Sun Safety 2013: Best Sunscreens and Those to Avoid

Sun Safety 2013: Best Sunscreens and Those to Avoid

Alisa Opar
Published: 05/22/2013

Photo: Ralph Daily/Flickr

Memorial Day Weekend is just around the corner, and that means backyard barbeques and trips to the beach. As you gear up to head outside, remember to take sunburn precautions. Nothing spoils the holiday fun like red, blistered, painful skin. 


A few tips from the EPA and FDA. Limit your time in the sun, especially from 10-2 when UV rays are strongest. Cover up whenever possible. Use water resistant sunscreen when swimming or exerting yourself. And this one is key: REAPPLY. Specifically, the EPA recommends:


Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF rating of 15 or higher. Apply sunscreen 20 minutes before going out into the sun (or as directed by the manufacturer) to give it time to absorb into your skin. Apply it generously and regularly—about 1 ounce every 2 hours—and more often if you are swimming or perspiring.


As for choosing a sunscreen, once again the folks at the Environmental Working Group have done the heavy lifting. Their 184 top-rated beach and sport sunscreens are below; on EWG’s website you’ll find lots more info and ratings for many, many more products—including moisturizers, lip balm, and makeup with SPF—as well as their free app.  


Before the good stuff, here are eight sunscreen no-nos from EWG:

  1. No spray sunscreens: It’s easy to miss spots, and there are concerns about inhaling the product.
  2. No super-high SPFs: They give a false sense of security, which can lead to fewer re-applications, which increases risk of exposure to damaging UVA rays. Avoid anything higher than SPF 50+.
  3. No oxybenzone: A UV-filter, this chemical is an endocrine disruptor that might contribute to adverse health effects—more research is needed.
  4. No loose powder sunscreens: These often contain zinc or titanium, which can be harmful if inhaled.
  5. No retinyl palmitate: Studies show that on sun-exposed skin, this form of Vitamin A may speed development of skin tumors and lesions.
  6. No combined sunscreen/bug repellents: There’s some evidence that combining sunscreens and repellents leads to increased skin absorption of the repellent ingredients.
  7. No sunscreen towelettes: It’s questionable whether these products result in enough sunscreen on your skin to ensure protection.
  8. No tanning oils: EWG says, “Tanning oils are simply a bad idea. They promote risky behavior, encouraging users seek out intense sunshine that results in skin damage and increased risk of developing skin cancer.”


Now, on to the top-rated beach and sport sunscreens. All earned a ‘1’ or a ‘2’ from EWG, which scores products on a on a scale of 1 to 10: 0-2 is low hazard; 3-6 is moderate hazard; 7-10 is high hazard.

Absolutely Natural

Absolutely Natural KIDS Sunscreen, SPF 30

Absolutely Natural Sunscreen, SPF 30


Alba Botanica

Alba Botanica Natural Very Emollient Kids Mineral Sunscreen, SPF 30

Alba Botanica Natural Very Emollient Mineral Sunscreen, Fragrance Free, SPF 30


All Terrain

All Terrain AquaSport Face Stick, SPF 28

All Terrain AquaSport Lotion, SPF 30

All Terrain KidSport Face Stick, SPF 28

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