The Best and Worst Sunscreens, According to Researchers

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iStock

Still squeezing the last gloopy drops out of last year’s sunscreen bottle? Throw it out. It’s expired, for one thing. But you may also want to switch brands after reading the 2017 sunscreen report issued by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which finds that the majority of products on the market are ineffective, contain harmful ingredients, or both.

EWG researchers examined the safety and effectiveness of almost 1500 products, including sunscreen, moisturizers, and lip balms with SPF values.

The results were not reassuring. “The vast majority of sunscreens available to Americans aren’t as good as they should be,” senior research analyst Sonya Lunder said in a statement. In their report, Lunder and her colleagues emphasize the differences between sunscreen consumer protection in the United States and elsewhere.

“This year, we estimate that nearly every sunscreen we reviewed passes the FDA test,” the EWG researchers write, "but that about half of them would not offer enough UVA protection to be sold in Europe.”

The FDA has a cap on the percentage of active ingredients allowed, and most products use the same one, which means that a sunblock with SPF 100 may be no more effective than one with SPF 30. To get around this, some American products artificially inflate their SPF rating by using chemicals to prevent sunburn’s redness without actually protecting our skin from sun damage.

“High SPF is a marketing gimmick,” said David Andrews, a senior scientist at EWG. “SPF values over 50 mislead people into thinking they are completely protected from sunburn and long-term skin damage. But instead, they may encourage people to spend more time in the sun, exposing themselves to more, not less, ultraviolet rays.”

Many of the sunscreens also contain ingredients like oxybenzone, which can affect our hormones, and vitamin A, which can make us even more sensitive to the Sun.

Some of the EWG's best-rated sunscreens:

1. Tom's of Maine Baby Sunscreen Lotion
2. Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Dry-Touch Sunscreen
3. Aveeno Baby Continuous Protection Sensitive Skin Lotion Sunscreen
4. Badger All Season Face Stick
5. Kiss My Face Organics Face & Body Sunscreen

Some of the best moisturizers with SPF:

1. Cetaphil Redness Relieving Daily Facial Moisturizer
2. The Body Shop Aloe Soothing Moisture Lotion, Sensitive Skin
3. La Roche-Posay Anthelios SX Daily Moisturizing Cream
4. Eucerin Daily Hydration Moisturizer and Sunscreen
5. Aveda Daily Light Guard Defense Fluid

Some of the worst for kids:

1. Coppertone Sunscreen Lotion Kids
2. CVS Health Children's Sunstick Sunscreen
3. Banana Boat Kids Continuous Spray Sunscreen
4. Coppertone Foaming Lotion Sunscreen Kids Wacky Foam
5. Equate Baby Sunscreen Lotion

To keep yourself and your skin safe, the EWG suggests the following steps.

First, recognize that sunscreen should not be your only form of sun protection. Sunglasses, shade, and hats are often far more effective.

“There is little scientific evidence to suggest that sunscreen alone reduces cancer risk,” the authors write, “particularly for melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer. Despite a growing awareness of the dangers of exposure to the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation, and a multibillion-dollar sunscreen industry, melanoma rates have tripled over the past three decades.”

Second, use the guide to find the best products for you and your family. Stay away from oxybenzone and vitamin A. Avoid sprays, which just don’t work as well as we hope they will.

Third, apply liberally and often. You should use about a shot glass’s worth of sunscreen each time.

Finally, don’t forget to replace your sunscreen twice a year. After six months or so, the active ingredients begin to lose their punch.

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12 Creative Ways to Spend Your FSA Money Before the Deadline

stockfour/iStock via Getty Images
stockfour/iStock via Getty Images

If you have a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), chances are, time is running out for you to use that cash. Depending on your employer’s rules, if you don’t spend your FSA money by the end of the grace period, you potentially lose some of it. Lost cash is never a good thing.

For those unfamiliar, an FSA is an employer-sponsored spending account. You deposit pre-tax dollars into the account, and you can spend that money on a number of health care expenses. It’s kind of like a Health Savings Account (HSA), but with a few big differences—namely, your HSA funds roll over from year to year, so there’s no deadline to spend it all. With an FSA, though, most of your funds expire at the end of the year. Bummer.

The good news is: The law allows employers to roll $500 over into the new year and also offer a grace period of up to two and a half months to use that cash (March 15). Depending on your employer, you might not even have that long, though. The deadline is fast approaching for many account holders, so if you have to use your FSA money soon, here are a handful of creative ways to spend it.

1. Buy some new shades.

Head to the optometrist, get an eye prescription, then use your FSA funds to buy some new specs or shades. Contact lenses and solution are also covered.

You can also buy reading glasses with your FSA money, and you don’t even need a prescription.

2. Try acupuncture.

Scientists are divided on the efficacy of acupuncture, but some studies show it’s useful for treating chronic pain, arthritis, and even depression. If you’ve been curious about the treatment, now's a good time to try it: Your FSA money will cover acupuncture sessions in some cases. You can even buy an acupressure mat without a prescription.

If you’d rather go to a chiropractor, your FSA funds cover those visits, too.

3. Stock up on staples.

If you’re running low on standard over-the-counter meds, good news: Most of them are FSA-eligible. This includes headache medicine, pain relievers, antacids, heartburn meds, and anything else your heart (or other parts of your body) desires.

There’s one big caveat, though: Most of these require a prescription in order to be eligible, so you may have to make an appointment with your doctor first. The FSA store tells you which over-the-counter items require a prescription.

4. Treat your feet.

Give your feet a break with a pair of massaging gel shoe inserts. They’re FSA-eligible, along with a few other foot care products, including arch braces, toe cushions, and callus trimmers.

In some cases, foot massagers or circulators may be covered, too. For example, here’s one that’s available via the FSA store, no prescription necessary.

5. Get clear skin.

Yep—acne treatments, toner, and other skin care products are all eligible for FSA spending. Again, most of these require a prescription for reimbursement, but don’t let that deter you. Your doctor is familiar with the rules and you shouldn’t have trouble getting a prescription. And, as WageWorks points out, your prescription also lasts for a year. Check the rules of your FSA plan to see if you need a separate prescription for each item, or if you can include multiple products or drug categories on a single prescription.

While we’re on the topic of faces, lip balm is another great way to spend your FSA funds—and you don’t need a prescription for that. There’s also no prescription necessary for this vibrating face massager.

6. Fill your medicine cabinet.

If your medicine cabinet is getting bare, or you don’t have one to begin with, stock it with a handful of FSA-eligible items. Here are some items that don’t require a prescription:

You can also stock up on first aid kits. You don’t need a prescription to buy those, and many of them come with pain relievers and other medicine.

7. Make sure you’re covered in the bedroom.

Condoms are FSA-eligible, and so are pregnancy tests, monitors, and fertility kits. Female contraceptives are also covered when you have a prescription.

8. Prepare for your upcoming vacation.

If you have a vacation planned this year, use your FSA money to stock up on trip essentials. For example:

9. Get a better night’s sleep.

If you have trouble sleeping, sleep aids are eligible, though you’ll need a prescription. If you want to try a sleep mask, many of them are eligible without a prescription. For example, there’s this relaxing sleep mask and this thermal eye mask.

For those nights you’re sleeping off a cold or flu, a vaporizer can make a big difference, and those are eligible, too (no prescription required). Bed warmers like this one are often covered, too.

Your FSA funds likely cover more than you realize, so if you have to use them up by the deadline, get creative. This list should help you get started, and many drugstores will tell you which items are FSA-eligible when you shop online.

10. Go to the dentist.

While basics like toothpaste and cosmetic procedures like whitening treatments aren’t FSA eligible, most of the expenses you incur at your dentist’s office are. That includes co-pays and deductibles as well as fees for cleanings, x-rays, fillings, and even the cost of braces. There are also some products you can buy over-the-counter without ever visiting the dentist. Some mouthguards that prevent you from grinding your teeth at night are eligible, as are cleaning solutions for retainers and dentures.

11. Try some new gadgets.

If you still have some extra cash to burn, it’s a great time to try some expensive high-tech devices that you’ve been curious about but might not otherwise want to splurge on. The list includes light therapy treatments for acne, vibrating nausea relief bands, electrical stimulation devices for chronic pain, cloud-connected stethoscopes, and smart thermometers.

12. Head to Amazon.

There are plenty of FSA-eligible items available on Amazon, including items for foot health, cold and allergy medication, eye care, and first-aid kits. Find out more details on how to spend your FSA money on Amazon here.

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The Reusable Rocketbook Smart Notebook Is the Ultimate Recycling Move

StackCommerce/Rocketbook
StackCommerce/Rocketbook

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You may be conscientious of your environmental footprint, but some habits are tough to change, like transitioning from writing notes on paper to typing notes and saving trees. There’s just something about physically writing with a pen and paper that’s fulfilling, engages your memory, and just feels right. You can keep jotting without the guilt on this smart reusable notebook from Rocketbook that translates all of your written text to your favorite cloud services so you can recycle the pages to use again and again.

Once you start using cloud storage for notes, it’ll be hard to go back. You’ll have every song lyric, appointment, and list of directions you jot down anywhere you have internet access (which is basically everywhere these days). The set comes with 42 pages for various uses, like calendars and to-do lists that wipe clean with a damp cloth to reuse after you save your notes to the cloud.

One of the reasons it’s hard to ditch traditional pen and paper is the feeling of your favorite writing utensil gliding on the page. This set comes with a FriXion pen that writes smoothly on the synthetic paper just like the old-fashioned way—except you can’t misplace or ruin these notes in a shuffle or coffee spill since everything will be stored digitally. It’s better for the environment and kind of like an insurance plan on your personal thoughts and notes.

For a limited time, you can replace all of your archaic and environmentally wasteful notebooks with one easy set. Score the Rocketbook Fusion Executive book in black, the Rocketbook Mini in black, two FriXion pens, and two microfiber cloths for wiping with a 12 percent discount. You’ll get unlimited paper from the sleek large and small black notebooks for just $44.

Prices subject to change.

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