Every year, you hear something different about sunscreen – it's essential, it's toxic, they're all the same, SPF values are nothing but hype. We decided to cut through the noise and go to the experts. First, it pays to know what you're buying – not all sunscreens are created equal, and some are worthless. "It's fine to pick up any sunscreen off the shelf if you don't care about sun safety, premature aging, the health of your skin, or the environment," says Dr. Robert Friedman, a dermatologist at NYU's Langone Medical Center. "But if you care about any of these things or you have sensitive skin, you need to be careful about what you use." How to do that? Follow these rules to get an effective, safe sunscreen. Launch Gallery >>
Photograph by Donna Trope
Avoid parabens. Synthetic preservatives that disrupt hormones and may stimulate cancerous tumors, parabens are found in most commercial sunscreens, as well as hundreds of other products like antiperspirant, shampoo, and face wash. The most common types – methylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben – usually appear last on ingredient lists, so a quick scan can tell you whether to pass on a product. Also avoid vitamin A, sometimes called retinyl palmitate, because it breaks down into toxic free radicals when exposed to UV, causing skin to age and increasing cancer risk.
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