapest and biggest bottle you can find cause you all know more and cheaper is better!

  40. Mom2Talavera says:

    Lots of these brands you’ll only find at the local health/natural food store .If you haven’t been to a health food store in a while then chances are you’ve never seen some of these brands.

    I agree with EWG about Lavera sunscreen. Lavera makes great high quality products but they are too expensive! One time I was looking for sunblock for my daughter and Lavera had a kids spray. I was about to get it until I looked at the price (28$ ) that’s crazy!

    I think its funny that the cheap CVS stuff is just as safe!

    EWG is a great resource!

  41. duncanfj says:

    @JoeTan: Actually, you are wrong on a number of fronts. Sunscreen does block UV-induced damage. Sunscreen has no or very little effect on your immune system. Vitamin D is something that is mentioned a lot, but no one knows how much is necessary to prevent cancer, and more than likely different levels impact different cancers in completely opposite ways. To get the recommended daily does of vitamin D you need about 15 min of exposure on your face and hands, even in winter. Overexposure to UV does cause melanoma, as well as squamous and basal cell carcinomas. While basal cell is fairly benign, it can grow very large, and is extremely difficult to remove completely and grows back. Squamous cell carcinoma is much more than just a lump on the skin, and can metastasize. A large number of transplant patients die from metastatic squamous cell carcinoma. As for the WD40 and sunscreen causing cancer, the petroleum used for one is very different than what is used in another, and in vastly different quantities. Melanoma can appear in areas that don’t get much sun, but the back is the most common site for melanoma, not the buttocks.
    People should buy sunscreen new every year, and buy sunscreen that has a physical barrier, not a chemical barrier. The physical barrier lasts, the chemical barrier breaks down in the bottle and upon exposure to UV.

  42. JoeTan says:

    OK. Easy.

    If SPF worked, the numbers would be GROSSLY IN FAVOR of it and it’s not. Skin cancer GOES UP with SPF usage not down.

    Just like if driving was made illegal the # of car accidents would drop dramatically. Very easy.

    “As for the WD40 and sunscreen causing cancer, the petroleum used for one is very different than what is used in another, and in vastly different quantities.”

    That is SCREAMING nonsense my friend. They are both pumped out of the ground. Come from the same crude oil. Baby oil (which EVERYONE tanned with back in the old days and today) is ALL PETRO.

    OH WOW! I almost this doosie

    “A large number of transplant patients die from metastatic squamous cell carcinoma.”

    OK. More than the people that are hurt or killed from mis-prescribed medications? malpractice? misdiagnosis?That’s in the tens of thousands a year. About 10 times the amount of people that die from the dreaded “melanoma” regardless of if it’s caused by the sun.

    What about melanoma that’s caused by air pollution? Smoking? Overall bad health?

    If the sun was really that dangerous people would be dropping dead on their feet. They aren’t and there’s no direct evidence that shows otherwise. In fact it’s the exact opposite as the closer to the equator you get, the LESS melanoma/caner OVERALL there is. The closer to the POLES you get, the MORE melanoma/cancer cases OVERALL there are.

    Also, WHAT SPF works? SPF is NOT TESTED BY DERMATOLOGISTS. PERIOD. They SELL them a “seal of approval” to use on the SPF products at $10000 a pop.

    ANY SPF.

    So what SPF products are good and which are bad???

    Coming from a group of people that call themselves “doctors” and hand out opiate based meds to anyone with “pain” and accutane which causes DEATH for acne I’d say they are working for the highest bidder and not for one’s health.

    The sun is the bringer of life and always has been. Take away the main component holding your health together and you now have a patient for life.

    How convenient.

    Yes, YOU can stay out of the sun. YOU can rub all the motor oil and sun protection on ya and hide in a cave cause the sky is falling. Just don’t act surprised when your bones shatter cause you can’t absord calcium without Vitamin d.

  43. Dustbunny says:

    @thesepretzels:

    George Hamilton’s not too happy either.

  44. claudia says:

    When nudists dispense with wearing clothes, we did not lose our common sense. We do wear something if chilled or sunburned and to prevent sunburn, usually wear sunscrean. Avoid tan lines: go naked.Naturist looks like you and I and come from all walks of life. You will find it to be a relaxing lifestyle that is free of the daily stress we all experience. Naturist groups like naturistmingle.com are looking for people who are open minded and want to enjoy the company of others of a like mind.

  45. puka_pai says:

    @JoeTan: now that “SPF” is in everything

    This term does not mean what you think it does. SPF is not a thing, it is a rating scale. Knowing this, I take the rest of your screed with the lump of salt it deserves.

  46. no.no.notorious says:

    Is it just me, or are have people gone sunscreen crazy? I feel like there wasn’t this need for sunscreen 10 years ago. I’ve got a natural tan and have never been burned. On a really hot day, I might wear an SPF 4. Have there really been an increase in skin cancer rates over the last 50 years that this awareness has to be so in-your-face?

    I understand the safety issue, but I just don’t remember this same phenomenon has a child.

  47. @no.no.notorious: We didn’t wear helmets when riding bikes, either. Those were the days…

  48. TangDrinker says:

    @JoeTan: Really? Do you have any studies to back up your claims? I just spent 2 minutes and found several studies that claim otherwise and concluded that wearing sunscreen is a good idea and does not contribute to melanoma. See refs 3,4, and 5.

    [www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]

  49. @duncanfj: Well, that exposure level varies depending on skin tone.

  50. oneandone says:

    @icingsugar: re: the EWG list being out of date – that’s because they’re relying on their own or academic research on the ingredients/products. If there was reliable safety & durability information from the companies on their products, the database would be much more up-to-the-minute. But the whole point is that most big brands don’t do that kind of testing or don’t share it with agencies & consumers, so we’ve got to wait for independent tests.

    I’ve generally found that products in the database get dinged for lack of transparency – untested ingredients or not disclosing fully what’s in a product. The fact that “fragrance” can be anything bothers me. I’m actually more concerned about mystery ingredients than claims about carcinogens/mutagens/etc.

  51. Amy Alkon000 says:

    The best sunblock is the one I get in Paris, and the one our FDA protects us from getting in the United States, except at Zitomer Pharmacy, where they sell it for an outrageous sum of money. It’s Anthelios #50+, creme pour la visage (cream for the face), and it’s with Mexoryl. The FDA recently allowed Anthelios #15 only. Now, a #15 is pretty much worthless for anyone who wants serious sun protection, but Mexoryl is the best ingredient out there on the market. The Europeans have been using it for years and nobody, far as I know, has been reported convulsing and dying from it. Thanks, FDA!

    You can get products with Mexoryl in them in Canada, and more than 15 percent. But this Anthelios is really the best I’ve found out there, and I have a face like a newborn baby’s ass…uh, or something like that…anyway, people are always amazed that I’m an old bag with such young skin.

    If you want to get Anthelios cheap in Paris, try Pharmacie de la Marie on rue des Archives in the fourth arrondissement (district) — aka The Marais. Foukety Pharmacy on rue du Four, in the sixth arrondissement has it for more. Get some undereye stick as well. Vichy makes the best one.

  52. @JoeTan: “Just don’t act surprised when your bones shatter cause you can’t absord calcium without Vitamin d.”

    As I live in a first-world country, my milk comes fortified with Vitamin D for just this reason.

    And you have been drinking the Scientology water, my friend.

  53. @no.no.notorious: “Have there really been an increase in skin cancer rates over the last 50 years that this awareness has to be so in-your-face?”

    Yes, and some of it has to do with the depletion of the ozone layer. And some of it has to do with the fact that we wear a lot less clothes these days than people did before WWII. (Or before the 70s, really.) Your lifetime skin exposure is a lot higher than it used to be.

    Even if your skin is not burning, tanning is a reaction to damage. People with darker skin tend to damage less quickly, as they have more natural protection, but even low exposure over many years adds up — if not in cancer, than in wrinkles and aged-looking skin. (Which, again, shows up a lot faster on folks who are naturally pale, but still.)

    My obsessive use of sunscreen is partly because I’d prefer not to die of cancer, but it’s also partly because I’d prefer not to look 70 when I’m 40.

  54. DantePD says:

    Funny 24 years of experiences dictates that Banana Boat & Coppertone products protect me better and longer than any other brands I have access too. (For the record, I’m fair skinned & a redhead.) I feel bad about the coral reef thing, and that needs to be looked at. But I can’t go outside for more than five minutes without burning on a bright/lightly cloudy day.

  55. Amy Alkon000 says:

    “Just don’t act surprised when your bones shatter cause you can’t absord calcium without Vitamin d.”

    I, too, am a fair-skinned redhead (with skin about the color of a fresh piece of typing paper). In addition to wearing sunblock with Mexoryl (about 10 euros a 50 ml. tube at the Paris pharmacy I recommended above), I live like a bat and take vitamin D, calcium, and Nordic Naturals fish oil capsules. I also have clear film on my car windows to block out UVA and UVB rays.

    If you live in California, or some sunny climate, look at people who’ve lived in the state a while. They’ll often have something I call “carface,” lots of wrinkles on the driver side of the face. Scary.

    And what’s scarier is the treatment for malignant melanoma. And, on a less severe level, looking like an alligator handbag at 40, which I don’t.

    If you can’t afford to get sunblock with Mexoryl, use something with Titanium Dioxide in it. Word has it they have one at Whole Foods in which the chemists were somehow able to make all those white particles “lie down” so you don’t look like a big snowman.

    Anyone taking fish oil capsules, by the way, should see that they are IFOS (International Fish Oil Standards) certified not to have mercury. The website for that is below:

    [www.nutrasource.ca]

  56. JoeTan says:

    “Even if your skin is not burning, tanning is a reaction to damage. “

    No it isn’t. It’s your body’s way of adjusting to the amount of sun light it desires. Sorry white folks, as much as you’ll HATE to hear it we started DARK SKINNED and as we migrated north and south our skin had to adjust to the lack of sun light by lightening itself.

    Your body knows best and has very nice indicators to tell you if you are getting too much of something or too little. In the case of skin, yeah, it’s even easier. Just look at yourself. Pale skin is skin gasping for sunlight. You covering it with SPF is like waterproofing your lawn so it doesn’t drown from the rain. Well, IT NEEDS SOME RAIN!!

    Your skin lightened cause it is gasping for sunlight. If you don’t believe me, go ask some old person in a dark corner of her old age home and take a look at the color of her skin and ask her how she’s feeling these days.

    This is the scariest post I’ve read so far

    “My obsessive use of sunscreen is partly because I’d prefer not to die of cancer, but it’s also partly because I’d prefer not to look 70 when I’m 40.”

    This is a PRIME EXAMPLE of misinformation. First off, SPF does NOT prevent wrinkles period. Good health prevents wrinkles. Also, this is superficial and has NOTHING TO DO WITH GOOD HEALTH.

    Your body produces it’s own natural color and you think that covering it with cosmetics is better for it. Unreal.

    And I missed this scary post too!!!!

    “As I live in a first-world country, my milk comes fortified with Vitamin D for just this reason.”

    Fortified? As in added to?

    First off, no adult should have to drink milk period. Second, 50% of the population and almost 100% of the black population is lactose intolerant so forget that one.
    Third, in NO OTHER CASE UNLESS IT’S A VERY RARE ONE will a doctor recommend a supplement over the natural alternative except for Vitamin D and here’s the “strange” part, Vitamin D is NOT A VITAMIN. It’s a hormone your body makes when exposed to the sun.

    Why would your body make something if it didn’t need it? And it’s making it from the sun! And a doctor wants you to BUY his pills and cover your skin so you don’t get a wrinkle with products he doesn’t even know works just BUY them cause they paid their $10000 for their “seal of approval”.

    Yeah, good luck with that.

  57. Amy Alkon000 says:

    Your body produces it’s own natural color and you think that covering it with cosmetics is better for it. Unreal.

    I’m on deadline, so I don’t really have time to reply to all the ridiculousness in Joe Tan’s comment, but there’s something called the “naturalistic fallacy,” the (wrong) notion that because something is natural it’s good. Poison mushrooms are natural. I don’t recommend sauteeing a bunch up and eating them on your hamburger with melted swiss.

    Somebody might look up some of the identical twin studies done by Nancy Segal and others and see if there is one where one twin was raised in a climate like that of Australia and another in a Northern place without a lot of sun.

    Or leave a towel out in the sun over the weekend and see what happens to it.

    And what about what I called “carface”? Look at somebody who’s been in California a long time and see the side of their face most exposed to sun and see the difference in wrinkles and sun damage. Here’s a story about that:

    [www.wsoctv.com]

    Now, I haven’t personally read the studies on this, but I’m guessing the guy referenced in the article probably has, as he’s the chairman of dermatology at St. Louis University School of medicine, and here’s a quote from him:

    “When the skin gets tanned, it’s a sign of damage to your skin as it is trying to protect itself. If you are getting a tan, it’s your skin reacting to the sun damage, Fosko said.”

    So…Joe Tan…are you a dermatologist? Biostatician? Epidemiologist? A guy who stocks shelves on the weekend at Staples?

    Did you get your information from studies you pulled from journals? Do you know the first thing about reading studies? Do you know, for example, as I was taught by an epidemiologist, that you can’t just read one study, but have to look at the whole literature on a topic before you can really make sense out of what’s going on?

    I’ll stop now, but I can’t wait to read your reply.

  58. Amy Alkon000 says:

    Ahah! Found a twin study showing monozygotic (identical) twins, one with sun damage. Scroll down to Figure 1 and Figure 2, under “Discussion” to see the photos for yourself.

    [www.antell-md.com]

    In the author’s words:

    “a 59-year-old woman with a long history of sun exposure. Note the advanced signs of aging as compared with her twin, shown in Figure 1″

  59. JoeTan says:

    [www.vitamindcouncil.org]

    Again, wrinkles are SUPERFICIAL and nothing to do with good health.

    I’m not a hippie or some fool that thinks everything natural is good for you for the same reasons you post here.

    My problem is everything that everyone says is bad about the sun is also caused by USING SPF CREAM.

    Also, instead of trying to discredit me why don’t you answer the questions I posted as in WHICH SPF is good and which is bad? You cannot say that a $2 bottle is just as effective as a $200 bottle. Doing so would mean you have no clue as to what you speak about.

    Mineral oil is in 99% of over the counter SPF. Mineral Oil is a petroleum product. If you are trying to say that rubbing a motor oil on your skin is a better approach than using a umbrella then you need your head examined.

    See the difference in MY approach is it doesn’t involve A SALE OF A SNAKE OIL with a promise of reduction of getting skin cancer. That’s a LIE. Still think Iraq had WMDs too?

    You are basing your point of view on “wives’ tales”.

    Also, if any of you “pro spf” users are smokers then PLEASE back out of this discussion now. You need all the sun you can get to counter what you’ll be dealing with.

    Bottom line,

    Your body produces a HORMONE when exposed to the sun. If you think it’s not important then don’t go out in the sun. Old people get no sun and suffer from brittle bones and major health problems that have been linked to lack of Vitamin D which is produced by the sun.

    Vitamin D is NOT a vitamin when it’s produced in your body. The supplement form of Vitamin D is NOT THE SAME as what your body produces. It’s a plant version of the “vitamin” and is not the same thing.

    The supplement form of Vitamin D CAN BE TOXIC at high doses BUT your body can and does not produce a toxic amount of the Vitamin.

    Our skin started out dark and faded as we migrated from the sunnier parts of the world to absorb more light.

    There is more cases of skin cancer in less sunny climates. This alone is enough to put a halt to the Derm’s scare tactics.

    Again, use an umbrella not chemical nonsense if you need to cover up. If you are REALLY light skinned then that just too bad. Not everyone is perfect.

    I can’t hold my breath for very long so I don’t go in the ocean. I don’t start a anti water campaign cause I have a problem. That’s nonsense.

    “When the skin gets tanned, it’s a sign of damage to your skin as it is trying to protect itself. If you are getting a tan, it’s your skin reacting to the sun damage, Fosko said.”

    This “doctor” need to have his head examined sorry to say.

    “And what about what I called “carface”? Look at somebody who’s been in California a long time and see the side of their face most exposed to sun and see the difference in wrinkles and sun damage.”

    What does this have to do with the sun? That’s called a break down of collagen in the skin. Could be caused from POLLUTION, high heat, the sun, bad diet, all of the above. SPF creme doesn’t help any of this. BEING IN CALI doesn’t help any of this!

    But it’s SUPERFICIAL! Nothing to do with good overall health.

    I’m based out of Boston home to the head of the Dermatology whatever and maybe you should read up on how they FORCED Dr Michael Holick out of his job for coming out against their cash cow that is scaring people out of the sun and selling the spf.

    This man DISCOVERED the active form of Vitamin D. He knows more than everyone and it cost him his job (well as head of the dermatology at BU).

  60. JoeTan says:

    [www.vitamindcouncil.org]

    Again, wrinkles are SUPERFICIAL and nothing to do with good health.

    I’m not a hippie or some fool that thinks everything natural is good for you for the same reasons you post here.

    My problem is everything that everyone says is bad about the sun is also caused by USING SPF CREAM.

    Also, instead of trying to discredit me why don’t you answer the questions I posted as in WHICH SPF is good and which is bad? You cannot say that a $2 bottle is just as effective as a $200 bottle. Doing so would mean you have no clue as to what you speak about.

    Mineral oil is in 99% of over the counter SPF. Mineral Oil is a petroleum product. If you are trying to say that rubbing a motor oil on your skin is a better approach than using a umbrella then you need your head examined.

    See the difference in MY approach is it doesn’t involve A SALE OF A SNAKE OIL with a promise of reduction of getting skin cancer. That’s a LIE. Still think Iraq had WMDs too?

    You are basing your point of view on “wives’ tales”.

    Also, if any of you “pro spf” users are smokers then PLEASE back out of this discussion now. You need all the sun you can get to counter what you’ll be dealing with.

  61. JoeTan says:

    sorry about the double post.

  62. JoeTan says:

    Ahah! Found a twin study showing monozygotic (identical) twins, one with sun damage. Scroll down to Figure 1 and Figure 2, under “Discussion” to see the photos for yourself.

    [www.antell-md.com]

    In the author’s words:

    “a 59-year-old woman with a long history of sun exposure. Note the advanced signs of aging as compared with her twin, shown in Figure 1″

    Who is talking about a LONG HISTORY OF SUN EXPOSURE? Why can’t anything be done in moderation? You are talking about IN EXCESS which ANYTHING can be made deadly if it’s in excess.

    Hell, you can die from breathing in an ounce of water. Should we sell anti water pills and warn people of the dangers of water death?

    The reason we have life on earth is cause of the sun. TO say it’s dangerous is just treating people like infants with out a clue….not that they aren’t but in this case the #1 is to SELL SPF CREMES not save people from skin cancer. The numbers just aren’t there. They are in the same range as the dangers of falling out of bed, and dying from a stubbed toe.

    I’d say Darwin Award at best.

  63. shades_of_blue says:

    I’m fairly sure my mother used to buy California Baby products, never imagined they’d rank higher than a lot of larger brands.

    I noticed they do not have a review of Headhunter Suncare products. Headhunter and Bullfrog are two name brands which have a following with surfers because of their supposed heavy water resistance, apparently it holds up against the crashing surf quite nicely or so they say.

    With that said, I was in Target a couple months ago looking at various sunscreen products and this female dermatologist recommended the Coppertone Sport product line. She laughed by the ingredients in Bullfrog, proclaiming Coppertone the best choice Target had because of it’s heavy Zinc content. Plus I think she was trying to pick me up, but being corrected about my web research on sunblock wasn’t winning over a date with me. So I humbly thanked her for her input and walked away.

  64. JoeTan says:

    What bothers me with the bullfrog (went to the site) is that they don’t post their ingredient list.

    “Plus I think she was trying to pick me up, but being corrected about my web research on sunblock wasn’t winning over a date with me.”

    That’s pretty funny right there. Again, personal agenda over someone’s well being. Never fails.

  65. JoeTan says:

    Again, YOU can use the SPF. I’ll stick to good ol shade.

    Progression of malignant melanoma is associated with reduced 25-hydroxyvitamin D serum levels

    [www3.interscience.wiley.com]

    “…90% of all requisite vitamin D has to be formed in the skin through the action of the sun – a serious problem due to the fact that new scientific findings convincingly demonstrate vitamin D deficiency to be associated with a variety of severe diseases including various types of cancer (e.g. colon, prostate and breast cancer). According to recent reports sun exposure is associated with a relatively favorable prognosis and increased survival rate in various malignancies, including malignant melanoma…”