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How to Pick the Perfect Sunscreen

SuncareIn the summertime, I keep my beach bag packed with a towel, goggles and a swimsuit. I’m ready to jump in a lake (or pool or river) at a moment’s notice.

I love to have fun in the sun, but choosing the right sunscreen can slow me down. There are so many options! How do I know I’ve got the right protection?

Here are a few key questions to help you navigate the sunscreen aisle quickly:

What’s my number? This one is kind of a no-brainer, because the American Academy of Dermatology recommends that everyone wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen (water-resistant when appropriate), with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30.

  • Light bulb: Read labels carefully, because only broad spectrum sunscreen offers protection from both UVB sun rays, which is linked to skin cancer and can cause redness and burning, and UVA rays, which can cause skin cancer and premature skin aging.

What’s the deal with physical vs. chemical? Physical sun blocks reflect rays with minerals such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. These sunscreens sit on top of the skin, so they work immediately. Chemical sunscreens protect skin by absorbing the sun’s rays. They do this by actually seeping deep within the skin.

  • Here’s the rub: Because they remain on top of the skin, physical sunscreens can look chalky. It may take a little extra elbow grease to apply a thin, even layer.
  • Burning questions: Research suggests that some chemical sunscreens, such as oxybenzone and octyl methoxycinnamate, can mimic and disrupt hormones. Some ingredients in chemical sunscreens are also toxic to aquatic life in oceans, rivers and lakes.

To nano or not to nano? For greater ease of application, some physical sunscreens contain very, very small nanoparticles.

  • Small print: Molecules at the nano size seem to behave differently from a chemical and biological standpoint, and the long-term effects are unknown.

What else do I need? The sun is hard on skin, so choose sunscreen that not only protects, but nourishes with high levels of nutrient-rich ingredients, including green tea, soy, milk thistle, shea butter, sea buckthorn and carrot oil.

  • Seeing red? You're probably not blushing, you're starting to burn. At that point it's too late for more sunscreen; it's time to take a break and have fun in the shade.
  • Don’t forget a good sun hat and other protective clothing.

Premium Body CareRarin’ to get outdoors? Maybe these questions are more than you want to ponder at the pool? Here’s a quick and easy solution: just look for sunscreen with the Whole Foods Market® Premium Body Care™ logo.

Our Premium Body Care standards prohibit chemical sunscreen active ingredients, and all Premium Body Care products are carefully screened for particle size: manufacturers must submit test results showing the absence of nano-particles in these products.

You can find store-specific Premium Body Care product lists on your local store’s webpage. Find a store here.

What do you look for when you’re choosing sunscreen?

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Cindy Grimes says …

This is a nice article. It is kind of confusing. When I have good luck with a product, I stick with it. I find the sunscreens that are the thick kind, tend to be milder.

Marsha Maguire says …

Recently I mentioned to a staff member in the Charlottesville store possible concerns about aloe vera in sunscreen, but I couldn't recall just where I'd read about that. It's here: http://skincare.boards.net/thread/1181/aloe-vera-hazards Concerns from the studies cited include aloe vera's pro-oxidant (as well as anti-oxidant) activity and enhanced sensitivity to UV light in people who use sunscreens containing aloe vera. Looks like the percentage of aloe vera in a sunscreen makes a difference.

Larry Blais says …

My wife and I are customers and love your Andover, Ma. store. The store isn't perfect and there is room for improvement. Some pricing is high and forces us to shop at Stop&Shop. Your salad bar and deli is inconsistent and there are weeks that the taste falls short. Forgive me for being blunt but I want to keep this letter short and to the point. We love your stores morals. You care endlessly about what is on your shelves. Your employees are so kind and helpful. On a personal level, I am a Fleet Mechanic. There are times that I shop at your store with my uniform on. Even though my appearance may be less than flattering, your employees never treat me any differently. I bring this up because it means a lot to me. I am judged by the public by what I wear, we all are. I deal with it all the time. Your employees don't care what a person looks like. That type of kindness brings a tear to my eye, thank you and thanks to them. Anyways my wife shop at your store two to three times a week. We have changed what we buy over time. We buy and like just about everything you sell and stand behind. From your deli to your canned goods and everything in between. We also like your natural skin care products and no longer shop for them, anywhere else. Please keep working on improving your stores. and if you want further details from me, don't hesitate to ask. Yours truly; Larry...

Mary-Lou says …

I have celiac disease--do you have gluten free sunscreen without PABA?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@MARY-LOU - Our exact products differ so check with your local store to see exactly what they have in stock!

Mary Lawson says …

Will you please give me suggestions for a facial sun screen? I have dry skin and need a moisturizer that also protects my skin. Thank you, Mary

Megan says …

@MARY, Drop by your local store and talk with one of our Whole Body Team Members. They will give you recommendations based on your skin and personal experience.