Vail Daily column: Be aware of what’s in your sunscreen and its efficacy | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: Be aware of what’s in your sunscreen and its efficacy

Judson Haims
Visiting Angels

It's summer, and many of us are getting ready to spend time playing outside. However, while we're outside being healthy, we need to be aware of the dangers of sun exposure. Further, we need to be better educated about sunscreens and the distortions of SPF ratings.

The Environmental Working Group, a Washington-based research group, and Consumer Reports have not necessarily been on the same page as the Food & Drug Administration when it comes to sunscreen protection and SPF ratings.

One of the issues of disagreement is that even though the FDA contends that products labeled with SPF higher than 50 are "inherently misleading," they have not mandated that producers of sunscreen refrain from labeling their product with values above this.

The Environmental Working Group wants sunscreen consumers to understand that while they may assume that they get twice as much protection from sunscreen products that are labeled with SPF ratings of 100 as from SPF 50, in reality, the extra protection is insignificant. The Environmental Working Group states that, properly applied, SPF 50 sunscreen blocks 98 percent of sunburn rays, while SPF 100 blocks 99 percent. SPF values above 50 are statistically so insignificant that they shouldn't sway you.

Further, sunscreen pricing varies quite a bit. Predominately due to brand recognition, but secondarily from SPF values, sunscreens can vary in price — about 3,000 percent. According to Dr. Steve Xu, a resident in dermatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and lead author of a recent study published online in the JAMA Dermatology (Journal of the American Medical Association), prices for sunscreen vary between $0.68 and $24 an ounce.

When you consider the protective gear you need for sports, do you often stop short of fully protecting yourself? I do not see too many hockey players put their helmets on but neglect chest and leg pads, nor do I see too many kayakers wear helmets but forego flotation devices. Sunscreen by itself is only one tool in the arsenal for sun protection.

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Alone, sunscreen does not provide complete protection from the sun and skin cancer. While it is important that people apply sunscreen properly, and re-apply frequently, it is also important that people supplement protection by using a hat, protective clothing and sunglasses.

People should make themselves aware of sunscreen ingredients, as some may be unsafe. Retinyl palmitate and retinoic acid, another form of Vitamin A, speed development of cancerous lesions and tumors on ultraviolet-treated animals. Oxybenzone is believed to cause hormone disruption and cell damage, which could promote cancer.

Look for broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against UVB and UVA rays, and zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which are natural, mineral-based ingredients.

Don't take chances with skin cancer. Apply a quality sunscreen often, and use clothing and a hat for added protection.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. Contact him at 970-328-5526 or visit http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns.

What to wear

Here’s a list of sunscreens found safe and effective by the Environmental Working Group and the Skin Cancer Foundation.

• All Terrain AquaSport Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30

• All Good Unscented Sunstick, SPF 30

• Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sunscreen Lotion, Fragrance Free, SPF 30

• Babyganics Pure Mineral Sunscreen Stick, SPF 50+

• Badger Sport Sunscreen Cream, Unscented, SPF 35

• Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen, Sensitive, SPF 30+

• Hampton Sun Sunscreen Lotion For Baby, SPF 45

• Jersey Kids Mineral Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30

• Kiss My Face Organics Kids Mineral Sunscreen, SPF 30

• MDSolarSciences Mineral Creme Sunscreen, SPF 30

• Sunology Natural Sunscreen, Face, SPF 50

• Thinksport Sunscreen, SPF 50+