Woman applying sunscreen

Get sun savvy

The end of the school year is in sight, and summer is just around the corner. My girlfriends and I can't wait to hit the beach! I’m preparing with doubled up gym visits, hitting the hot yoga mat, and I have my new bikini and Tory Burch sandals ready to go... but what about sun protection? Are you ready to prevent skin damage and future skin disease or cancer, while having fun in the sun? Well, I've done all the research for you, and put together the DOs and DON'Ts of smart sun protection.

DO know that SPF is not an accurate predictor of protection!

The SPF number on your sunscreen only rates protection from UVB rays, the ones that cause sunburn (think 'B' for bad burn), not UVA rays, the ones that cause wrinkling, sagging, leathering, pigmentation, aging skin and long-term damage (think 'A' for aging). Crazy right? Many believe high SPFs can be even more dangerous, because it allows you to believe you can stay in direct sun longer simply because you are not getting a sunburn, while overexposing yourself to UVA rays. You need to protect against BOTH rays.

BeakerDON'T use products with chemical "active ingredient" oxybenzone and avobenzene

These chemicals do not provide UVA ptotection; they penetrate the skin and rapidly oxidize to become potent free radicals linked with cell damage, and they are also known to be endocrine (hormone) disruptors.

10 Toxins found in common cosmetics >>

DO use a zinc oxide "mineral sunscreen" instead

The "active ingredient" zinc oxide provides broad spectrum (UVA and UVB) protection without those nasty endocrine disruptors or other harmful chemicals. The use of sunscreen is known to prevent the direct DNA damage that causes sunburn and the two most common forms of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. However, if sunscreen penetrates into the skin, like oxybenzone, it promotes indirect DNA damage, which causes the most lethal form of skin cancer: malignant melanoma. You read that correctly, your sunscreen could be causing cancer! So, use a mineral sunscreen to keep the sun protection on the surface of the skin. Think zinc!

DO be sure to avoid nanoparticle zinc oxide

Be sure that your zinc oxide is not formulated with nanosize particles. Be careful, though, because most are. Research shows that nanoparticles cross the cell barrier and enter organs, including the brain in humans. I, for one, am not willing to be a guinea pig. The problem is that safe sunscreens containing larger, non-nanoparticle minerals that reflect light also have a tendency to appear white on the skin, so they are not as popular with consumers who don’t yet understand the benefit of zinc and harm of other types of sun protection. Well, now that you do understand this, I hope you will "get over it" and be willing take a few extra seconds to apply zinc sunscreen.

DON’T use sunscreen with ingredient retinyl palmitate

The FDA released a report last spring that retinyl palmitate enhances skin cancer lesions in the presence of sunlight in animal research. Again with the guinea pig thing -- I'm definitely avoiding it!

Many sunscreens unsafe for kids >>

DON’T use sunscreen with endocrine disrupting parabens (methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, etc.) 

Just last month, the physician research team at Mt. Sinai Children’s Environmental Health Center released a list of the 10 chemicals that could potentially cause autism, ADHD and neurological disorders -- and guess what -- endocrine disruptors came in at number six on the list! Future moms -- avoid it at all costs.

perfumeDON’T use the ingredient "fragrance"

Manufacturers can legally hide phthalates (thal-ates) and hundreds of other ingredients in this one "trade secret" ingredient. Guess what -- yup -- phthalates are endocrine disruptors, too. Stay away!

Interview with eco-beauty expert Ava Anderson >>

DO read labels and look up your sunscreen on the Skin Deep cosmetic database

The database ranks products on a 0-10 toxicity scale. Check it out. The sunscreen I used to use is an 8. What’s yours? I like to remind everyone that it is all about the ingredients -- the rest is just marketing! Most big-box brand name sunscreens have multiple "hits" of endocrine disruptors in every application. Now think of how many times you reapply to yourself and your children daily. There are actually some sunscreens with all four of these endocrine disrupting offenders -- parabens, retinyl palmitate, fragrance and octinoxate. Yikes!

DO reapply often and cover up

You should apply sunscreen to dry skin 30 minutes before going outdoors. Apply sunscreen liberally. Be careful to cover exposed areas. Sunscreen should be applied in the morning and reapplied every two hours, or sooner after swimming, showering or sweating. Reapply often for maximum protection, especially if you have towel-dried. Avoid exposure from the strongest sun (between 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.) when possible. Get covered, go wild and get a great hat!

DO give my AVA Sunscreen a try

We are really proud of this product -- it is a great moisturizer that also happens to be a sunscreen, all organic and no harmful chemicals. Yes, you need to rub it in a bit, but based on all of this information, isn’t it worth it?

AVA Sunscreen ingredients: active ingredients: zinc oxide (21 percent, non-nanoparticle). inactive: beeswax (organic), theobroma cacao seed butter (organic cocoa butter), butyrospermum parkii (organic shea butter), olea europaea (organic olive oil), simmondsia chinensis (organic jojoba oil).

More summer skin care

Summer skin care products that protect and heal
No-fail summer skin care strategies
Get glowing summer skin


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Danielle June 27, 2012 | 2:09 PM

Thank you for explaining the "whiteness" left on skin with your safe sunscreen. I'm grateful that I have a safe choice for my family this summer and I don't have to worry about poisoning their internal organs while I'm trying to protect their skin!

Jodi June 16, 2012 | 8:08 AM

You can always count on AVA to have the best up to date information and the most phenomenal products. I am a breast cancer survivor and we'll know soon if I will be a skin cancer surviver too. I have total peace of mind with Ava's sunscreen (and all her other products too) and I love that sharing her products with my friends earns me my products for FREE! THANK YOU AVA for making my corner of the world a safer, healthier place to be!

Shelby June 11, 2012 | 8:32 PM

Thank you for this fantastic article! I have been looking for something short and to the point like this to share with my friends. I will definately pass this on! I love Ava Sunscreen! Thank you!

Shelby June 11, 2012 | 8:45 AM

Thank you, Ava, for this wonderful article! I was looking for something short and sweet like this to share with my friends to let them know about the dangers in sunscreen.

Lisa--London, Ohio June 06, 2012 | 7:17 PM

Thanks once again Ava for your scientific research and information. I love your products! I had a client whose hands would break out in blisters with any other sunscreen she applied. I had her try yours, and her hands didn't break out at all! She loves it! So do I. Great products. Keep up the terrific work Ava!

Andrea June 05, 2012 | 8:18 PM

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Cheryl June 05, 2012 | 6:25 PM

I know someone that rides a motorcycle throughout the summer months and has to do it with long sleeves because he is allergic to all the sunscreens that are on the market today. He recently tried Ava's sunscreen and it does not bother him at all. He now can ride his bike in the summer without having to wear long sleeves. Great product.

Annie B. June 05, 2012 | 5:54 PM

My skin is very sensitive, and I always seemed to have problems no matter which sunscreen I used. I tried Ava Anderson's sunscreen when it first came out and have had only great experiences with it since then. I now also use her daily moisturizer with sunscreen -- wonderful! I am so glad to know there are products out there that actually work and yet are not laden with harmful chemicals.

Beth June 05, 2012 | 3:38 PM

I use the daily moisturizer with SPF and the SPF lip balm, Love them!! My mom just got the Ava Anderson Sunscreen and Loves it!!!

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