The Ingredients in Sunscreen Destroying Your Health

Your skin is your largest organ.

It covers and protects everything on your body. How you treat it is incredibly important to your health. However, the skin is one of the most unappreciated organs, and one that I used to totally take for granted, slathering products full of toxic chemicals on it day after day. When I look back at all the different potions I’ve tried, I shake my head in disbelief and wish I would have known better. Not only would I not have developed eczema all over my body and face, but I would have looked a million times better growing up.

One of those products that has always caused me issues – is sunscreen. Every time after a beach vacation or going to the pool, I’d end up with a rash on my face or body. I wondered if I’d eaten something that I was allergic to. Little did I know at the time – the culprit was sunscreen.

Sunscreen

The unknown long-term consequences of the chemicals in sunscreen are just starting to be revealed and the results are shockingly horrific, going beyond the common skin rash. Here in the United States, the FDA does not regulate cosmetics as rigorously as pharmaceuticals or food – allowing cosmetic companies to get away with using all types of chemical ingredients that are not used and in some cases banned in other countries. Sounds familiar – eh?


Sunscreen is supposed to protect us from harmful UV radiation from the sun, but as more people use sunscreen, the incidence of skin cancer continues to rise. This fact alone has to make you think – do sunscreens really provide skin cancer protection? Or could the chemicals in them actually be contributing to causing skin cancer?

It gets complicated trying to answer those questions. Some studies have shown that sunscreens do in fact protect us from some types of less threatening forms of skin cancers, but others have found that sunscreens have actually contributed to the risk of some of the worst forms of skin cancers.

So what do you do?

I certainly don’t want to look like a wrinkly old hag when I’m older from laying out in the sun too long without protection – but I also don’t want to increase my cancer risk by using products that could be harmful. Anti-aging is important to me and that’s why I live the way I do – not only do I want to look my best when I’m older, I want to feel my best too.

Toxic Sunscreens

There are over 1800 products on the market to choose from, making it incredibly confusing and difficult to pick the best and safest brand. Here’s what you need to watch out for:

  • Oxybenzone - this is a hormone disrupting chemical which penetrates the skin and enters the bloodstream. It is the most popular ingredient in chemical based sunscreens and only blocks UVB ray (sun’s good rays that provide vitamin D production), not UVA which are the most free radical damaging rays.  Avoid any sunscreen that has this chemical at all costs, especially for children.
  • Vitamin A (Retinyl Palmitate) – A 2009 study by U.S. government scientists released by the National Toxicology Program found when this is applied to the skin in the presence of sunlight, it may speed the development of skin tumors and lesions.
  • FragranceSure it may make the product smell nice, but this is a petroleum based product that is linked to organ toxicity and allergies.
  • High SPF – The FDA does not regulate SPF higher than 50 and there’s no scientific proof they work better than lower SPF. Many of the higher SPFs do not provide any additional protection and studies have suggested that users are exposed to as many or more ultraviolet rays as those who use lower-SPF products.
  • Sprays or Powders – Generally speaking, sprays and powders have additional chemicals added to them for performance purposes. These additional chemicals are usually not something you want to be spraying on your body and can be toxic to the lungs. Besides, remember sunscreen is formulated for your skin, not your lungs. Many of the side effects of sprays and powders on the lungs are not tested before being approved.
  • Popular Conventional Brands - Aveeno, Banana Boat, Coppertone Sport, Coppertone Water Babies, Bull Frog, Neutragena, Storebrands (CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens), Hawaiian Tropic and many other popular brands are rated the worst in terms of safety in the Environmental Working Group’s Sunscreen Guide. You can use this guide to find out how good or bad the brand you have or want to buy is rated.

How To Choose A Safe Sunscreen:

  • Look for titanium dioxide and zinc oxide based mineral sunscreens, which do not penetrate the skin and provide UVA protection against the sun’s most damaging rays.
  • Choose non-nano products that do not have small particles that can absorb into skin
  • Choose sunscreens that are unscented or use essential oils as fragrance
  • Pick lotion based sunscreens with water resistance
  • Pick broad spectrum sunscreens that protect against UVA and UVB rays
  • Choose sunscreen products that are rated 0-2 in the Environmental Working Group’s Sunscreen Guide.

Below are my favorite sunscreen brands that are rated between 0-2 for their entire line of sun care products and are the safest available. I’ve included the links on where to find these brands online if you can’t find them in stores near you – but most natural food stores and vitamin shops will have one of these options available. 

Safe Sunscreens

*Note – Alba and Kiss My Face are two other brands that are safer than most conventional brands. However, you must only choose their mineral based products – for example Alba’s Mineral SPF 30 Unscented and Kiss My Face’s Mineral Lotion SPF 40 are great choices – but other versions in the same brand category may not be as safe.

When it comes to being in the sun, I’m lucky. I tan, don’t burn and don’t completely freak out if I forgot my sunblock – however, because of my olive complexion I have to stay in the sun longer in order to get sufficient Vitamin D. (The lighter your skin color, the faster your absorption of Vitamin D). I wear sunblock at the pool, at the beach and when I’m outdoors for extended periods, but I’ve decided not to wear it everyday.

Using as little as 15 SPF blocks your body’s ability to convert the sun’s rays to Vitamin D by 99%. If you want to increase your chances of avoiding diseases linked to deficiencies in Vitamin D (cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and depression) – you must get sunshine! The sun’s rays are pure wonderful energy your body needs.

Before I go – I want to mention this important fact. The biggest immediate benefit of getting sun a few times a week is the reduction of cravings. When Vitamin D levels are low, the hormone that controls appetite stops working. You eat and eat and eat, and never feel full when this happens. The sun contributes significantly to the daily production of Vitamin D, and as little as 10 minutes of exposure a few times a week is enough to help prevent deficiencies. Vitamin D also helps boost serotonin levels, your happy hormone, warding off depression which naturally reduces cravings. For me, this is reason enough to let the sun shine in!

If you know someone that might still be buying sunscreen with shady ingredients, please share this post with them, you could have a serious impact on their livelihood!

Thank you for spreading the word to the ones you love.

Food Babe

Sunscreen 2

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446 Responses to “The Ingredients in Sunscreen Destroying Your Health”

  1. Mariah

    Your article is incorrect because Oxybenzone is an organic compound that contains estrogenic properties, it is not a hormonal disruptor. It does block both UVA/UVB rays. However, when paired with titatium oxide in formulations, the estrogenic endocrine problems come out. It’s not necessarily this ingredient by itself, it’s formulation problems in some sunscreens.

    Reply
  2. Kevin Lamminen

    I have a great sun screen made by Shaklee. I also have a great skin care line and a product to help if you gotburned .
    I’d love to share more info with anyone.

    Reply
  3. Connie P

    •Look for titanium dioxide and zinc oxide based mineral sunscreens, which do not penetrate the skin and provide UVA protection against the sun’s most damaging rays.
    Neutragena for baby and/or sensitive skin as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. But the recent type that has Heloiplex ( I thinks that’s what is called) does not have titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.
    I was told that titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are physical blockers and lay on top of your skin. The others are not true blockers, but sun screen.
    BTW I have very pale skin and blue eyes with lupus. My best protection is long sleeve shirts and hats.

    Reply
    • Rachel H (to Connie P)

      Hi Connie P – how does the sun effect lupus? I also might have similar issues, light skin, blue eyes and a possible form of RA.

      Reply
      • Connie P (to Rachel H)

        Hi Rachel
        I get a rash on my arms and face. It also make my joints gets sore. I get brain fog more often.

      • Rachel H (to Rachel H)

        Connie P – can I contact you outside this post . I’m interested in learning more about Lupus / RA from your experience.

  4. angelingraz

    I live in Arizona and as much as I want to go with one of these products I feel I would get burned. I have very light skin. How about organic unrefined coconut oil? I know it helps sunburn, but not sure how well it works as a sunscreen?

    Reply
  5. Elizabeth

    As a fair skinned woman living in a sunny state, I have to call BS on this article. I do not wear sunscreen because I fear wrinkles in old age, I wear sunscreen so I don’t spend the entire summer with continuous second-degree burns. All of your suggested safe options go up to SPF 30. For me that’s the equivalent of wearing nothing at all. So wear sunscreen and *possibly* contract skin cancer later on or suffer all summer only to ruin my skin as well? I know which option I choose.

    Reply
    • Jane (to Elizabeth)

      Sorry, but your statement that wearing SPF 30 is like ‘nothing at all’ is incorrect. SPF 30 blocks 96.7% of UVB rays. You can use SPF 100 to get it to 99%, but the difference in UVB blockage is still only 2.3%. Also, zinc oxide protects against both UVB and UVA rays, so you shouldn’t be getting burnt while using an SPF that contains a significant percentage of this.

      Reply
  6. Shannon

    Hi, does anyone have a recommendation for a daily facial moisturizer with sunscreen in it? I have had trouble over the past finding something that doesn’t cause me to break out. Thanks!

    Reply
    • amanda (to Shannon)

      Back to basics log cabin, they make a custom made fresh to order sunscreen facial lotion thats 100% natural. Just ask! I found them on etsy.com

      Reply
    • Angela (to Shannon)

      A good natural moisturizer with SPF 30 is by DeVita. It’s their solar protective moisturizer. It’s not as pasty as some all natural products.

      Reply
    • Dawn (to Shannon)

      I use sei Bella skin care that I buy online with a green company…absolutely love it!

      Reply
  7. Shannon

    hi, does anyone have a recommendation for a facial moisturizer with sunscreen in it? I have tried several in the past and they all cause me to breakout eventually. Thanks!

    Reply
  8. Nicole

    I make my own. It has organic almond oil, organic coconut oil, organic shea butter, beeswax, and zinc oxide.

    http://www.banjorganics.com/#!product/prd1/1903932945/sunscreen

    Reply
  9. Amy Smylie

    What do you think of CeraVe with invisible zinc?

    Reply
  10. Stien

    Being a Metastasized Melanoma survivor of stage IV Melanoma I cannot stress the importance enough of being wise about being in the sun and especially for fair skinned people staying out of the sun for extended periods of time and wearing the least toxic sorts sunscreen when in the sun. Avoiding being burnt bij the sun up until you are 18 years old is essential. It is true that when young if you If get burnt before you are 12 it raises your chances of getting Melanoma by at least 60%!! Please take it form me… It is serious business what the sun can do to you and maybe even what they say sunscreen can do as well. I was burnt quite often as a child as I always turned red first when in the sun even though I wore sunscreen. My worst burn was on the top of my right shoulder when I was about 10 and that is also the first place I found my first tumor. This can’t be a coincidence. I am totally into using the very safest form of sunscreen available if you are in the sun… as I am also into eating as pure as possible. But I still believe that preventing the sunburn is the most essential no matter what you do. Take it for me who is lucky to still be here. Please take it very seriously. I am lucky I am one of the 4% of Metastasized Melanoma survivors at this stage. Thank you so much for helping make us all more aware of things about the food we eat and other products we use as I am sure that the additives and pesticides we all consume are part of the reason there is more cancer…

    Reply
    • Lonnie (to Stien)

      If you are into healthy living and a chemical free lifestyle as I am, you might be interested in knowing about something called “Black salve” or bloodroot. I have used it myself as well as my family and friends, over and over to get rid of skin cancers and moles. It basically hunts down the root of the cancer and totally devours it with little or NO SCARRING!! AT first it will leave a crater in your skin and I swear that within 2 days that crater will replenish 98 % with fresh new skin!!! and within a week it will be completely filled in… It is just another amazing plant source that God gave us as our creator to heal us!!! Of course there are skeptics but those of us that have the wisdom of what is going on with our food supply etc. should know that there is ALWAYS someone to knock a natural simple solution.

      Reply
      • Stoen (to Lonnie)

        hi there Lonnie, thank you for the information. Even though I don’t have any slin cancer on my skin I am very happy to know about this. i can also no pass the word on to others it may help!

  11. Jane

    Just on the topic of nanoparticles… In case anyone was wondering, the EWG does not presently advise against using sunscreens with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide nanoparticles, as “there is no evidence that [they] penetrate skin in any significant quantities.” Though they do call for an urgent assessment of their environmental impact, along with the other sunscreen ingredients.

    http://www.ewg.org/2013sunscreen/nanoparticles-in-sunscreen/

    & Thanks a lot for making this post! It got me started on researching this topic : ).

    Reply
  12. Virginia

    What about Goddess Garden? They have what seems to be like an excellent SPF 30 for children!

    Reply
  13. Jill

    I have a wonderful sunscreen for kiddos and one for adults that is 100% healthy and does NOT contain any harmful chemicals/parabens!!!! It is Arbonne!!! I am running a wonderful special all April ~ contact me for details :)

    Reply
  14. shanna

    Babyganics looks good! And I got it at Target. Mineral based, no fragrances, nano particles, or parabens! :)

    Reply
  15. Felicity

    hi there – i’ve been researching the product i used on my daughter last year, babyganics spf 50 – and it seems okay – doesn’t have any of the things you say to watch out for – would love to hear what you think :-)

    Reply
  16. Taylor

    TIZO is an AMAZING brand for sunscreen. It’s pricey but worth it, made out of minerals and free from chemicals, but it is mainly for the face. I can only find it at the dermatologist office. Highly recommend.

    Reply
  17. I love food babe (to sally)

    Nooooo, she does her research and it doesn’t take a genius to know chemicals can be harmful, sorry truth hurts

    Reply
  18. Jennifer Gallant (to Collee)

    Just because you don’t like what you’re learning doesn’t give you the right to call someone an idiot. Especiallly someone who is only trying to help you. Instead of taking time to write something rude, you should have googled it. Here’s one of the very reputable sources pertaining to harmful sunscreens: http://www.ewg.org/2013sunscreen/
    Most sunscreens and beauty products contain very toxic and harmful ingredients. I believe you owe Vani an appology.
    One more thing… Threatening to sue somebody because they said something you don’t want to learn, makes you sound like a very toxic and harmful person.

    Reply

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