If you were around this winter, you are probably trying to soak up every last drop of sunshine. Lazy days at the cottage, a good book on a lawn chair, splashing with the kids in the pool, these are the moments we live for.

Yet, most of us are aware of the dangers that the sun’s rays can have and now we are considering the dangers of the chemicals found in the very products that we hope will protect us.

How overwhelming! How are you supposed to know who to trust?

At Green Action Centre we’ve been reaching out to find new ways to keep clean, stay fresh and keep the bugs off without the use of harsh chemicals. Check out our DIY recipes and make your own natural products. Things like shampoo, air freshener, hand sanitizer and bug spray have been made with love by our wonderful staff at various events this summer. They’re easy and cheap to make!

But back to that loved and loathed sunshine that we seek. Green Action Centre wants to help with your decisions in the sunscreen aisle. How can you choose the “least bad” of what’s out there?

SPF – What?

First, let’s start with SPF – which stands for Sun Protection Factor. This rating was developed to measure the fraction of sun-rays that are being blocked. This is assuming that the cream is applied evenly and quite thick (2 milligrams per square centimeter). The effectiveness of the number is determined by how each person is affected by the sun without sunscreen. And don’t forget that the number has nothing to do with the length of time the protection will last. So reapply frequently.

Generally speaking, anything above 50 SPF is misleading and should not be taken as a free ticket to spend too much time outside during the hotter hours.

The ingredients in your sunscreen are being scrutinized regularly. Nowadays there are several “natural” products out there claiming to be better than others. If you take a look at the chemicals listed on the back and keep these ones in mind, you can feel better about your choice.

The bad ones:

Oxybenzone and octinoxate

This is a commonly used chemical in sunscreen, but can be mostly avoided from certain brands. Studies are showing that it penetrates the skin and leads to harmful effects, including endometriosis in older women and has been shown to have negative effects on reproductive systems when tested on animals.

Retinyl palmitate or also known as Vitamin A:

Most commonly used as an anti-aging ingredient but increases your sensitivity to the sun making you susceptible to burning.

The okay ones:

Titanium dioxide, zinc oxide and avobenzone

These are used in many different cosmetic products. They have shown no sign of hormone disruption and are effective for protecting your skin. Zinc oxide is a bit of a concern for inhalation, so avoid spray-on sunscreens.

Of course that’s not all the info out there, you can research the chemicals in cosmetics until the cows come home, but who has time for that? However, if you do have a moment to surf, I would recommend checking out the skindeep website. Put forth by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), its comprehensive and practical. If you’re looking to make smarter, better choices with the chemicals you bring into your home, check out their database. By entering the name or type of product, EWG offers a health safety rating based on the ingredients in the product. As far as sunscreen goes, thankfully there are many many different brands that have been deemed safe and conscientious by these guys.

As more people indicate that these products are important to them, the demand goes up for safer healthier products. And we can see it happening! It’s such good news. If you head to any natural/organics section of the stores (of which I am happy to say, seem to be getting bigger, yay!), natural sunscreens are in abundance and you pretty much can’t go wrong. So, until then my friends, slap it on, get out there and enjoy because “winter is coming….” 🙂