Monday, June 20, 2011

Sunscreen woes

Several factors convinced me recently that I should consider switching sunscreens. I have used Neutrogena Ultra Sheer for years- since it was introduced- and have loved it. It doesn't sweat off, powders instead of runs when one sweats, and doesn't get in my eyes. Plus, it works well to prevent sunburn.

The Factors
Environmental Working Group has published reports for at least a few years on the effectiveness (in terms of sunburn and cancer prevention) and safety (in terms of personal health) of sunscreens. My chosen product does not fare well. The report discusses how many sunscreens contain ingredients that may be hormone interrupters, may promote cancer development from sun exposure, and other harms I'm not quite certain I understand. Bottom line, the report got me to reconsider my product loyalty.

In tandem with my re-acquaintence with the EWG report, the Food and Drug Administration announced changes last week to how sunscreens will be labeled. This covers the EWG's findings that many sunscreens prevent sunburn (caused by UVB) but not skin cancer (caused by both UVA and UVB). New labeling will require sunscreens to be labeled "Broad Spectrum" if they cover both UVA and UVB, and have an SPF over  15.

The New Purchase
I took the EWG's handy reference card with me to my favorite retailer to help me choose a new product. The card outlines what ingredients are best (titanium and zinc oxide) and which are worst, plus what other factors to consider. I found a new Neutrogena product that met all of the requirements. Boy, was I excited!

The Result
I dutifully applied my sunscreen as usual before my Sunday long run. It was hot out- maybe 75 degrees and sunny at 8AM. After about five to ten minutes, the sunscreen seemed to lift from my skin, sitting in droplets on my arms, legs and face. This made me sweat more than I normally would have early in my run. It was just dripping off. People I was running with made it the running joke of the morning. To make matters worse, I felt hotter than normal for hours after my run, even feeling like I got too much sun expose (headache, etc.). Whether or not that was related to lack of protection from the sunscreen, I don't know.

I'm bummed that I will be going back to my tried and true sunscreen, which may or may not prevent skin cancer and may or may not be poisoning me. I really wanted my new, natural product to work. Man, am I disappointed.

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