Organic and all-natural segments of the beauty industry have grown in leaps and bounds in the last decade, as consumers demand alternatives to chemical skin-care ingredients. Sunscreen is no exception and may be among the most controversial products in this realm. The reason: Although one set of consumer-advocates say most sunscreens may be harmful, other experts say sunscreen is absolutely essential to limit sun damage.
In a report on sunscreens by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), only 39 of 500 products they reviewed were found to be safe and effective. Two chemicals are of particular concern, the report says. Retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A, may accelerate skin damage and elevate skin cancer risk. Oxybenzone, a sunscreen ingredient, is a "hormone-disrupting compound" that is capable of penetrating the skin and entering the blood stream, the report notes. The EWG report also cites other chemicals and preservatives that the group says are unsafe or have unknown side effects.
In response to the EWG's report, Zoe Draelos, consulting professor at the Duke University School of Medicine and spokesperson for the American Academy of Dermatology, says there is no consensus that oxybenzone is damaging in any way and that the EWG is making unfair "sweeping generalizations." The Personal Care Products Council, a national trade association for cosmetic and personal care products and an advocate for consumer safety, is another voice of dissent. The chairman of the group, John Bailey, says the EWG's method of testing sunscreen protection is "based on very questionable scientific methodology … proven to be inaccurate and unreliable by sunscreen experts around the world."
Experts on both sides of the debate agree that the risk from unprotected sun exposure outweighs other possible risks associated with sunscreen use. Furthermore, natural sunscreen products that contain the minerals zinc oxide and titanium dioxide -- rather than chemical sunscreens -- are considered a safe and effective alternative. These physical sunscreens form a protective layer on the skin that blocks the sun's harmful rays.
If you prefer to avoid chemicals and preservatives in your personal care products, experts and consumers recommend Badger SPF 30+ Lightly Scented Sunscreen (*Est. $16 for 2.9 oz.) . Badger natural sunscreen relies on organic and mineral ingredients to provide the best sun protection. It uses zinc oxide (20.5 percent) to provide long-lasting, broad-spectrum protection. The sunscreen also contains several moisturizing ingredients, including olive oil, jojoba oil, cocoa butter and shea butter. Furthermore, it doesn't contain any artificial fragrance, dyes or preservatives, making it an excellent option for sensitive skin. Badger natural sunscreen is listed as one of 21 affordable natural sunscreens by TheDailyGreen.com. Editors at TruthinAging.com say that it is one of the most popular sunscreens among the organic crowd because it's 90 percent organic and does an outstanding job of protecting skin from UV rays. They point out that it is extremely difficult to rub in and leave a ghastly white residue. Testers for one major consumer organization agree - many wished to wash it off as soon as they applied the thick, greasy sunscreen.