Ah, summer time approaches. Patio cocktails, popsicles, and of course sun-tanning all spring to mind when we think of this fantastic season. But when did our culture get so obsessed with soaking up sunshine and achieving that ultra-satisfying summer glow? It seems like we can trace this back to the mid-fifties, when a little blonde pig-tailed girl was immortalized on the first bottle of Coppertone. This wonderful product took the world by storm, and the culture of sun-tanning began. All of a sudden, pale skin was passé, and the public took to the beach en masse to partake in the now all-too-common sun worshipping ritual. Though some opted for cocoa butter and tanning oil to enhance the effects of the blazing sun and achieve a more fashionable bronzed look, sunscreen (or suntan lotion, as it was called then) was used to provide a low level of protection for skin while beach-goers lay out and bathed in the sun. Throughout the years, sunscreen has evolved, and is now an absolute necessity for anyone spending time in the sun’s direct rays. With the dangers of skin cancer always lurking around the corner, society has balanced their love for golden brown skin with respect and appreciation for our old, protective friend- sunscreen. The SPF levels have soared higher and higher over the last few years, and with each new level of protection, the previous standard gets put to shame. After all, why would you give yourself only thirty times the protection when you can have fifty? It seems like common sense, right?
After the last 50 or so years of pro-sunscreen indoctrination, society’s unquestioning trust in the product has suddenly come to a screeching halt. New research has surfaced that had led everyone to question the products that they rely on so heavily to keep them safe during their fun-in-the-sun. Firstly, it’s been found that all those “super potent” SPFs of fifty plus may be extremely exaggerated, and secondly, it’s been found that most sunscreens are packing Vitamin A, an ingredient that actually accelerates the growth of skin cancer. Yep, you heard that right; by some bizarre twist of fate, it turns out several sunscreens were actually PROMOTING skin cancer.
While this news is shocking and, admittedly, pretty scary, it’s not something that is as widely known as it could be. Many people are still blissfully unaware of this recent revelation, but unfortunately this means that they could be using a sunscreen that is currently featured on the EWG’s (Environmental Working Group) hall of shame, shown at http://www.ewg.org/2010sunscreen/buyer-beware/ . These sunscreens are the worst offenders of the bunch for a variety of reasons, ranging from their lack of UVA protection (which is different than the burning UVB rays, but still damaging to skin!) to their harmful chemical ingredients.
The silver lining to this dark cloud is that when the list of safe sunscreens was published, many companies quickly got their acts together by reformulating their products to meet the standards of the list. When it was first published, only 8% of sunscreens were considered “safe” to use; at present it’s closer to 16% and climbing, which bodes well for the future of sun safety.
So what’s the bottom line when it comes down to have a safe and burn-free summer? Cover up, already!! May is Melanoma awareness month, which means it’s time for you to explore your best options for staying safe in the sun. While slathering on the (EWG approved!) sunscreen is great, there is simply no substitute for a fashionably wide-brimmed hat to shield that fragile face of yours or a light and airy long sleeved top to keep that skin cool and happy. The best way to make sure you maintain that smooth, glowing complexion well into your sunset years is to keep it shaded and protected from the sun’s harmful rays. After all, I hear that pale is making a big comeback! Wouldn’t it be nice to be fashion-forward by sporting this look before the masses catch wind? Stay safe, sun-lovers!