If this is not enough to quell your concerns, however, there are many sun protection products on the market that do not contain retinyl palmitate, and there are broad-spectrum sunscreens that avoid oxybenzone, instead using minerals to physically block UV radiation. Nanoparticles of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are commonly used in these formulas. There is some concern about skin absorption of nanoparticles, but research shows that the outermost layer of the skin, when healthy, is an effective barrier against absorption.
The general consensus is that, based on current data, the benefits from using sunscreen far outweigh the possible risks.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), the ideal sunscreen should be water-resistant, so it cannot easily be removed by sweating or swimming; should have an SPF of at least 30; and should provide protection against both UVA and UVB rays. To ensure broad-spectrum protection, look for one or more of the following ingredients on your sunscreen label:
Be careful of brands that advertise sky-high SPFs, though, as the increase in this number usually corresponds to less cash in your wallet, with little more sun protection. The FDA just released new sunscreen labelling guidelines that will cap all SPF labels at 50+ because there is no evidence that a number above 50 provides more protection. The new rules also forbid the use of terms like “sunblock”, “waterproof” or “sweatproof”. Labels on sun protection products must comply with the guidelines by summer of 2012.
To help you decide which sunscreen to stock up on this summer, we looked through the top sunscreen picks of three different sources: the Environmental Working Group, ConsumerSearch.com and Consumer Reports Health.
The first, the EWG was already mentioned above. Though the group is needlessly restrictive about certain ingredients and its ratings are not based on trials using the actual products, its database is the most extensive. Another source is ConsumerSearch.com, which rated the sunscreens according to user and expert reviews consolidated from print and web sources and ranked them according to credibility. These generally give consumers an idea of how well the sunscreens work in real world situations. Lastly, Consumer Reports Health lab tested 22 different sunscreen sprays, creams and lotions on volunteers to determine whether they met their SPF labels, and if they adequately blocked UVA rays. The products that advertised water resistance were also tested on these claims.
Here are our top picks for all-over active-use, face and lip protection:
Up & Up Sport Continuous Spray SPF 30
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch SPF 3