Is Your Sunscreen Safe or Toxic?

sunscreen safe or toxic

You probably already take steps to minimize toxins in your environment. Perhaps you use air and water filters? And you carefully read food ingredient labels? Well you should! But do you think of sunscreen as your friend, a necessary precaution against sun skin cancer and premature aging?

Unfortunately, sunscreen goes both ways. It can help and it can harm. When you apply lotions of any kind to your skin, you absorb any toxins they contain.

According to the nonprofit, nonpartisan Environmental Working Group (EWG), many chemicals absorbed through sunscreen can actually be measured in blood, breast milk and urine samples. What about that tropical, beachy scent? You’re inhaling chemicals.

But before you throw out all of those bottles of coconut-scented creams and tubes of gooey lip balm, think twice. A certain amount of sun provides valuable Vitamin D, after all. And spending time outdoors affords a host of benefits. Just educate yourself about sunscreen ingredients so you know which ones to trust.


How Sunscreen Works

There are two basic ways a product can filter the sunrays hitting your skin: mineral and chemical. The FDA recognizes 16 chemical or mineral active ingredients for sunscreen. Most widely available sunscreens use chemicals such as oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, and octinoxate. Mineral sunscreens use zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide.

The chemical barriers generate the most concern. Some are known to disrupt hormone function, spur production of harmful free radicals, or irritate skin.

You may simply opt for mineral sunscreens, as they don’t penetrate the skin as deeply. However, they are generally harder to wash off and may clog pores. There is also the possibility that they could be inhaled and harm your lungs.


Sunscreen Ingredients To Avoid!

The FDA reviews the active ingredients in sunscreen to determine whether they are safe and effective. The FDA began to review sunscreens in the 1970s. Some ingredients, already in use prior to that time, receive dispensation.

Problems have been reported with several of the most commonly used chemical ingredients. According to a 2006 study, oxybenzone can cause allergic skin reactions. Inconclusive evidence also suggests it can lower testosterone. Like most of the others listed here, it tends to stay in the body a long time. An oxybenzone study published in Environmental Health Perspectives caused concern in 2001. However, a subsequent study claimed that the first one relied on unrealistically high dosages. In my opinion, it’s better to play it safe.

EWG shares a report that shows evidence of similar risks with other active sunscreen ingredients. For example, octinoxate may cause hormone disruption and produce free radicals that can damage skin and cells.

The EWG report lists a number of chemicals that contribute to the production of free radicals. Free radicals damage DNA and may lead to cancer. Retinyl palmate produces free radicals and FDA studies have shown that it may speed the development of malignant cells and skin tumors. Octocrylene absorbs UV radiation and also produces free radicals.

Check inactive ingredients, too. Methylisothiazolinone, a common preservative, can cause serious skin allergies, most notably in children.


How To Use Sunscreen

The bottom line? Use sunscreen. The American Academy of Dermatology says that the benefits outweigh the risks. However, read the labels and stay up-to-date on the latest findings.

The FDA recommends that you choose a broad spectrum sunscreen. The broad spectrum label indicates that it protects against both UVA and UVB rays. They also recommend using SPF 15 or greater and reapplying at least every two hours.

Toss your sunscreen if it’s past its expiration date or more than three years old.


The Best and The Worst


Here are EWG’s best and worst picks for sunscreens in 2017:


Best Beach and Sport Formulas

  • All Good Unscented Sunstick, SPF 30
  • All Terrain AquaSport Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30
  • aromatica Calendula Non-Nano UV Protection, SPF 30
  • ATTITUDE Family Sensitive Skin Care Sunscreen, SPF 30
  • Aveeno Baby Continuous Protection Sensitive Skin Lotion Sunscreen, SPF 50
  • Badger Sunscreen Cream, Unscented, SPF 30
  • Bare Belly Organics Sunscreen, SPF 30
  • California Baby Super Sensitive Sunscreen, SPF 30+
  • Drunk Elephant Umbra, Sheer Defense, SPF 30
  • Goddess Garden Organics Everyday Natural Sunscreen Lotion, SPF, 30
  • Jersey Shore Cosmetics Anti-Aging Mineral Sunscreen, SPF 35
  • Just Skin Food Natural & Organic Sunscreen, SPF30
  • Kabana Organic Skincare Green Screen Sunscreen, Original SPF 32
  • Kiss My Face Organics Face & Body Sunscreen, SPF 30
  • Poofy Organics The Sunscreen Stick, SPF 30
  • Sunology Natural Sunscreen, Body, SPF 50
  • Sunology Natural Sunscreen, Face, SPF 50
  • ThinkSport Sunscreen, SPF 50+
  • Waxhead Sun Defense Sunscreen Stick, SPF 30
  • Zebs Organics Sunscreen, SPF 20 (4)


Best Moisturizers

  • Andalou Naturals, All-in-One Beauty Balm, Sheer Tint, SPF 30
  • Badger Damascus Rose Face Sunscreen, SPF 25
  • Block Island Organics Natural Face Moisturizer, SPF 30
  • CyberDERM Every Morning Sun Whip, SPF 25
  • Goddess Garden Organics Face the Day Sunscreen & Firming Primer, SPF 30
  • Juice Beauty Oil-Free Moisturizer, SPF 30
  • SanRe Organic Skinfood Shaded Rose-Solar Healing Facial Cream, SPF 30
  • Suntegrity Skincare 5 in 1 Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen, SPF 30 (5)


Best For Kids

  • Adorable Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30+
  • All Good Kid’s Sunscreen, SPF 30
  • All Terrain KidSport Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30
  • Aveeno Baby Continuous Protection Sensitive Skin Lotion Sunscreen, SPF 50
  • Babytime! by Episenical Sunny Sunscreen, SPF 35
  • Badger Baby Sunscreen Cream, SPF 30
  • Bare Republic Mineral Sunscreen Lotion, Baby, SPF 50
  • Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen, Baby, SPF 30+
  • BurnOut KIDS Sunscreen, SPF 35
  • California Baby Super Sensitive Sunscreen, SPF 30+
  • Caribbean Sol Sol Kid Kare, SPF 30
  • Goddess Garden Organics Baby Natural Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30
  • Kiss My Face Organics Kids Sunscreen, SPF 30
  • Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Sunscreen, SPF 50
  • Sunology Natural Sunscreen Kids, SPF 50
  • Sunumbra Sunkids Natural Sunscreen, SPF 40
  • ThinkSport Kids Sunscreen, SPF 50+
  • Tom’s of Maine Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30
  • TruKid Sunny Days Sport Sunscreen, SPF 30 (6)


The WORST Sunscreens

  • Banana Boat Kids Continuous Spray Sunscreen, SPF 100
  • Banana Boat Kids Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 100
  • Coppertone Foaming Lotion Sunscreen Kids Wacky Foam, SPF 70
  • Coppertone Sunscreen Continuous Spray Kids, SPF 70
  • Coppertone Sunscreen Lotion Kids, SPF 70
  • Coppertone Sunscreen Lotion Water Babies, SPF 70+
  • Coppertone Sunscreen Stick Kids, SPF 55
  • Coppertone Sunscreen Stick Water Babies, SPF 55
  • Coppertone Sunscreen Water Babies Foaming Lotion, SPF 70
  • CVS Health Children’s Sunstick Sunscreen, SPF 55
  • Equate Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 70
  • Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Sunscreen, SPF 60+
  • Neutrogena Wet Skin Kids Sunscreen Spray, SPF 70+
  • Up & Up Kids Sunscreen Sticks, SPF 55 (8)

So be sure to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. Just keep in mind that if you are outside longer than 20-30 minutes, it is important to apply the proper sunscreen!


Photo credit: jovanmandic /


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