Safe Sun(screen) | How to Protect Your Skin WITHOUT Sacrificing Your Health!

***As a disclaimer, I am not a healthcare professional or nutritionist. Healthy living and nutrition are hobbies of mine and this blog is my own personal experience. For more information, please see my blog disclaimer.

Today was the first day this year that really felt like summer in Virginia! It’s 85 and sunny which is perfect to lay out at the pool (if the pool was open…) Pool and Beach season is coming so I thought now is a great time to write about a topic I feel SUPER STRONGLY about…Sunscreen.  

While we are told to wear sunscreen to prevent skin cancer and sun damage, what we aren’t told is how toxic the ingredients in conventional sunscreens really are! Conventional sunscreens (such as Coppertone, Banana Boat, etc.) have ingredients that cause our skin to be MORE SENSITIVE to the sun, they have ingredients that cause other types of cancers, hormone disruptors, skin allergies, and more.

I’m not saying you need to ditch your sunscreen altogether (that would not be a smart idea), but there are much better options out there!

I first started to think there was something fishy with sunscreen about 8 years ago. I’m super pale…like pink pale…so of course, as most of us ghostly white folks do, I slather on the sunscreen very generously. I’d put it on before going outside at the beach and pool, I’d reapply literally every 30-45 minutes, and I’d still end up with a painful, peeling sunburn! It seemed like the more sunscreen I layered on, the more I could feel my skin burning.

I couldn’t just avoid the sun altogether, as that’s totally unrealistic. So I started researching sunscreens and ingredients in sunscreen, on a mission to find the best sunscreen out there! What I learned made so much sense as to why I was burning so badly! I learned that some chemicals in sunscreen make your skin MORE sensitive to the sun, some of them are even linked to the development of melanoma! What the heck?!!

After learning this information, I trashed all my junky, toxic sunscreen and I switched to a completely toxin free sunscreen! I haven’t had a terrible burn since! (Other than the time I didn’t realize I’d be outside for so long and didn’t put any on…but that was my own fault…)

I’ve listed a few ingredients you should ALWAYS avoid! This is in no way all of the ingredients to avoid…it’s just a starting point! (Also, in my Facebook Group, I have a list of brands to avoid and why, so definitely join my Facebook Group if you’re interested in that!)

Okay, on to the Toxic Ingredients…

Oxybenzone: Oxybenzone is a hormone disruptor that mimics estrogen, it causes cancer, it’s associated with altered birth weight in infants, it’s found in mothers’ milk, and it causes reproductive toxicity! A study done by the FDA (yes this chemical is so concerning that even the FDA is worried about it), shows that when sunscreen with oxybenzone is used as directed, people accumulate 180 times the “safe” amount of it in their bloodstream and this chemical can be found in your bloodstream 3 weeks after use! (Source) This chemical is also damaging to coral reefs. Hawaii is in the process of banning this chemical in sunscreen due to the coral reef damage it causes.

Avobenzone: On its own, avobenzone isn’t terrible however, it’s only good to protect your skin for 30 minutes max, so it’s always combined with Homosalate, Octisalate, and Octocrylene which are stabilizers, to make Avobenzone last longer in the sun.  And Homosalate and Octocrylene especially have their own risks.

Homosalate: This chemical is also a hormone disruptor. It accumulates in our bloodstream faster than our bodies can filter it out. Homosalate also causes our bodies to absorb more pesticides…not good! Homosalate mimics estrogen and can cause breast cancer cells to grow faster! (Source)

Octocrylene: Octocrylene is restricted in cosmetics in other countries. When exposed to sunlight, it produces free radicals which lead to cell death. That pretty much defeats the purpose of sunscreen doesn’t it? Sunscreen is supposed to protect our skin from damage, but Octocrylene actually causes MORE damage!

Titanium Dioxide (in spray sunscreens, not lotions): In cream sunscreens, Titanium Dioxide is on the safer side of SPF ingredients however, in spray sunscreen, it’s toxic! Inhaling particles of Titanium Dioxide is cancerous. If you use sunscreen with Titanium Dioxide, stick to a cream…not a spray!

Retinyl Palimate: Retinyl Palimate is used in sunscreen for its anti-aging benefits however, when this chemical is exposed to the sun, it causes DNA damage, excess skin growth, and it may speed the growth of cancerous tumors! Not only that, but since this chemical gets absorbed into the bloodstream (just like the vast majority of all chemicals we put on our body), using products with Retinyl Palimate (or other forms of Vitamin A), contributes to Vitamin A toxicity. Vitamin A toxicity can cause hair loss, brittle nails, osteoporosis, and liver damage. (Source) (Thank goodness a lot of companies are phasing out this ingredient in sunscreens however, always check the ingredient label!)

Now that we know what to avoid in sunscreens, let me give you a few sunscreen options to use instead! I wanted to list products that are easy to find in stores. All of these brands, I have seen at my local Wegmans or Whole Foods.

Badger: Badger is my go-to sunscreen! I’ve tried just about all the sunscreens Badger makes and they all work so well!! I’ve never burned with this brand and I don’t have to apply it as often either. It’s not made with Nano Particles so you don’t have to worry about the Zinc Oxide (SPF) getting into your bloodstream. Each sunscreen from Badger has about 7 ingredients or less and they’re skin nourishing ingredients like sunflower oil and sea buckthorn extract! Also, a little goes a long way with this one, so you don’t have to use a ton of it. Badger is definitely my #1 choice!

Earth Mama: Earth Mama Sunscreen is made with Zinc Oxide as well. It also has a lot of skin nourishing ingredients such as coconut oil, shea butter, aloe, olive oil, and jojoba oil! All ingredients in this sunscreen are completely safe!

KISS My Face Organics: (The Organics lotion not the spray. Also, the ingredients in the normal KISS My Face sunscreen are okay, but the Organics ingredients are a little better!) KISS My Face uses Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide for SPF and the minerals are not Nano Particles either! Since it’s a lotion, Titanium Dioxide is safe. They also use skin nourishing ingredients like sunflower oil and green tea extract. Again, all ingredients in the organic version are safe!

By switching to safe sunscreen, you no longer have to sacrifice your overall health for the health of your skin and it’s better for the ecosystem too! Don’t be scared of the lower SPF in some Toxin Free sunscreens because it really does work better than the higher SPF versions of the toxic junk!

This last tip isn’t sunscreen related however, you can also help protect your skin from the inside out by eating foods high in antioxidants! I’ll probably do a post on that in my Facebook Group in the future!