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Do Your Part: Be wise when choosing sunscreen

What’s really getting under your skin this summer?

If you are one of the millions buying sunscreens and bug sprays this season, you might be disgusted to find out what actually is. That’s because what you’re slathering or spraying on your skin may contain unhealthy, ineffective and toxic ingredients.

Do your part before you head outdoors to learn about the smarter options for having safe summer skin.

The most important thing to do this season is to pick a good sunscreen. I don’t know about you, but the sunscreen aisle can be overwhelming for me. Most of the bottles and tubes advertise incredible SPFs or anti-aging abilities.

The biggest problem with most of them is not that those claims go unchecked, it’s what their ingredients do to your health.

Your best bet for buying the safest sunscreens for you and your family is to pick ones with zinc and titanium. The trusted Environmental Working Group (EWG) recommends avoiding the controversial ingredient oxybenzone because it is thought to actually alter hormonal systems.

The EWG also suggests shunning spray-on or powdery sunscreens because the potentially harmful ingredients can be easily inhaled.

So just when you think you have all that figured out, there’s another ingredient to take into consideration – something found in roughly 30 percent of all sunscreens and many anti-aging lotions. It’s vitamin A, and some research shows this additive can increase the risk of certain cancers on skin that is exposed to sun.

So how do you really wade through the huge sea of sunscreens to find what’s really the best for you and your family?

The EWG has an online guide that rates hundreds of sunscreens by safety and tells you what’s the best and what’s the worst. They also have a handy (and free) smart phone app that allows you to look up sunscreens by name while you’re shopping. (For more details, go to columns).

One more thing we use a lot of in the summer months is mosquito repellent.

There’s no need to cover yourself in the controversial chemical DEET when there are safer choices. Lemon oil, eucalyptus oil, citronella and cedar oil are natural alternatives to keeping mosquitoes away.

And don’t forget the power of prevention. Avoid stagnant, standing water in your yard, which is a breeding ground for mosquitoes. You can use nontoxic mosquito dunks for rain barrels or birdbaths to keep mosquitoes from breeding.

Having safe summer skin doesn’t mean dousing yourself in potentially harmful chemicals that may not even do the job. Instead, seek out safer and effective options for you and your family this summer.

Terri Bennett is a veteran TV meteorologist, syndicated columnist and host of, where you can find everyday green living ideas that are better for you and the planet. Send questions to