With the dog days of summer here, the excitement of longer days and more time in the sun is begging us to get outdoors. For most nothing beats a day at the pool catching up with family or friends or the latest summer read. But long days next to the pool without proper sun protection can lead to uncomfortable nights, not to mention the potential of long term skin damage.

With the dog days of summer here, the excitement of longer days and more time in the sun is begging us to get outdoors. For most nothing beats a day at the pool catching up with family or friends or the latest summer read. But long days next to the pool without proper sun protection can lead to uncomfortable nights, not to mention the potential of long term skin damage.

This summer the most important read should be the ingredients label of your sunscreen. Remember that the products you buy to protect your skin are just as important as the food you buy for your internal health. This is because as much as 60% of what you put on your skin can be absorbed into your bloodstream. And, just as the best foods are generally found in your local health food store, so too are the best sunscreens.

To prevent sun damage and protect your precious outer layer, it is best to choose a sunscreen that is free of harmful, harsh chemicals. Here is a list of specific ingredients better left out of your sunscreen:

1. DMDM Hydantoin – allergen, irritant, can form cancer-causing agents
2. Fragrance – listed alongside second hand smoke as a potent asthma trigger
3. Oxybenzone – allergen that causes cell and DNA damage with free radicals
4. Parabens – class of preservatives, hormone disruptors, possible link to breast cancer
5. Pthalates – endocrine (hormone) system disruptor, may cause reproductive damage
6. Triethalonamine – allergen, irritant, can form cancer-causing agents
7. Any sunscreen in powder or spray form as it is easy to inhale the tiny particles

Recently the Environmental Working Group showed that only 14% of the sun care products on the market are actually “safe and effective.” So with all the ingredients to stay away from how do you find a healthy product that still provides sufficient protection from UVA and UVB rays?

One important thing to keep in mind is that many sunscreens release free radicals when exposed to sunlight. These can cause damage to your DNA and cells, encourage the aging of skin, and possibly elevate the risk of skin cancer. So one of the best thing to do is to shop for zinc- or titanium-based sunscreens that have a very small chance of being absorbed by the skin.

As you scan the health food store shelves it’s important to remember that the word “natural” is not regulated so the safest way to pick out products is by reading the ingredients themselves.

The Environmental Working Group just put out their list of the best sunscreens for 2010. Rounding out the top 10 are:
1. Badger Sunscreen Face Stick, SPF 30, Unscented
2. Badger Sunscreen for Face and Body, SPF 30, Lightly Scented
3. Badger Sunscreen for Face and Body, SPF 30, Unscented
4. California Baby Sunblock Stik, SPF 30+, Unscented
5. Loving Naturals Sunscreen, SPF 30+
6. Purple Prairie Botanicals Sun Stick, SPF 30
7. Purple Prairie Botanicals SunStuff, SPF 30
8. Soleo Organics All Natural Sunscreen, SPF 30+
9. Soleo Organics Atlantis Resort All Natural Sunscreen, SPF 30+
10. Soleo Organics Wyland Organics All Natural Sunscreen, SPF 30+

Learn more at www.ewg.org/2010sunscreen/