Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Choose the Best Sunscreen

Picture this: You’re all packed up for a summer adventure. Maybe you’re hiking into the mountains or sailing to a tropical isle, or perhaps you’re planning a picnic at a local park. Whatever the destination, you’re ready to seize the day! You just have to make a quick stop for sunscreen.

As you scan the sunscreen aisle, your excitement hits a speed bump. What’s all this unfamiliar lingo on the labels? Should you pull out your phone for an afternoon of Internet searches? Is it time to dust off that old Chemistry textbook?

Don’t let sunscreen selection slow down your summer adventures. This handy cheat sheet makes it easy to decipher labels and choose the best sunscreen for your needs.

What’s my number? The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that everyone wear a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30.

What’s the big deal about broad spectrum?  Only broad spectrum sunscreen offers protection from both UVB sun rays, which can cause redness and burning, and UVA rays, which can cause skin cancer and premature skin aging.

What about physical vs. chemical sunscreens? 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 within the skin, which is why you’re supposed to apply them 20 minutes before sun exposure.

Why do some labels say “no chemical sunscreens”? Research suggests that some chemical sunscreens, such as oxybenzone and octyl methoxycinnamate, can mimic hormones. Some ingredients in chemical sunscreens are also toxic to aquatic life in oceans, rivers and lakes.

Why do some labels say “no nano” or “no nanoparticles”? For greater ease of application, some physical sunscreens contain very, very small nanoparticles. Molecules at the nano size seem to behave differently from a chemical and biological standpoint, and the long-term effects are unknown.

Is there an easier way? Yes! Just look for sunscreen with the Whole Foods Market® Premium Body Care™ seal. Whole Foods Market’s 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.

Do you have a favorite suncare product?