Knowing which sunscreen to choose is complicated. Your skin needs protection against sunburn and skin cancer, but some online articles have called some sunscreens dangerous.* A new product in our stores from our trusted friends at Badger has prompted us to talk sunscreen!
Sunscreen comes in two forms: mineral and chemical. Mineral sunscreens physically block sunlight using zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Chemical sunscreens use chemicals to absorb sunlight as it hits the skin.
Sunscreen should block two types of rays from the sun. UVA light ages skin and can cause skin cancer. UVB causes sunburn and can cause skin cancer. The SPF of sunscreen measures how well it protects from sunburn, but not skin cancer. In the US, sunscreens are not required to block UVA light. (However, as of 2013, sunscreen cannot advertise that it is “broad spectrum” if it does not block both UVA and UVB light.)
Zinc oxide blocks the entire range of UVA and UVB light, as well as UVC—which only pilots and astronauts need to worry about! Chemical-based sunscreens often include a few chemicals that together block the whole spectrum of UVA and UVB light.
Is Sunscreen Safe?
In recent years, the safety of chemical sunscreen has been questioned. While some experts say the chemicals are safe (or that ill effects are negligible), others still express concern.* According to the Harvard Medical School, other claims about sunscreen (like that it is poisonous, doesn’t prevent cancer, or even causes cancer) are not supported by evidence.*
In addition, sometimes sunscreens don’t perform well over time or are not as waterproof as they claim to be. Note that the experts recommend staying out of the sun in the middle of the day and wearing clothing or a hat to keep the sun off, even if you are wearing sunscreen.
Some sunscreens are also damaging to the environment, in particular coral reefs. Researchers worldwide have identified two commonly used chemicals, oxybenzone and octinoxate, as problems, and other chemicals may be problematic as well. Zinc oxide (in its non-nano form, which is the form used by Badger) is the safest active ingredient for reefs and ocean health. Note that the “reef safe” label is not regulated and therefore does not guarantee a sunscreen is safe for coral.**
Clear Mineral Sunscreen
Badger is a brand of sunscreen we’ve carried for years, made by a great company in New England. Badger makes mineral sunscreens with zinc oxide. In addition to blocking the full spectrum of UV light, mineral-based sunscreens have the best ratings*** and the least problems and potential problems.
In the past, the down side of mineral-based sunscreens was that they were hard to rub on, leaving a white layer on the skin. New formulations, however, have solved this problem. That’s why we’re excited about the new Badger clear sunscreens. They offer all the protection of zinc oxide without remaining visible. We carry the clear zinc sunscreen, the clear zinc sport sunscreen, and the clear zinc kids sport sunscreen.
Badger is a small, family-owned, family-run company in New Hampshire. They use organic ingredients and follow standards for healthy agriculture, minimal processing, sustainable supply chain, and health giving properties. The workplace is family friendly, with flexible scheduling, parental leave, child care reimbursements, and a “Babies at Work” program. They are a certified B corporation and participate in numerous environmental initiatives. They donate 10 percent of pre-tax profits to nonprofits working on the health and welfare of children (including environmental education), the local community, and the promotion of peace and well being, and they match employee contributions. Read more.
*For some science-based discussion of sunscreen, see these blogs from the Harvard Medical School, https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-science-of-sunscreen, and Scientific American, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/are-sunscreens-safe/. Note: if the Harvard Medical School article is hidden behind a paywall, try searching for it and accessing it from the search results.
**Read more about reef safe sunscreens here: https://www.snorkelsandfins.com/reef-safe-sunscreen-brands/#tab-con-5
***The Environmental Working Group rates sunscreens to bridge the gaps in US regulation: https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/. All Badger sunscreens have a #1 rating.