Gleams & Notions

Think Outside the Bottle For Sun Protection

By Harvey M. Fishman, Consultant | February 17, 2011

The Environmental Working Group, a non-government organization, voiced concern last year about the use of oxybenzone-based sunscreens on children and babies. Even though the FDA approves it for use, the body may still absorb oxybenzone and certain researchers feel that not enough sunscreen testing has been done on young children to determine its long-term safety. On the other hand, another scientist said that “absorption alone isn’t enough to justify any posture” and that he is unaware of compelling data showing that parents need to be concerned about any ingredients in current FDA-approved sunscreens, including oxybenzone.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more after a baby is at least six months old. The sunscreen should protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Also, it is advised to avoid products that contain both sunscreen and insect repellent as they feel that the repellent is not known to be safe for frequent application, while the sunscreen should be reapplied every one and one half hours to protect against sunburn. The suggested amount is three teaspoons for a toddler, and six teaspoons for an eight year old.

Instead of using a sunscreen, some people rely on clothing to protect them from the sun. However, the sun’s rays can penetrate clothing. The average white tee shirt has a UPF (the fabric equivalent of SPF) of five. The minimum outdoor protection should be at least an SPF of 15. A company named SpaFinder has created a line of photosensitive bracelets that change from white to purple when exposed to harmful UVA and UVB rays.This acts as a warning to wearers when they are at risk for sun damage and can serve as a reminder to either cover up or apply sunscreen—or both. The wristbands cost $4.95 each.


That big straw hat does not provide enough UV protection.
The Complete Outfit

Some clothing manufacturers sell pants, shirts and jackets with a UPF of 50, which blocks 98% of the sun’s harmful rays. There is a laundry aid called SunGuard that “transforms everyday clothing into sun-protective gear with a UPF protection of 30.” Add one packet to a laundry load to add UV protection directly to clothing. It is claimed that the UPF of 30 will last for up to 20 washings.

These days, you can even find sun protection in a pill.

One such product, Life Extension’s Enhanced Fernblock with Sendara, is called a “sunscreen in a pill.” It reportedly complements a topical sunscreen and inhibits the body’s absorption of UV rays, slows the destruction of collagen and maintains healthy levels of cortisol and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) to keep skin cells young.It retails for $29 at some natural food markets.

Besides clothing, hats—but not visors—are obvious barriers to UV rays. Straw hats with a brim and a dense weave can be useful. Brimmed hats are the best choice for protection. Skin cancer organizations say that a hat with at least a three-inch brim is ideal because it protects areas often exposed to the sun such as the neck, ears, eyes, forehead, nose and scalp. The most popular hats for leisure wear are baseball caps, which are worn in the sun all the time by baseball players and others. However, they are not as efficient as brimmed hats because, while they protect the front of the head, they do not cover the back of the neck and the ears.

Some hat companies work with cancer organizations or labs that study UV ray protection to develop protective fabrics. One of these companies is Tilley, which offers a fabric that has been tested according to the protocols of the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM). Tilley contends its fabric and style has been certified to block 98% of UVA/UVB radiation and provides a UPF factor of 50 plus. This lightweight hat costs about $75.


Harvey Fishman has a consulting firm located at 34 Chicasaw Drive, Oakland, NJ 07436,, specializing in cosmetic formulations and new product ideas, offering tested finished products. He has more than 30 years of experience and has been director of research at Bonat, Nestlé LeMur and Turner Hall. He welcomes descriptive literature from suppliers and bench chemists and others in the field.