First I will have to give you some background. As a redhead I am dependent on sunscreens, but it is a longterm love/hate relationship. The family story starts with when I was quite young, my mother dutifully put sunscreen on me, and we took a short ride in a convertible. After she noted that I had a sunburn in the part of my hair, and she then realized (not being a redhead herself) that she was going to have trouble. I have a certain amount of affection for Neutrogena sunscreen as they were the first brand that we knew of that had an SPF great than say 5. They were in the 15-20 range which seemed miraculous at the time. Some of my teenage rebellions involved me pretending to tan at the beach which usually resulted in me becoming quite ill.
When I met my now-husband Tom (also a redhead) he introduced my to Bullfrog sunscreen which was not greasy and did not sting your eyes. It was a revelation. But I still will sunburn without any protection in just a few minutes in intense sunlight. People do not realize this. When we arrive in Bermuda for our honeymoon our rooms were not ready, and the desk clerk suggested we walk around for a while. She did not realize that this was impossible as our sunscreen was in our checked luggage (I had not yet found a TSA approved carry-on sunscreen yet) and a few minutes of walking in tropical sunshine would have lead to a horrible sunburn and ruined our honeymoon. After I had a meltdown in their lobby (I was also extremely tired) we manage to quickly dart through the streets and found a bar with great nachos and Scrumpy Cider, so it all turned out well.
Since we moved to the farm I have noticed rust colored stains on our clothing periodically. I always thought it was from the iron in our well water, but then I started to realize it was concentrated around the neck and sleeve lines (see T-shirt above). I recently have been googling sunscreens and stains and have discovered that many of the ingredients in sunscreen when washing with water containing iron will cause those chemicals to oxidize and lead to rust colored stains that are pretty much impossible to remove. So I performed an experiment.
I sacrificed a shirt I will never wear (since I was not allowed to buy event tickets for the Olympics even though I live closer than most Canadians) and placed samples of each of the sunscreens I was able to find. We have a lot because we are a family of redheads. I labeled them and then folded the shirt to disperse the sunscreen. I wore the shirt all day during my farm chores and then the shirt looked like:
I then washed it in with he regular laundry and it looked like:
And then dried it in our dryer:
You can see the vast majority of the sunscreens stained the shirt horribly. There were only two that did not stain the shirt a rusty color. And the winners are….drum roll please….
So I tossed quite a few sunscreens. We will keep some to use with our already stained clothing, but these two will be the ones we use with unstained garments. Although some days I feel like a mutant in a sunny world and have to use chemicals to survive, at least I will not be ruining all my clothes in the process.