Saturday, May 30, 2009

Got Toxic Sunscreen? We Did.

Yesterday I visited the dermatologist, first time in over four years. She reviewed my skin care regime (pretty basic, Cetaphil cleanser followed by Oil of Olay with sunscreen) and made a few recommendations. But more importantly she got me up to speed on sunscreen.

She told me that sunscreen is not regulated by the FDA and that they have failed to create mandatory safety standards to protect our health. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) did some independent testing and discovered that numerous sunscreens either are not nearly as effective as claimed (not really SPF 15 etc) or worse contain the toxic chemicals Oxybenzone or Benzophenone-3 which when absorbed by the skin can cause allergies and hormone problems.

Their findings state that 'of nearly 1,000 name brand sunscreens, only 1 of 5 provided adequate protection from both UVA & UVB radiation with few ingredients link to known or suspected health hazards'. In fact EWG states that fewer than 5% of Coppertone, Neutrogena and Banana Boat products are recommended as safe and effective. Are you as shocked as I am?

I went through our sunscreen stash and found that all but one of our sunscreens contained these offending chemicals, even the 'name brand' sunscreens as the EWG states. See the bad guys above. Banana Boat Baby was our lone toxin free sunscreen but is it effective?

Now that I am aware I want to share the information. Dr. Dano gave me a handout with the Top 10 Sunscreen recommendations by the EWG that I transcribed for you below.

1. Blue Lizard (anything without oxybenzone)
2. California Baby (anything with SPF 30+)
3. CVS with zinc oxide
4. Jason Natural Cosmetics Sunbrellas Mineral Based Sunblock
5. Kiss My Face "Parabin Free" series
6. Neutrogena Sensitive Skin Sunblock
7. Olay Defense Daily UV Moisturizer (with zinc)
8. SkinCeuticals Physical UV Defense
9. Solar Sense Clear Zinc for Face
10. Walgreens Zinc Oxide for Face, Nose & Ears

  • SPF 30 or higher for best protection
  • At least 7% zinc oxide or titanium dioxide for broad spectrum protection
This news comes to me right on the heels of finishing the book 'The Unhealthy Truth' by Robyn O'Brian (also recommended by a dermatologist slash friend, Dr. Renee Synder) which uncovers the failings of the FDA to protect our food supply and details the disturbing ties between the FDA and large food corporations and subsequent sketchy approvals. So you can guess that I am less than enchanted with our government right now.

Grab Robyn's book if you have a chance. Or check back as I'll be posting more on her book later, with a summary of commons foods and additives that many prominent scientist and other government agencies consider unsafe as well as a few ideas from the author on how we can make small improvements in what we feed our children and reap big benefits.


I just checked out the EWG website and looked up the safety of several products I use regularly.
  • Cetaphil facial cleanser had a 7 high hazard level rating(on a scale from 1 to 10). And the packaging says 'Mild enough to cleanse a baby's delicate skin'
  • Purpose cleanser (recommended by my Dr as a replacement to Cetaphil) had a 4 or moderate hazard level rating.
  • Oil of Olay complete all day moisture lotion had a 4 or moderate hazard level rating.


Misty said...

WOW! THat is scary! I'm going thru my stuff right now. I'm going to have to find that book also, sounds great. We do use ALOT of the California baby.
Thanks for the post!

betty said...

that EWG website is amazing. and scary. not only for my kids, but for the products i use for myself!

The Amazing Trips said...

Oh damn. Something new to worry about. When will it ever stop?! Perhaps I should just wrap our children in brown paper bags.

Thanks for the great post!

Anonymous said...

Just for clarification, your first sentence in the second paragraph is not true. All sunscreen products are considered drugs and ARE regulated by the FDA, at least those made legally by reputable companies. Sunscreen products are found as monograph items in the United States Pharmacopeia, along with other drug products like cold medicines, fungal infection treatments, and some Rx items.
That said, you are absolutely correct in that you should be careful of the suncreens that you choose. Because they ARE drug products and not grooming products, sunscreens are not one size fit all. Some companies, especially those that make generic sunscreens, do not do sufficient SPF testing and that combined with improper use (not using enough or not re-applying often) can lead to sunburn and skin damage for some. Likewise, due to the different possible ingredients, everyone needs to determine the best available forumulation for themselves and their families, taking into account both allergies and skin sensitivity. I apologize for posting anonymously, but I don't have a google account. And yes, I do work for a major sunscreen producer and have for 17 years, most of which has been spent in testing suncreen products per FDA regulations. However, I am also a freckled, fair-skinned Mommy with a history of severe sunburns as a child with two freckled little girls I want to spare that agony, so I am very glad that you have addressed this subject and are encouraging your readers to think wisely about sunscreen.

Happy Home said...

Thanks for the clarification Bronwyn.

So, which sunscreen do you choose for yourself and your family?