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Sunscreen Safety Ratings

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I have been slathering up in a Banana Boat since I was a little kid. And as a baby, my mom slathered me up in Water Babies. Who doesn’t love that little girl and dog on the bottle? I know that many of your first reactions to this article will be, “I’ve always used (insert favorite sunscreen here), and I turned out just fine!” Well, I’m here to tell you that the way that we have always done things is not necessarily the best, or healthiest, way. And while that line of logic can be applied to almost anything you want (television, junk food, etc.), it sucks.

The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit organization that works to tell consumers what is safe and unsafe, in both our food and products. They do their own studies and examine the studies of others. They look at government reports, and lobby for national policy change. They are my heroes.

The EWG has several search engines, where you can look up products that are assigned a safety rating. One such search engine looks at sunscreen (and sunblock), and can be found here. I know what you’re thinking – The FDA wouldn’t approve my sunscreen if it wasn’t safe, right? . . . Right?! Wrong. As the EWG states on their website that the regulations that they FDA started to write in 1973 were never finished! That’s some serious procrastinating! You can read all about it here, but in a nutshell it says that the FDA is not properly regulating sunscreen.

What does that mean for us – the average consumers and mothers out there? If the FDA is not going to protect my family, then I am. I have spent a lot of time standing in the aisles of various stores and looking up sunscreens on the EWG search engine. It can be really hard to find the few sunscreens on the shelves that are actually safe. It is time consuming, and not everyone has a smart phone. A friend (and mother of two) recently called me while standing in the aisles of Target, and asked me to look up sunscreens for her. I started thinking, “Someone should just make a list of the best sunscreens at a few popular stores.”  So, I have done just that.

Here is the list of the sunscreens with the best EWG ratings (1-3) that can be found at a few popular stores. The inventory of stores varies, but this gives you a general idea of what sunscreens to look for. I am not going to list the scary scores of some popular brands of sunscreen. That seems like it might get me into trouble. I am, however, encouraging all of you to head over to the EWG’s sunscreen search and look them up yourselves. I actually tossed several bottles of sunscreen after doing just that. Wasteful? Yes. But I’ll take that over cancer. If your favorite store doesn’t carry the sunscreen you like, ask the manager to start carrying it. Believe it or not, they want input from their customers.

When looking at the ratings, keep in mind that ratings are based on a 0 to 10 scale. Ratings of 0 to 2 are in the “low hazard” category. Ratings of 3 to 6 are in the “moderate hazard” category, and ratings of 7 to 10 are considered “high hazard.” So, while I’m including products rated as a 3, that rating is still not stellar. However, it’s a whole lot better than a 7. If there’s a specific product that you use, go look it up. If you click on the product, it will tell you how it earned that score. Then, you can make an informed decision for your family based on the facts.

The list that I constructed is terribly long, so I have created an additional tab for it.  You can find the entire list here.
Happy shopping!


Please note, there is technically a difference between sunscreen and sunblock. Sunscreen involves the use of chemicals to filter out UV rays. Sunblocks physically block the sun and protect against UVB rays. Remember those lifeguards with the white noses? That’s sunblock. Throughout this article, I’m using “sunscreen” as a catchall term to cover both. So, when I say “sunscreen,” I’m talking about both chemical and physical blockers.

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