Most experts agree people should use sunscreens to protect their skin from the sun, but unfortunately many commercial sunscreens contain harmful ingredients. Use the following sun-safety tips, and check out EWG’s list of 158 top-rated healthy sunscreens at EWG’s Skin Deep.
• Don’t rely on sunscreen alone. Clothing, hats, sunglasses and shade should be your first line of defense. Take extra caution between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun’s UV rays are most intense.
• Avoid sunscreeens with vitamin A, which may speed up the development of cancer on skin exposed to sunlight. Watch out for “retinyl palmitate” or “retinol” on the label.
• Avoid sunscreens that contain oxybenzone, a synthetic estrogen that penetrates the skin and contaminates the body.
• Skip sunscreens with insect repellent. Sunscreens should be applied liberally and often; commercial insect repellents should not. Read more about safe insect repellents in Natural Mosquito Control Methods.
• Opt for creams instead of sprays and powders, which cloud the air with tiny particles of sunscreen that may not be safe to breathe.
• Beware of sunscreens with SPFs higher than 50, which researchers suspect do not provide additional protection and thereby create a false sense of security. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends broad-spectrum sunscreens (which protect against UVA and UVB rays) with an SPF of at least 30. Apply sunscreen generously 30 minutes before going outside and reapply it at least every two hours—more if you’re sweating or jumping in and out of the water.
• Look for mineral-based natural sunscreens with zinc and titanium dioxide listed as active ingredients. Although no ingredient is without some concern, the EWG favors mineral sunscreens because of their superior UVA protection. Read more about mineral versus nonmineral formulas at EWG’s Skin Deep.
Natural, Safe Sunscreens
1. Goddess Garden Facial Sunscreen SPF 30
Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide provide water-resistant protection from UVA and UVB rays. Green tea extract, lavender essential oil and vitamin E repair existing sun damage. 3.5 oz., $16
2. Supergoop SPF 30+ Everyday Sun Protection Lotion
Offers water-resistant UV protection without oxybenzone, a hormone disruptor found in most sunscreens. 1.6 oz., $14
3. All Terrain AquaSport SPF 30+
Reef-safe, biodegradable mineral-based lotion is water-resistant, fragrance-free and nonstinging. 3 oz., $12
4. Badger SPF 34 Unscented Sunscreen
Offers water-resistant protection from UVA and UVB rays using zinc oxide and a base of organic extra virgin olive oil, beeswax, jojoba and cocoa butter. 2.9 oz., $16
For more safe sunscreens made with natural ingredients, see our Resource Guide for Personal-Care Products. For more on chemicals in beauty products, read the original article, “Come Clean: Natural Alternatives to Chemical-Laden Personal-Care Products.”