June 29, 2009

sunscreens put to the test

My family just returned from a fabulous week at the beach. It was idyllic, with kids playing in the surf from dawn till dusk. The weather was incredibly hot and humid, but thankfully the ocean was refreshing and welcoming.

The scenario was a perfect challenge to find the right sunscreen. You'd think I'd have figured out my favorite product after having reviewed so many, but trial and error still leaves me searching for perfection.

Since I began my quest for the best and safest sunscreen, I've amassed quite a collection. I brought all the tubes and bottles that had not expired to the beach. I wish I could tell you that there was a clear favorite, but in reality it was more like this:

I used Trukid Sunny Days SPF 30 sunscreen on my kids and my own face. It goes on incredibly smoothly and not too white. It can be a little greasy at first but thankfully it is not as thick and uncomfortable as some others and is a decent price-point. This sunscreen has no parabens, is non-toxic and uses titanium dioxide as the active ingredient. It is the brand I carry in my purse year-round for my kids' faces.

For myself, I started with a tube of the UV Natural SPF 30 Sport. I knew it was super thick and greasy from my past experiences, but I was hoping that it would hold up well to the hot sun and swimming. In the end, it was just too humid and uncomfortable to wear such thick creme. It made me sweat even more! No doubt the product works well and is ideal for water sports—I just couldn't bring myself to keep putting it on, despite a fantastic rating on the Skin Deep database (a 1!)

It was so hot and sticky outside that I lost all sense of good judgment and decided to just get a bottle of chemical-laden sunscreen spray. I tried the Neutrogena Kids Spray SPF 70. Comparable products do not get a very good rating on the Skin Deep database. Was the sun ruining all my good judgment? The spray application was so much easier and lighter. It was very appealing in the steaming sun. Even the kids begged me to use the spray in their limbs instead of the creme. I knew it was sinful (the skin absorption chemicals, the wasteful packaging), but it was the first product I reached for whenever I needed to reapply. Unfortunately, the bottle only lasted me about 2 days at the beach.

After that indulgence I attempted to amend my sins by using my tube of Aubrey Organics Natural Sun Green Tea SPF 25. It went on freakishly white. Seriously, I looked strange. It was also a thick yet grainy consistency which was not very comfortable. What really irked me was that where the product got on my bathing suit (which was brown) it would not rub off. I had white splotches all over the straps and edges where my application rubbed the fabric edges. It also stained my white cotton cover-up. After washing, neither the suit nor cover-up have come clean! Plus, after double checking the rating on Skin Deep (it got a 4) I don't think I would even bother with this product again.

I wish I had a solution after all this experimentation in the field. I know many readers have personal favorites and I'm sure they work well. While the conditions on my trip were somewhat extreme–with a heat index over 100 most days with high humidity–it seems a reasonable scenario for any sunscreen to perform in.

I'm torn. Looking at the facts on paper, choosing a sunscreen seems simple. But out at the beach, all bets are off. Rationalization gives way to comfort. How seriously do you take your sunscreen?


beth @ www.redandhoney.com said...

Hi! This is my first time commenting. I haven't used any of those sunscreens above, but am considering the Badger brand (sold in my local health food store). Have you heard of it?

Debbie said...

I do still love my California Baby, as you know, for the baby -- although it remains $$ so I only use it on her. I also slummed with you and use the spray -- don't feel badly -- it's so much easier, which is terrible!

I also picked up the Neutrogena Pure + Free Baby stuff at Target which I have yet to try; only rated a 2 on Skin Deep. Maybe a good alternative for all of us? That reaction I had to that Target brand with the PABA stuff was awful; hives everywhere!

You did smell good, though, whichever one that was!

Mary Beth said...

Hi Amy. We've had major issues with Rainer's sun exposure--both his being sensitive to the sun and sensitive to sunscreens. The dermatologist recommended Vanicream Sunscreen for Sensitive Skin SPF 60 and it works great for us--a little white-ish at first, smooth, goes on easy. I clicked over to skin deep at it rates a 2! That's good, right? I'm so releived because the label was freaking me out a little. I asked his oncologist about it at the last appointment--I said "his sunscreen has PEG in it"--same stuff as in one of his chemotherapy drugs!

Mindful Momma said...

I agree with you that buying sunscreen is tough! I just got back from a week at the beach and when we're out in the baking sun all day - I just go for whatever sunscreen I can find!! At home, for those few hours at the beach or pool, I buy the better brands..and TruKid is one of my faves! They have a great face stick as well.

Anonymous said...

Have you tried Kinesys? It's more green than most sprays and it's so easy to apply. I've found it a better spray than lots of the chemical laden ones.