Is Your Sunscreen Toxic? 8 Safe Sunscreens to Use Instead

best sunscreens

You’re probably pretty up to speed on the latest sunscreen rules, like reapply every 80 minutes and use one full ounce (that’s about two tablespoons) to cover an adult body, but there are some brand new regulatory requirements proposed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) you should know about. In an effort to ensure sunscreens are both safe and effective, the FDA wants new regulations to address sunscreen active ingredient safety, dosage forms, sun protection factor (SPF), and broad-spectrum requirements.

The FDA also wants product labels updated to make it easier for consumers to identify key product information on sunscreen containers including the addition of the active ingredients, SPF, broad spectrum, and water resistance statements on the front of the package.

Dangers Lurking in Your Sunscreen

Keeping labels easy to decode sounds good to us, especially since a May 2019 JAMA study found that in one day of use, several common chemical sunscreen ingredients — including avobenzone, oxybenzone, ecamsule, and octocrylene — enter the bloodstream, continue to rise as daily use continues, and then remain in the body at least 24 hours after sunscreen use ends.

So what does this mean? Don’t stop using sunscreen, but do read the labels. You may want to steer clear of sunscreens with the following ingredients, which the FDA does not generally recognize as safe and effective: avobenzone, oxybenzone, ecamsule and octocrylene, PABA, and trolamine salicylate.

The study also cited that oxybenzone was absorbed into the body at a concentration of about 50 to 100 times than any of the other three chemicals they tested, and can show up in breastmilk and cause contact allergies and hormonal changes in men. To make matters worse, besides possibly harming you, these chemical ingredients are wreaking havoc on ocean reefs, with some places going so far as to impose a full ban on sunscreens containing the damaging ingredients.

Cover Up With Safe Sunscreen

Skin cancer may be the most prevalent form of cancer but it’s also the most preventable. It’s critical that we protect ourselves by using safe sunscreen every day. For an easy way to check your sunscreen’s safety, head to Environmental Working Group’s database and type in your sunscreen. You’ll want to look for a low hazard rating (1-2) or consider swapping your sunscreen for a safer one.

The Best Sunscreens

Need a recommendation? Here are our favorite safe and effective sunscreens for all of your sunscreen needs. Let’s just say we’ve got you covered — literally. 

For Head-to-Toe Protection: EltaMD

Safe Sunscreens: EltaMD

You probably already use a facial moisturizer with SPF in your daily skincare routine, but do you put sunscreen on your arms, chest, and legs when you don a summer dress and head to the office? If not, you should. We love EltaMD Broad Spectrum SPF 45. The active ingredients include transparent zinc oxide (yes, transparent), a natural mineral compound that works as a sunscreen agent by reflecting and scattering UVA and UVB rays, along with vitamin E. This sunscreen goes on sheer, and it’s fragrance and paraben free so you don’t have to worry about it clashing with your favorite perfume.

For Little Ones: Thinkbaby

Safe Sunscreens: Thinkbaby

This broad-spectrum SPF 50 sunscreen is free from biologically harmful chemicals so you can feel safe dousing your kids in it. It boasts the highest water resistance around at 80 minutes, making it a safe choice for a day at the beach, in the pool, or just playing at the park. It blends in easily without an oily feeling and seriously smells great. The formulation has the highest level of biodegradability and is reef safe. And, you can get it at Target.

For Tough-to-Reach Places: Supergoop!

Safe Sunscreens: Supergoop!

Finally, a sunscreen for your scalp — enter Supergoop! Poof Part Powder. This 100-percent mineral SPF 45 sunscreen goes on like dry shampoo but protects like sunscreen (great for the hotter days when you may need a sprinkle of dry shampoo any way). And Supergoop! didn’t stop at the top of the head; they also thought of your eyelids when creating Shimmershade, the first cream eyeshadow with SPF 30. Swipe on one of the four shades with your finger for a polished look plus protection from UV rays.

Instead of Foundation: Lune+Aster CC Cream

Safe Sunscreens: Lune+Aster

Unlike other types of CC creams out there, we love that this broad-spectrum tinted moisturizer with SPF 50 has high protection and provides medium coverage all day long. It’s breathable for summer but doesn’t just smudge right off. This might just become your new favorite tinted moisturizer for everyday use.

Protect Your Hands: Rich Girl Hand Cream

Safe Sunscreens: Deborah Lippmann Rich Girl Hand Cream

Since they’re always exposed to the elements, your hands can clearly give away your age more than any other body part. To combat age spots, wrinkles, and dryness, try Rich Girl, created by celebrity manicurist Deborah Lippmann. It’s a combination of broad-spectrum sunscreen with shea butter, avocado, and jojoba oil. Apply daily. Your hands will thank you.

For Your Lips: Raw Elements

Safe Sunscreens: Raw Elements Pink Lip Shimmer SPF 30

For everyday lip protection with a hint of color, check out Raw Elements Pink Shimmer SPF 30. It’s water resistant, made with all-natural, organic ingredients, and provides broad-spectrum protection all day long. Organic sugar crystals gently exfoliate, papaya nourishes, and the SPF protects. We love this whole eco-friendly line, developed by an ocean lifeguard. 

For Oil Lovers: Supergoop! Glow Oil 

Supergoop! Glow Oil

If you prefer a sunscreen with a satin skin finish that feels super nourishing, check out Supergoop! Glow Oil. The water-resistant oil protects at SPF 50 for broad-spectrum coverage that will feel like a spa treatment. Post shower, oil up and let it soak in. Supergoop! is safe on the most sensitive of skin and it’s also safe for ocean reefs.

For On-the-Go: Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Vitamin E Sunscreen Stick

This one comes highly recommended by Cosmetic Dermatologist Dr. Jordan Carqueville, a Best of Chicago winner. It’s super-portable, and Dr. Carqueville likes it because it has a high zinc concentration, is sheer and goes on great for kids and adults.

For Post-Sun Skin Replenishing: Ilike Organic Skin Care

Safe Sunscreens: Ilike Organic Skin Care

Your skin undergoes some extreme environmental stressors during a day in the sun. To help it bounce back, we love the Ilike Organic Skin Care line, which uses organic, handmade pulps rather than extracts to retain the full concentration and power of herbal ingredients. Remove impurities with Sour Cherry Cleansing Milk — it’s gentle, creamy, and doubles as an eye makeup remover. Then slather on Ultra Sensitive System Whipped Moisturizer, chock full of vitamin C, which protects the skin against sun damage, and vitamin A to promote proper skin cell growth and repair. For your full body, check out Stonecrop Whipped Body Moisturizer. Citric acid gently removes dead skin cells to diminish hyperpigmentation while stonecrop pumps in powerful antioxidants to combat free-radical damage. Your sun-drenched skin will soak up this healing line like a sponge and be ready to face another sunny day.

Here are a few more clean beauty products full of SPF that we love:

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