It’s that time of year again when the Environmental Working Group (EWG) puts together their list of the safest and most effective sunscreens. This year the EWG rated 730 sunscreens, 460 daily moisturizers and 100 lip products with SPF values, with a score from 0 to 10. The score measured both the degree of protection from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation and the hazards of all ingredients on the label. The best products are rated 0 to 2 (green). Products that are rated 3 to 6 (yellow) have moderate hazards to health and lesser protection, and from 7 to 10 (red) are considered high hazards to health and least protection.
According to the EWG, “Today’s sunscreens do not fully protect skin from all types of UV damage. High-energy UVB rays burn skin and directly damage skin DNA, but they make up just 3 to 5% of UV radiation striking the earth’s surface. More numerous UVA rays, by contrast, can be equally damaging without blistering the skin. UVA radiation penetrates skin tissue more deeply and can generate free radicals – energized molecules that are highly reactive and can damage DNA and skin cells, advance skin aging and cause skin cancer.”
When looking at sunscreens, consider ones that use zinc oxide and avobenzone, as they are the best UVA filters in American sunscreens, providing the desired protection from free radical formation, while titanium dioxide is moderately effective at protecting against UVA rays.
Ensuring proper application can also cut down on your risk of skin damage. Thick coats applied often, especially when sweating or in and out of water, can double the effectiveness of sunscreens.
Here are other tips to protect yourself against sun damage.
• Cover up: Shirts, hats, shorts and pants shield your skin from the sun’s UV rays, reducing burn risk by 27%.
• Find shade: Picnic under a tree, read beneath an umbrella or take a canopy to the beach. Keep infants in the shade – they lack the tanning pigments, known as melanin, that protect skin.
• Plan around the sun. Go outdoors in early morning or late afternoon, when the sun is lower. UV radiation peaks at midday.
• Sunglasses aren’t just a fashion accessory. Good shades protect your eyes from UV radiation that causes cataracts.
• Apply sunscreen: Some sunscreens prevent sunburn but not other types of skin damage. Make sure yours offers broad spectrum protection.