It’s Summertime! The start of another summer season means welcoming things like corn-on-the-cob, swimming, and lots of time spent outside. Yet it also brings the annual struggle to find a sunscreen that will protect your skin on long summer days in the sun without harming humans or aquatic life.
To help, here is a review of the nastiest ingredients in common sunscreen products to avoid.
Ingredients of Concern in Conventional Sunscreens
Oxybenzone – A very popular UV-absorbing ingredient in conventional sunscreens, oxybenzone (which is sometimes called benzophenone-3) has been linked to endocrine disruption, contact allergies, organ system toxicity, and photoallergies (allergic response brought about by exposure to light).
Octinoxate – Also labeled as OMC, methoxy-cinnamate, or ethylhexyl-cinnamate, this ingredient has been linked to endocrine disruption and reproductive toxicity. This ingredient only protects against UVB rays, but not UVA rays.
Homosalate – Another common ingredient that only protects from UVB rays, this ingredient has been linked to hormone disruption and may possibly increase the absorption of pesticides. To add to this ingredient’s bad rap, it is not biodegradable, meaning that it will persist in the environment long past your day at the beach.
Nanoparticles – Nanoparticles are just that: nano. These teensy-tiny little components are often found in sunscreen as nanoparticle titanium dioxide or nanoparticle zinc oxide, and they are so small that they can be 1,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. Unfortunately, researchers actually don’t know the potential health impacts of these ingredients, as they have not yet been adequately studied. There is concern though, as their small size may make them more chemically reactive, meaning the particles could be fast-tracked into the body.
Protecting Our Oceans
Not only have many of these ingredients been found to be harmful to human life, but some of them are also highly toxic to aquatic life and harmful to coral reefs. For this reason, in 2018 Hawaii banned the use of both oxybenzone and octinoxate. Protecting ocean life and, in particular, coral reefs, matters because they play a vital role in protecting biodiversity, coastlines, and our air (as they remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere).
Safer Alternatives for Sun Protection
Titanium Dioxide – This naturally-occurring mineral from the earth’s crust can help protect your skin by absorbing UVB rays and also some UVA rays. Be sure to look for non-nanoparticle titanium dioxide!
Zinc Oxide – Another naturally-occurring substance that provides broad spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays. Be sure to select a sunscreen formulated with non-nanoparticle zinc oxide!
Want to learn more about how to read sunscreen labels?
Check out our tips on choosing a safer sunscreen and our visual guide to safe sun.
MADE SAFE® Certified Solutions + Staff Favorites
- Clear Zinc Sunscreen Stick SPF 30+
- Super Shield Sport Stick Sunscreen SPF 50+
- Baby Skin Mineral Sunscreen*
- Fragrance Free SPF 50 Baby Face Mineral Sunscreen Stick*
- Sheer Zinc Continuous Spray Sunscreen SPF 30*
Badger (formulations with non-nano minerals):
- Baby Sunscreen – SPF 30*
- Kids Sport Sunscreen Stick – SPF 35*
- Kids Sunscreen – SPF 30*
- Sport Sunscreen – SPF 35*
- Unscented Sunscreen with Zinc Oxide SPF 30*
For International Shoppers:
+ MADE SAFE certified product
* Staff favorites – not MADE SAFE certified
Looking for other nontoxic swaps? Check out our other posts and join the Revolution!
- May: Feminine care products
- April: Apparel
- March: Hand sanitizer
- February: Hand soap
- January: Cleaning products
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