Safer sunscreen shopping tips

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- The sun is intensifying as we move from spring toward summer, and we'll all be spending more time outdoors. So, it's a no-brainer to protect our skin from sunburn. But there's more to it than that if you want to be smart in the sun.

Cropped Photo: Skin Cancer Foundation / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

Beyond just avoiding a burn, that you can be a savvy shopper when you read the ingredients on the sunscreen label.

Two common sunscreen in ingredients found commonly - especially in bargain-priced sunscreen - are those that environmental health researchers have found mimic our body's hormones and could cause disruption in the way our bodies function. These are oxybenzone and octinoxate. That's not to say all chemical sunscreen ingredients are bad for us, but you might want to look for alternative to these.

These health concerns are also a reason for the growing popularity of mineral sunscreens, that require a main ingredient being a mineral that physically helps block the sun's rays. You'll find those often being zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Will you pay more for these? Probably. But the good news is there is more competition for this market - since more consumers like you now are more savvy about the ingredients.

One other concern about sunscreens - Environmental Working Group has noted that those popular sprays you see around the pool all summer, are not what we should be inhaling in our lungs. Plus, they could give lighter coverage - so there is a recommendation to stay away from sprays.

Of course, nothing is more important in the short-term than avoiding that sunburn, even if you have to use the bargain sunscreen - we know sunburns doctors tell us increase our chances of skin cancer later on. And reapply them as needed - as recommended on the packaging.

You can learn more about sunscreen research and see the entire EWG Guide to Sunscreen here.

It is possible to find several brands of mineral sunscreen made without nanoparticle-sized (less than 100nm in size) minerals, but some bargain-brand sunscreens or those trying to appear less visible on the skin are using nanoparticle-sized minerals. Research on nanoparticles shows concern for both human and environmental health.