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A Sunburn-Free Summer

Sort through hundreds of sunscreens rated from best to worst

As a fair-skinned mutt of European descent, I depend on sunscreen as my summer best friend. However, sunscreen has been found to contain harmful chemicals that make it inefficient and much more of a foe than the friend I need.
    This year, I plan on winning the battle for sun protection. My weapon of choice is the Environmental Working Group’s extensively researched list of the most effective sunscreens.
    The Washington, D.C.,-based Environ­mental Working Group focuses on health and environmental issues. Every year, the group of scientists examines and evaluates more than 1,700 sunscreens and protective products. From the studies come a comprehensive and thorough guide that offers a map through the chaotic land of sunscreen. Nearly 300 product names are rated on a scale from 0 (the best) to 10 (the worst). The categories of evaluation include UVA and UVB protection, ingredients, health risks, the form of the sunscreen and long-term protection.
    From all that work comes a list of the 129 safest products.
    Environmental Working Group reports that sunscreens are notorious for false advertising. Many expose you not only to sunburn but also to harmful chemicals and ingredients.
    Even the top-rated sunscreens give you way less sun protection than you need. Protective clothing, shade and hats are better first-choice weapons. Sunscreen should be a last resort.
    If you must resort to sunscreen, mineral sunscreens using zinc oxide and titanium dioxide scored high on the scientists scale. These products have a better chance at blocking both UVA and UVB rays without chemical additives. Will you like the scent or the texture? Catch 22: You’ll have to buy to find out.
    The endless shelves can also be winnowed by eliminating products advertising above SPF 50. The FDA has ruled that any claim of protection beyond SPF 50 is inherently false. The regulation has yet to have the strength of a law, so shelves remain packed with SPF ratings of 75, 80 and even 100. Don’t be fooled.
    Once the right product for you is in hand, be sure to apply it in the correct way. “Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside and at least every two hours thereafter,” the Group advises. “Reapply after being in the water, sweating a lot or towel drying. Don’t skimp. Apply one ounce (about a palmful) evenly to all exposed skin.”
    This year, as well as covering up and bringing my umbrella to the beach, I’m using Environmental Working Group’s 2016 Guide to Sunscreens to choose my sunscreen. See for yourself: