EWG Sunscreen Guide: Environmental Working Group Sunscreen Explained
A day of family fun in the sun doesn’t mean you throw safety out the window, even when your kids are making a break to get out the door! You know that sunscreen application is essential to sun safety, but the EWG Sunscreen Guide takes things a step further.
The EWG is on the hunt for a sunscreen that’s both safe and effective. If you’re not familiar with the EWG (Environmental Working Group), Babo Botanicals is here to fill you in. After that, we’ll tell you what the EWG looks for in sunscreens and how Babo Botanicals sunscreens stack up.
- What Is the EWG?
- EWG Sunscreen Guide: How Does The EWG Rate Sunscreens?
- What Do The EWG Guidelines Say?
- The FDA And Sunscreen Safety
- What Are The Best EWG Sunscreens?
- Additional Methods of Effective Sun Protection
- Recap: EWG Sunscreen
What Is The EWG?
The Environmental Working Group is a research- and education-driven non-profit that exists for the health of your family and the environment. In what way?
To fully appreciate the EWG, it’s important we understand how their work affects our daily lives.
For example, you know how tedious it can get to look at the ingredients for every product you use to ensure that it’s safe?
This is what makes the EWG so special. You don’t have to worry about all the endless information on the back of bottles anymore! EWG does all the hard work of figuring out whether or not your products are safe to use.
Sunscreen, for example, is something we put on every single day. So, it’s imperative that we’re using sunscreens that are formulated with safe ingredients that won’t cause any harm later down the road. And that’s exactly where EWG comes into play.
They inspect the ingredients and efficacy of various products to determine if they are safe to use every day. And their guidelines are strict! Not much gets past these guys.
Armed with information about the safety of ingredients and what standards are used for the factories and farms that produce products, you can make informed decisions about what your family uses.
The other great thing about the EWG is that you have all of that unbiased information right at your fingertips. For example, on EWG’s Skin Deep page, you can search for a cosmetic and see just how it ranks.
But for now, let’s focus on Environmental Working Group sunscreen.
EWG Sunscreen Guide: How Does The EWG Rate Sunscreens?
The EWG sunscreen guide provides all the information you need to make smarter choices about which sunscreens you put on your body. The EWG reviewed and tested over 1,800 sunscreens to determine which are the best options in terms of sun protection and ingredients.
They look closely at the safety of several common sunscreen ingredients that are, as of now, approved by the FDA and ask questions like:
Not sure about you, but those seem like really important questions to us!
It would be impossible to go through all potential sunscreen ingredients and whether they’re more “rock on” or “run away.” So before you head out into the sun this summer, make sure you check out the EWG sunscreen guide so you can see what factors make up a good EWG sunscreen rating.
What Do The EWG Guidelines Say?
Now that you know more about EWG and how they approach sunscreen ratings, let’s take a look at what the guidelines state regarding ingredients, SPF, and more.
1) No To Oxybenzone
Oxybenzone is an active ingredient (the ingredient that does the work of blocking the sun’s rays) common in chemical sunscreens. Unfortunately, it’s a chemical that simply doesn’t jive with the human body.
Oxybenzone soaks through skin easy-peasy. In fact, it’s commonly found in breastmilk, urine, blood, and amniotic fluid. Even if you go weeks without using products containing oxybenzone, it can still be found on the skin and in the bloodstream.
Oxybenzone can also block or mimic hormones and it has been linked to an increased risk of endometriosis in females. And if you have sensitive skin or skin allergies, you should definitely avoid it as it’s an irritating allergen. Ultimately, Oxybenzone is not an FDA approved ingredient, and therefore, should not be used in sunscreens.
2) Yes To Zinc Oxide And Titanium Dioxide
The best ingredients to look for in sunscreens are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are actually the only two ingredients that have been FDA approved to use for safe sunscreen. They do not penetrate the skin or disrupt any hormones, and thus are safe for everyday use.
Most mineral sunscreens are made with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, and mineral sunscreens are generally better to use than chemical sunscreens, according to EWG.
3) No To Irritating Inactive Ingredients
We’ve covered two of the active ingredients commonly used in sunscreen, but there are also lots of inactive ingredients that the EWG has something to say about.
One is a preservative called methylisothiazolinone. Europe has said no to this ingredient in leave-in cosmetic products, but it’s still being used in the United States. As you can guess, it doesn’t get a great EWG score.
Another inactive ingredient that doesn’t fare well with the EWG is fragrance. Often listed on the ingredient list simply as “fragrance,” this no-good smell-good rates poorly due to allergies, immunotoxicity, and irritation to skin, eyes, or lungs.
4) No To Vitamin A Additives
Vitamin A seems like a healthy thing, right? Not when it shows up in your sunscreen as retinyl palmitate.
The EWG gives this ingredient a poor rating, stating moderate concern for cancer and high concern for developmental or reproductive toxicity and biochemical or cellular level changes.
They discourage using sunscreens that contain vitamin A or retinyl palmitate, also called retinyl acetate, retinyl linoleate, and retinol.
5) Yes To More UVA Protection
UV radiation is made up of two types of UV light: UVA rays and UVB rays. Exposure to both UVA and UVB rays puts you at risk for skin cancer. UVA rays have a longer wavelength and are linked more with skin aging. UVB rays have a shorter wavelength and are linked with skin burning. Both can be extremely damaging to your skin, which is why it’s so important to choose the right type of sunscreen that provides adequate protection from UV radiation.
UVA protection tends to get neglected with sunscreen products, but protecting yourself from UVA rays is just as important as protecting yourself from UVB rays. EWG recommends wearing sunscreen that provides strong UVA protection. You should opt for broad-spectrum sunscreens with a high SPF. Broad-spectrum sunscreen blocks both UVA and UVB rays and provides the best sun protection.
6) No To Assuming That Higher SPF Means More Protection
This one on our list can be confusing, right?
If you had two bottles of sunscreen — one with SPF 30 and the other with SPF 90 on the label, it’s easy to assume that the SPF 90 product would offer you the most protection against the sun’s harmful rays.
However, this isn’t necessarily the case. The Skin Cancer Foundation explains that with SPF values, people tend to see a high number, assume that they have maximum protection, and then proceed to expose themselves to unnecessary damage in the process.
“In real life, products with very high SPFs often create a false sense of security. People who use them tend to stay out in the sun much longer. They may skip reapplying. And they may think they don’t need to seek shade, wear a hat, or cover up with clothing. They end up getting a lot more UV damage, which, of course, defeats the purpose.”
Regardless of the SPF measurement you see, it’s important to keep reapplying your sunscreen every couple of hours, and even more often if you’ll be spending the day swimming.
That’s where the EWG Sunscreen Guide can be more beneficial than the FDA guidelines.
The FDA And Sunscreen Safety
Surely the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has something to do with the safety of products like sunscreen, right? Correct, but their guidelines aren’t very strict, and they allow ingredients that the EWG doesn’t approve of.
In February of 2019, the FDA proposed new sunscreen regulations, so they’re in the middle of testing questionable ingredients and revamping the standards. But as of now, they haven’t released the new official regulations.
What they have stated is that zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are safe and that the jury is still out on all other active sunscreen ingredients. In the meantime, plenty of questionable ingredients are still in sunscreens on the shelves.
What Are The Most Recommended EWG Sunscreens?
If you’re looking for a safe sunscreen that gets great EWG scores, we can point you in the right direction. Here at Babo Botanicals, we’re not shy to say that we’re proud of the products we make!
Seven of our sunscreens made the EWG’s list of “Best Beach & Sport Sunscreens,” and our Baby Skin Mineral Sunscreen ranked in their list of the “Best Scoring Sunscreens For Kids.”
Plus, we have 16 other products that are EWG Verified (the best EWG score a product can get), including lip gloss, diaper cream.
We’ll walk you through two of our best sunscreens. Hopefully, you’ll become as much of a fan as we are!
Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sunscreen Lotion
One of the things we love about this sunscreen is that it goes on clear! Many mineral sunscreens leave you looking a few shades paler than normal once you apply them. Not ours.
Going beyond the way it looks, our Clear Zinc Sunscreen Lotion is made with zinc oxide, not oxybenzone (remember that icky chemical we mentioned earlier?). It’s also fragrance-free and hypo-allergenic, making it ideal for folks with sensitive skin.
How does it do with the EWG? We’re happy to say it has a bright green score of one!
Babo Clear Zinc Sunscreen Stick
Made with our exclusive Nutri-Soothe™ blend rich in vitamins and antioxidants, this broad-spectrum UVA/UVB clear zinc sunscreen stick is great for the face, lips, nose, ears — really anywhere with extra sensitive skin!
It contains the power-packed protection of Zinc, plus rich, skin-soothing certified organic oils, including Jojoba. Plus, like our sunscreen lotion, it’s water- and sweat-resistant for up to 80 minutes.
The fragrance-free sunscreen stick goes on clear, is non-greasy, and rubs in well. This one is also green on the EWG rating scale with a score of one. What are you waiting for?
Additional Methods Of Effective Sun Protection
While it’s important to pay attention to the EWG sunscreen guidelines, there are a few other measures you can take to ensure that you and your family enjoy your time outside without putting your skin in harm’s way.
1) Avoid Going Out During Peak Hours
Generally, the sun will be its strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. These are the hours when you’re most at risk for getting sunburnt and exposing yourself to other harmful effects of the sun.
If you have to go outside during this time of the day, remember to always wear sunscreen and keep applying every couple of hours. Otherwise, it’s best and safest to stay indoors and only go outside either before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m.
If you’re used to going out at any time during the day, this might feel like a huge inconvenience. But trust us on this one — your future healthy skin will thank you!
2) Forget About Tanning
Many people love tanned skin. While we understand the aesthetic appeal behind it, we believe that it’s important to be upfront and real with you. Tanning simply isn’t healthy.
The FDA explains it perfectly by highlighting that “evidence suggests that tanning greatly increases your risk of developing skin cancer. And, contrary to popular belief, getting a tan will not protect your skin from sunburn or other skin damage.”
Unfortunately, opting for tanning beds instead of tanning in the sun, can also increase your risk of skin cancer.
3) Always Wear Protective Clothing
When it’s warm outside, wearing protective clothing isn’t just an option — it’s a must! So, what exactly are we talking about here?
Firstly, you can start by wearing sunglasses that will protect your eyes from the sun’s rays. Look for sunglasses with 99% to 100% UV absorption. While these might be a little costlier than others, they’re the best option to help protect your eyes.
Next, opt for a wide-brimmed hat. This will help to ensure that not only your face but also your ears and neck area are protected from the sun.
Lastly, choose clothing that gives you as much coverage as possible. This means opting for long-sleeved shirts and pants or long dresses or skirts.
Make sure that the fabrics you choose have moisture-wicking properties to give you the coverage you need while keeping you cool.
4) Avoid Direct Sunlight
Earlier, we mentioned that you need to avoid going outside during peak hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.). But we understand that life happens and sometimes you just can’t avoid being outdoors during those hours.
If that’s the case, stay away from direct sunlight by opting for shady areas. Be careful if you are around sand or water. Unfortunately, these can reflect the harmful rays of the sun that you’re trying to avoid in the first place!
5) Give Your Lips Some Protection, Too
When most people think about sun protection, they usually consider their faces, arms, legs, and other body parts. But what about your lips?
Your lips need just as much protection as the rest of your body. So don’t forget about them!
You can use chapstick or lipstick with SPF, and just like with the rest of your body, don’t forget to keep reapplying every couple of hours for the best protection.
Babo Botanicals Lip Tint Conditioner SPF 15 Plum Rose can help you get the lip protection you need. It’s rich in antioxidants and vitamins while also being packed with shea butter, cocoa butter, avocado, and jojoba oil to leave your lips smooth and soft.
For a little more variety, you can also opt for the Pretty & Protective Lip Tint Trio SPF 15, which comes in Plum, Peach, and Crimson.
This lip protection is made with certified organic ingredients and packed with non-nano zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Your lips will be conditioned, smooth, and soft all day long!
Recap: EWG Sunscreen
We all know how important it is to wear sunscreen every single day. But beyond just wearing sunscreen, you have to wear the right sunscreen, like EWG sunscreen. EWG sunscreens offer the best sun protection and are made with safe ingredients that won’t cause any harm to your skin, even after repeated use.
EWG’s best sunscreens are made with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide and provide both UVA and UVB protection. And rather than having to look through the ingredients on sunscreens yourself, EWG does it for you. The EWG sunscreen guide provides all the pertinent information you need to make smarter and more informed decisions about which sunscreens to put on your body. Protecting your skin should be everyone’s utmost concern, and that starts with wearing the right sunscreen products.