A couple of readers have asked bout the NYTimes article about sunscreens so I thought I’d weigh in.
Okay, with the lame humor over, let’s get to the particulars. The most common question has been
1) What do I think is best/do I agree with the NYTimes?
3Answer: the advice they gave stunk. They said most doctors suggested a combination of “avobenzone and oxybenzone”. Good Lord, I hope not. Micronized zinc or titanium products are best. Excellent protection, no exposure (absorption), no problem, go enjoy the beach.
Question 2) is there a problem with oxybenzone?
Answer: Maybe. I think my favorite quote from the piece is:
At this point, I don’t think there’s enough evidence to firmly claim that sunscreens containing oxybenzone are unsafe.
Yeah, it’s only likely that they’re unsafe, so what’s the problem? Oh. I see. Maybe if there’s an alternative that’s safe for sure, then maybe we should just use that? Just a thought.
(I also enjoyed the same person saying that to protect yourself from the harmful effects of oxybenzone you just reapply constantly. While this may have some scientific basis, it’s more than a little out of touch with the real world.)
Question 3) Is EWG’s scoring system any good?
Answer: Yeah, kinda. Judging from what I can see from the site and how it works, you can be confident that the ones on the top of the list are much better than those on the bottom. The relative rankings of those that are near each other on the scale probably don’t mean a whole lot. Also, they made their stance on nanotech a little more clear, which is a good thing.
Also, I wouldn’t pay much attention to the little scorecard that lists possible harms (e.g. ‘reproductive toxicity’); without exposure information to compute a margin of safety, this is a hazard index, and not that helpful, especially when not all ingredients are tested. When not all are tested, an untested chemical would look better than one that has been tested. This is because almost all tests are positive because they run the dose up until they see something. The chart doesn’t note if it took 3 mg or 3 tons. So unless EWG has access to the amounts of chemicals in the sunscreens (confidential business information) and did an exposure assessment, this isn’t worth much.
What they did do is do a good job of looking at the relative safety of different active ingredients and paired that with information on how effective they are at blocking UVA and UVB. This is information I don’t think you can easily get anywhere else. For this alone, it is a useful tool. FDA is currently working on a rule to give you more information on this. But until then, simply pick something up off of the EWG best bets list.
Personal Toxicologist Shopper.
As for me, I’ve been using this brand for a while. There is a sport version as well that’s good. For the smaller set, I use the same thing or this depeding on how squirmy the situation is (the CA baby stuff is thick and not as easy to put on, but my guess is that it stays on better).