Every year, the Environmental Working Group in Washington D.C. puts out a comprehensive sunscreen guide based on safety and effectiveness.
Some of the top beach & sports sunscreens meeting EWG's criteria this year include Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sport Stick, Badger Aloe Vera Sunscreen, California Baby Super Sensitive Broad Spectrum Sunscreen, Celadon Road Sunscreen, Coola Suncare (baby moisturizer and UV body moisturizer sunscreens), Jersey Kids All Natural All Green Sunscreen, Seventh Generation Wee Generation Baby Sunscreen, thinkSport thinkbaby Sunscreen, UV Natural Baby and UV Natural Sport Suncreens. These particular brands and products were all scored a No. 1, but even mainstream brands like Coppertone Kids Pure & Simple and CVS Baby Sun Lotion got a score of No. 2, with good UVA protection and moderate health concerns.
EWG rates a total of about 1,400 SPF-rated sunscreens based on published scientific literature to supplement incomplete data available from companies and the government. Ratings indicate the efficacy of the product and relative level of concern posed by exposure to ingredients in the product.
Generally, EWG recommends mineral-based sunscreens with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide which protect against both UVA and UVB rays. EWG does not recommend using spray sunscreens (due to inhalation risks), or sunscreens that contain oxybenzone (which acts like estrogen), retinyl palmitate or combined sunscreens and bug repellents. On sun-exposed skin, EWG has concerns that Retinyl Palmitate, a form of vitamin A, may speed development of skin tumors and lesions (even though the FDA has yet to rule on the safety of retinyl palmitate in skin care products).
Also, a higher SPF is not necessarily better and can actually be misleading. A sunscreen with a super-high SPF also may protect against sunburn but leave your skin exposed to damaging UVA rays.
Look closely at the list of ingredients in your sunscreen. Sunglasses, hats and shade still offer some of the the best protection from the sun this summer.