Note: this is a reprint of an article I originally wrote for AquaticsFan.com that was also featured on Alameda.Patch.Com.
The 2 sunscreens shown above -- bought at the Alameda Marketplace -- are not inexpensive. At $15 for 3 ounces, you may wonder why my family uses Badger SPF 30 instead of much cheaper chemical sunscreens such as Banana Boat or Coppertone. The reason is simple: the latter 2 brands could be extremely dangerous to your health.
The sun has many benefits. It triggers your body to produce Vitamin D which benefits your bones and immune system. Vitamin D also helps reduce risks of cancer. But prolonged exposure to ultra-violet rays (UVA's) can also cause cancer and needs to be blocked. So if you want to take off your clothes and hat and get out of the shade (to be in the water perhaps) you need skin protection. And when choosing your protection, you certainly don't want to put something toxic on your skin and compound the damage.
There are 3 main types of sunscreen, but only 2 types are available in North America.
Mineral sunscreens are usually comprised of zinc-oxide or titanium-dioxide. Remember the lifeguards' "white nose" back in the 1970's? That was zinc-oxide, which is very effective at blocking out UVA's. The drawback with these micro particulars is they can be harmful if they enter your bloodstream -- which shouldn't really happen.
What's amazing is these kinds of sunscreens are not very popular. They only make up 20% of the market and I ***never*** see them in grocery and drugstores. You need to really seek them out, and they cost a lot more. Also, some people think they are stinky. Hardly an excuse to seek out skin cancer instead.
The 2 brands pictured above -- Aubrey Organics and Badger -- fit in this category. We like both but the Badger is less oily. They do a good job at the beach when we are in and out of the water. Other brands on the safe list (check the EWG link below) include: Alba Botanical, Beyond Coastal, Blue Lizard, Goddess Garden, Kiss My Face, MDSolarScience, Trukid, and more.
Chemical sunscreens are the norm in the U.S. This is all you will see at Safeway, CVS, or wherever. You know the brands... Banana Boat, Coppertone, CVS, Hawaiian Tropic, Neutrogena, Panama Jack, Rx Suncare, Solar Sense, etc.
Just look at the ingredients. Many of them have Oxybenzone as their most active ingredient which has been linked to hormone disruption (sometimes called "gender benders.") Sometimes you will see this listed as 4-MBC. You want to avoid all contact with these.
Other chemicals are "free radical generators" that cause cellular damage to skin that can lead to cancer. Beware the retinyl palmitate (sometimes called retinol) and benzophenone, which has been identified as one of the most powerful free radical generators known.
More chemicals to avoid are: avobenzone, ethylhexyl p-methoxycinnimate, 2-ethylhexyl salicylate, homosalate, octyl methoxycinnamate, and triethanolamine.
The Europeans have concocted a safe recipe of mineral sunscreens that are currently blocked in the United States and Canada.
The FDA will not approve these. As a matter of fact, the FDA's proposed safety regulations for sunscreen has been tied up since 1978!
How to wear sunscreen
First of all -- no matter if you are choosing mineral sunscreen or skin-sizzling chemical sunscreen -- don't do what I see people do every day at the pool: slather or spray it on then get into the pool right away. It won't do you any good because it takes some time for the lotion to activate in the sun and it will just wash off. But worse -- you create a toxic, oily cloud in the water for the rest of us. Nasssty.
Put it on... WAIT A BIT!!... THEN get in the water. And then don't forget to reapply later, because it might only last an hour or two even when applied properly.
Don't get a false sense of security because you slathered on the SPF 100 and think you are good for the day. SPF is very misleading as it is so you might not be getting the protection you think you are getting, especially if you didn't apply enough and evenly. If you are at the beach and getting in and out of the waves, you will need to reapply or your protection will whither away.
Aquatics Fan recommends...
We like the Badger. We have been using it in the surf, before swim practice, on the paddleboards, learning to windsurf, just going out on hikes, and so on. You might have to track it down at your local health store, but it's worth it.
Once you have the right stuff, be sure to apply it properly... don't get in the water too soon... and remember to reapply. Aquatics Fan is also a big fan of beach umbrellas and hats for those rare moments out of the water. Take advantage of the shade when you can and your sunscreen will last longer.
Finally, we need better options. Click the bottom link to sign the petition to get the FDA off their lazy ass and approve the European sunscreens and enact the safety regulations that we need. Maybe then, regular folks will be able to find non-toxic sunscreens at their favorite grocery store.
Our family is, and always has been, very involved with swimming. Because my younger brothers were so fast (I wasn't), much of my childhood was spent schlepping around the midwest for weekend swim meets. Hello Holidome! Centered out of St. Louis, we were all over Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and even down to Memphis…. an armada of station wagons with electronic football gadgets and towels over our heads… in pursuit of more regional records for my bros' all-star relay team to destroy. One of those 4 went on to be a swimming star at Stanford.
The Island just posted my editorial about sports in Alameda:
Have you ever heard the expression “Alameda is a three-sport town”?
Which ones do they mean, anyway? The three big American pro sports (baseball, basketball, and football)? Or do they mean baseball, soccer, and badminton?
Got me. In our family, the first sports that come to mind are swimming and water polo. Our neighbors are into swimming, football, and soccer. On the other side, it’s basketball, basketball basketball. Which are the three?
Alameda seems to have a lot of good teams. The Encinal Jets made it to the final round in division football for the second year in a row. Alameda High has a competitive football team too. Is football one of the three?
Maybe water polo belongs in there. Alameda has five teams: Two at each high school and an upstart independent club that is competing around the region. The Gentlemen Hornets just won their division for the second year in a row. The co-ed club gets quite a big turnout, even on cold winter nights.
Speaking of champions, ACLC is reigning state champion in ultimate Frisbee. Nice job, but is it one of the three?
Maybe golf is in there. We have an Alameda High School student who just became California’s top girls golfer. Don’t forget cross-country and track. You can’t shake a stick without tripping a runner on this Island. Surely that’s a top three?
Seeing older folks out on bikes is one of my favorite things in this town. Where else in the country does that happen? Seems biking is pretty darned popular in Alameda.
Don’t even get me started on swimming. We have two age group teams, four high school teams, and three masters groups. We have swimmers who have participated in Olympic trials, gone on to full college scholarships, and youngsters who are dominating at the regional level. One of our girls was just named Most Outstanding Swimmer by Pacific Swimming.
And how many martial arts studios are there in the area? I imagine we could fill an auditorium if there was ever a casting call for a kids’ action film. I know of a Kuk Sool black belt who also – representing Alameda – is a state judo champion.
Volleyball is popular here too. I know this because it wreaks havoc on our parking scene at swim practice. But volleyball is surprisingly fun to watch. And I know there must be hundreds of Alamedans who play tennis. If we group the bouncing-ball sports into one (including the table tennis club), maybe that’s one of the three?
Look around the perimeter of Alameda and there are even more sports going on. We have thousands of sailboats, roughly 10 yacht clubs, and a world-class youth sailing program. The kite surfing scene out at Crown Beach is off the rails. Where else do you do that? And if I’m not mistaken, there are more than a few Alamedans who row with the Oakland Strokes in the estuary. All those water sports are fun to watch too.
So which are the the esteemed “three sports in Alameda” that deserve our respect and support? I guess it depends on who you talk to.
Kari had a work function in Puerto Rico and managed to hop over to St. Thomas, U.S.V.I. and visit Kirk and Cara.
Coincidently, her visit was just before Kirk's 40th birthday. Happy Birthday Kirk! At this moment he is celebrating on St. John with Cara friends, and I sure can't blame Kari if she wishes she were still there. Kirk zipped her around on his little boat to some choice snorkeling spots around St. Thomas and St. John. (Little did he know that a party was being set up in his honor for later.)
Kirk also partook in his trademark hunting routine. He puts on his snorkels, mask, and glovesand dives down w/ a little crow bar to scare up some crustacean. Bingo! THAT'S a big lobster. Kari is usually vegetarian but in this case: "it was pretty good, I guess, for lobster."
It was destined. Boegers once again roam the competitive swimming world. While Kirk is coaching a team down in the Virgin Islands, Simon recently joined the Alameda Islanders -- an activity certain to command our mornings, weeknights, and every 3rd weekend for the next 10 years! Good God... I swore this would not happen again, but we somehow pulled ourselves in.