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NatureMomma: Where are all the “Good” sunscreens?

April 13, 2011

Reaching for the Good Stuff:  Where are all the “Good” Sunscreens?

It was my last week of my summer internship and I was preparing for the day by slathering on the sunscreen when I hear from behind me “Hey Mandy!  Lay off the sunscreen for once or people won’t believe you spent the summer in Hawaii!”  I had worked all summer with Marc, a University of Hawaii grad student, and he had teased me about my constant application of sunscreen. I was really tan (for me) despite my diligence, but I guess he didn’t appreciate my slightly darker shade of pale!

I have always taken sunscreen for granted. I naturally felt like I was doing the responsible thing by coating my exposed parts with thick layers of sunscreen to prevent skin cancer and slow the aging process (yadayadayada). Just recently, since I became aware of potentially harmful ingredients in skin care, I decided to investigate sunscreens/sunblock. I was floored to find out that a majority of sunscreens that you find at local stores are potentially BAD for you!

First of all, the basic difference between sunscreens and sunblock is that sunscreens are chemical-based formulations that help filter out harmful rays of the sun, and sunblocks are a mineral-based topical barriers to the sun. I started out by looking for sun protection that was paraben-free since that is one of the ingredients that scientists are unsure of the long-term effects of. But even when sunscreens touted that they were paraben-free and made with all natural ingredients (i.e. Ocean Potion brand suncare), they still contained other potentially harmful additives such as oxybenzone and retinol palmitate (Vitamin A). These ingredients are often glossed over because we don’t know the potential harm that they can do (see EWG’s website listed below), PLUS it says all those positive things on the front!

So, how do you find safe, effective suncare for you and yours? I went to the Environmental Working Group’s website (  which has an extensive 2010 Sunscreen Safety Guide. I was blown away by the ratings of sunscreens that I always assumed were safe! I took note of the top sunscreens that were listed and went on a local hunt for them in the stores. I was shocked to find that VERY FEW safe sunscreens are readily available in the stores. Most places stock the most popular brands (Coppertone, Neutrogena, Banana Boat, etc.). VERY few stores had sunscreens that were on the top of the list. I DID have some success at Target where I found California Baby sunscreen ($19-eek!) and Johnson’s Baby Daily Face and Body lotion ($11). I went on to find Alba Botanica sunblocks ($7)  at Dierbergs which were also ranked fairly high on the list. After buying the Johnson’s lotion, I headed home to see if I had better success online. I was able to find lots of the better-quality sunscreens at and I invested in Badger sunscreens and was able to get free shipping since I bought two.

I have a newfound respect for what I will be coating my children’s bodies in this summer. As a “Naturemomma”, I plan on spending lots of time doing just that-being in nature. Instead of just grabbing any sunscreen though, this year, I’ll be reaching for the good stuff….


3 Comments leave one →
  1. Kristina permalink
    April 13, 2011 8:42 am

    I fonnd that website last year after learning about the chemicals in some of the sunscreens and how it gets absorbed into kids blood stream. I had two friends who had kids with severe reactions to the most popular sunscreen and the doctors told them about how it goes into their blood streams causing a more severe reaction. I found a lot of the safe ones at Whole Foods although they are VERY expensive. I wish they would do a price check on them and find where the cheapest ones are at! Its a great article you wrote and I think its great to get the word out to people!

  2. Sarah permalink
    April 13, 2011 9:02 am

    Thanks so much for the tips. I am going to follow your lead, suck up the extra money, and get the “good stuff” this year too. Too many cancers in our own little circle as of late and, frankly, it’s freaking me out!

  3. April 15, 2011 3:19 pm

    We too spend all of our money on harmful chemical-free personal care products, organic food, and wine. I don’t know what we will do if our cars ever stop running. LOL!

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