According to one of my favorite consumer protection groups EWG, more than half of the sunscreen products for sale in the United States would be prohibited for sale in Europe. Their rules restrict the chemicals in these products to protect European citizens. Why aren't American products safer? Follow the money. Manufacturers fight any restrictions on their products including one the FDA has tried to implement preventing them from claiming more that 50 SPF. After SPF 50 there is no increase in sun protection. Even if it says SPF 110 on the bottle it offers no more protection than the SPF 50 bottle next to it. Manufacturers want no restrictions on their use of cheap ingredients even though they can cause endocrine disruption and cancer.
But doesn't sunscreen prevent skin cancer?
The research results are mixed. Some say sunscreen helps reduce skin cancer, some say it doesn't. And some, myself included, think that if you are slathering on sunscreen loaded with carcinogens you may not be doing yourself any favors. Severe sunburns do increase your risk for skin cancer. But regular sun exposure, which does not lead to a burn may be protective. Remember Vitamin D? It protects against cancer. And exposure to the sun without sunscreen gives your body a chance to make some of it's own Vitamin D. Notice I did not say all. After seeing hundreds of test results from folks who get plenty of sun I am certain you need to consume foods with bioavailable Vitamin D to get optimal levels, particularly in Colorado.
Several studies have shown that people who wear sunscreen as their only sun protection burn more often than those who also use clothing and hats to protect themselves.
So what should I do?
Get out in the sun, and if you are out for quite a while wear a hat and long sleeves for some of that time to help protect yourself, or seek shade.
Check the EWG sunscreen report for recommendations on safer sunscreens, they rank products based on their safety to help you make safer choices.