Since we live in Arizona, not a day goes by where most of us don’t think about putting on sunscreen and more importantly, getting the kids slathered up. The challenge is the large amount of confusing information on sun safety and sunscreen safety. The ideal scenario would be to be outside for ten or fifteen minutes, then seek shade, thus eliminating vitamin D deficiencies as well as sunburn. Unfortunately, this is not possible for us desert dwellers!

Thankfully, for most, long gone are the days of “baking” in the sun. After some suggestions on which products to avoid, you will feel more confident about your next sunscreen choice.

Sunscreen can protect the skin from sun damage through either a mineral barrier or a chemical barrier. Mineralsunscreens typically include ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which create a physical barrier to protect the skin from the sun. Be careful of “nanoparticles” with mineral options though, as these can cause some issues as well. Chemical sunscreens use one or more chemicals including oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, and octinoxate.

New research by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) reveals the chemicals commonly used in sunscreen are endocrine disruptors, estrogenic and may interfere with thyroid and other hormone processes in the body. Of the six chemicals commonly used in sunscreen, oxybenzone was found in 96 percent of the population by a recent study by the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (The skin absorbs roughly 60 percent of what is put on). 

The last item to consider when selecting sunscreens is avoiding the aerosol spray version which, if inhaled, is harmful to children and doesn’t tend to cover the skin properly.

Outside of avoiding the sun or covering up, sunscreen is still the wisest choice for sun safety and fortunately, there are sunscreens that you can feel good about using on yourself and your kids. Here is a sampling of a few of the natural mineral sunscreen brands that the EWG lists as safe and I have used myself:

Badger Mineral Sunscreen (all versions)

JASON Mineral Sunscreen

Alba Botanical Mineral Sunscreen

Babyganics Mineral Sunscreen and Spray Sunscreen (this spray is a pump and not aerosol).

To summarize, if you select a mineral sunscreen (hopefully non-aerosol) you are on the right track to sun safety! To read more about the EWG’s research on product safety, visit their site at www.ewg.org.

— Sara Lemons Vaules is the founder of Lemon and Light, which offers consulting, products and strategies for moving with ease into an organic, chemical-free lifestyle.