In the Netherlands—Holland to the rest of the world—“Winkle” is the word for store.  Every time a huge billboard advertised a “winkle,” to my apparently endless amusement I would think “wrinkle.”  (Note: I am easily amused.)

 Bumps in a Dutch road are called dremples, which, of course, made me think of dimples.  Severe warnings against “Speed Dremples!” filled me with silent mirth.


Wrinkles aren’t the worst thing that haunts the aging process.  They are certainly less evil than skin cancers, which leads us to the topic of…prevention!  And that pretty much amounts to sunblock (also hats).

 Sunblock—What a redundant mess of mediocrity!  Even our local grocery store (never mind the pharmacy, health food store, and spa) overwhelms us with a ridiculously large number of middling-to-bad sunblock products and few, if any, good ones!

 Two summers ago I had surgery for what my dermatologist called a “nest” of basal cell carcinoma on the bridge of my nose.  The expression “a nest of cancer cells” immediately triggered a vivid image of that alien nesting inside Sigourney Weaver. As if skin cancer wasn’t nasty enough, I had a “nest” of it!  Though its removal involved only a simple office procedure, closing the wound in a hospital was a much bigger deal, but necessary in order to leave minimal scarring—remember, we’re talking about the middle of my face. The hospital gave me a few going-home sunblock samples, one of which was outstanding in every way, but I was never able to locate it in any store or online! So no joy there. But I promise that if you ever have surgery for any kind of skin cancer, you will instantly become more interested in sunblock/screen than you ever were before!

 Now, after two years of searching, the question remains: which frakking sunscreen should I use?  There seem to be basically two types: White and stiff, or white and greasy, both keeping the sun out and the heat in!  OR sheer and smooth and nano-something, which is bad because it penetrates our skin and enters our physiological systems and does bad things and I refer you to:

The following quotes are published by Friends of the Earth:  “On March 5, (2013) Friends of the Earth U.S. and Australia released test results1 showing that many popular sunscreen and cosmetic products—made by companies including Nivea, L’Oreal and CoverGirl—contain hazardous forms of a common sunscreen and cosmetics ingredient, anatase titanium dioxide and nano anatase titanium dioxide. Some skin cancers are linked to UV-induced free radical damage to the skin, which is why wearing sunscreens with strong UV protection is a good idea. However, [get this!] recent peer reviewed studies have shown that anatase titanium dioxide can increase the formation of free radicals when exposed to sunlight and water [italics mine], and a number of scientists have questioned the safety of their use in sunscreens and other skin products. Anatase is an aggressive free radical producer compared to rutile, another less reactive form of titanium dioxide used in sunscreens, cosmetics and other products.” The article goes on to state “a 2008 study, prompted by reports that coatings on steel roofs were rapidly breaking down in places where workers’ sunscreen-covered hands had touched them, found that nano anatase titanium dioxide in sunscreen was reacting with sunlight and degrading those roof coatings in a matter of weeks. The study raised serious concerns about the impact these ingredients may be having on our skin. In 2010, Italian scientists warned that anatase titanium dioxide is “capable of destroying virtually any organic matter.”2  The products tested were sold in Australia, but several of the brands are also sold in the U.S. and other global markets, and may use similar formulations!“The most alarming finding of the tests commissioned by Friends of the Earth: Nivea Kids Swim and Play Sunscreen was found to contain nanoparticles of anatase titanium dioxide—which are likely to be even more hazardous than the non-nano form.

Despite growing concerns, the FDA has taken no action to label or remove these ingredients from sunscreens. [HELLO?  IS ANYONE HOME???] Europe will require the safety testing and labeling of nano-ingredients in sunscreens starting this July 2013, so why is the United States behind the curve in protecting the health of our families?  Scientists around the world are increasingly concerned about the potential human health and environmental impacts of nano-ingredients in a whole range of consumer goods—from food, to clothing, to cosmetics. Nanotechnology involves the manipulation of materials and the creation of structures and systems on the atomic and molecular scale—for reference, a human hair is about 80,000 nanometers in diameter. Due to their size, the properties of nanoscale materials differ significantly from larger scales of the same materials, introducing new and potentially heightened risks of toxicity that remain poorly understood.Despite this threat, you won’t find nano-ingredients listed on labels because manufacturers aren’t required to list them.”

At least Friends of the Earth make it easy for us to demand that the FDA take immediate action to remove these ingredients from sunscreens and cosmetics and ensure that all the ingredients in our bodycare products are safe and labeled!

1.    Research articles demonstrating that anatase is an aggressive free radical producer compared to rutile:
a.    Barker P. & Branch A. (2008). The interaction of modern sunscreen formulations with surface coatings. Prog Org Coatings 62: 313–320. (study done on Colorbond roofs mentioned in press release)
b.    Rampaul A., Parkin I. P. & Cramer L. P. (2007). Damaging and protective properties of inorganic components of sunscreens applied to cultured human skin cells. Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology A: Chemistry 191: 138-148.
2.    2010 study by Italian scientists:
Tiano L., Armeni T., Venditti E., Barucca G., Laura Mincarelli L. & Damiani E. 2010. Modified TiO2 particles differentially affect human skin fibroblasts exposed to UVA light. Free Radical Biology & Medicine 49 (2010) 408–415.
3.    Europe will require the safety testing and labeling of nano-ingredients in sunscreens from July 2013, see European Commission – Public health guidance (05-07-2012). Available at: 

WHAT should we do?  I continue to look up sunscreens online, searching for those that are: 1. Organic, and 2. Work!  And I experiment with the recommendations of friends.

Writing this blog I discovered that my favorite sunscreen from Jurlique no longer comes in a glass container AND contains both Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide, with no information regarding nanoparticles. This is disappointing, because even if nanoparticles aren’t banned, like GMOs, we have a right to be informed if they are present. My second favorite company has also become confusing mess when it comes to both ingredients and packaging, so I’m back to Square One.

 Taking a momentary break from the virtual morass of sunscreen information and misinformation, here’s some interesting news about a SUNSCREEN BONUS!  How many times have you been told that a splash of cold water or strong astringent can shrink pores?  The following information is from a magazine (the name of which I sadly did not note) which says this a lie!  Not only that, we also learn “pore size is genetically predetermined, and nothing will change it.  There are a few tricks, however, that will make pores appear a bit smaller [presumably the dermatologic equivalents of butt-lifting jeans].  When pores become clogged with dead skin cells or excess sebum, they look larger than they really are.  Retin-A or salicylic-acid products speed skin-cell turnover so those clogs are sloughed away more quickly.”

Here’s the thing, the article also says “sunscreen will keep pores from expanding as you age!” (Italics and exclamation point are mine.)  It goes on, “UV light breaks down the collagen and elastin in the dermis that act as a support structure for the pores.  When that structure is compromised, the pores begin to stretch, and no amount of those sticky flypaper face strips will make them bounce back.”  Which sticky flypaper face strips would those be?  Never mind. They say those don’t work and I believe them.  So, sunscreen it is.  BUT WHICH ONE?

 The following site lists what it calls the 19 best sunscreens:

The Environmental Working Group  rigorously tests to determine whether there are harmful chemicals in skincare, cosmetics, and sunscreen products, and publish a summary of their findings in Skin Deep “a cosmetics safety database which pairs ingredients in over 79,000 products against 50 toxicity and regulatory databases. The database is intended as a resource for consumers, who can search by ingredient or product when choosing personal care products.”  In June 2009, EWG updated Skin Deep with a report on chemicals in sunscreen, lip balm and SPF lotions. The report states that 3 out of 5 sunscreen products offer inadequate protection from the sun, or contain ingredients with significant safety concerns. The report identifies only 17% of the products on the market as both safe and effective, blocking both UVA and UVB radiation, remaining stable in sunlight, and containing few if any ingredients with significant known or suspected health hazards.[10][11]In its fourth annual “Sunscreen Guide,” issued in May 2010, the Environmental Working Group gave generally low marks to currently available sunscreen products and recommended only 39 out of 500 sunscreens available at that time.[12]

Industry representatives call these claims “highly inaccurate.” The Personal Care Products Council general counsel Farah Ahmed stated “It is very clear to me that they have a very low level of understanding of the way sunscreens work and the way they are regulated by the FDA and tested by the industry.” He expressed further concern saying “I would hate to think that there are parents out there not using sunscreen on their kids because of a report like this that is not based on real science.”  [Please note that this is their hired lawyer speaking, so he must not be prejudiced at all and we can surely trust him! Ha ha.]Representatives from both Schering-Plough, the manufacturers of Coppertone, and  from Johnson & Johnson (Neutrogena)—Waaait! Stop!  First of all eeeek! I didn’t know they owned Neutrogena! Secondly, they have only recently agreed to remove a bunch of hideously toxic chemicals from their products—saying that they are “phasing out formaldehyde-releasing ingredients in adult products, and completely phasing out triclosan from all products.”

You caught the expression, “Phasing out?”   Phasing frakking out? As in: We won’t poison you tomorrow, but we have a lot of product on the shelves and you can’t expect us just to throw it away!” Adding insult to injury, much of the eco-world is loudly congratulating them, even though their belated action comes too LATE for many of us.

The Environmental Working Group’s most up-to-date site,  [2013] is extremely thorough.  Sometimes it is so dang thorough that it can be confusing.   Here, then, is the list of top 10 sunscreens tested by the Environmental Working Group, none of which I have yet had a chance to try:

  1. Adorable Baby Clear Baby Sunscreen Stick, SPF 30+

  2. Seventh Generation Baby Sunscreen, SPF 30

  3. Sunbow Dora the Explorer Sunscreen, Pink, SPF 30

  4. The Honest Company Sunscreen, SPF 20

  5. TruBaby Water & Play Mineral Sunscreen, SPF 30+

  6. California Baby Fragrance-Free Face & Body Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30+

  7. BabyGanics Cover Up Baby Sunscreen for Face & Body, Fragrance Free, SPF 50+

  8. Earth’s Best Mineral Sunscreen, SPF 30

  9. Badger Lightly Scented Lavender Sunscreen, SPF 30

  10. BurnOut Kids Physical Sunscreen, SPF 30+

 (If you are interested, you can check out their Hall of Shame list at )

 I began this blog in Florida, where the sun is a permanent, rather than a seasonal phenomenon.  Now I’m in the Midwest, and my sunscreen hunt continues. I will be glad to let you know if I find anything great.  Please let me know how it goes for you, and if anything good appears to be happening on the sunscreen frontier!


 Sincerely, Samantha