Safe Sunscreen ?

Posted by on Jun 7, 2010 | Comments Off on Safe Sunscreen ?

Good, old-fashioned sunshine is the best way to get our vitamin D, but if you plan to be in the mid-day sun for extended periods of time, it’s a good idea to protect your skin. Aside from using hats, sunglasses, and protective clothing, it’s sometimes necessary, especially in the warmer months, to use sunscreen.  That being said, please be careful with your sunscreen choices. The old saying, “You are what you eat” also comes into play here, as the skin has the potential to “eat” (absorb) whatever is applied to it.

It might sound strange at first, but eating chemicals (within our food) is actually less damaging than applying them to the skin. This is because our digestive system breaks down & filters out at least some of the toxic load. When applied to the skin, chemicals can be absorbed directly into the bloodstream and circulated throughout the body.

For more detailed information on sunscreen safety, visit the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) SKIN DEEP cosmetic safety database.

Here, you’ll be able to look up your current products to see how they’re rated, and also browse through their list of recommended sunscreens. OVER 1000 SUNSCREENS WERE EVALUATED and given a score between 0 and 10, where zero is safest, and 10 is the most dangerous. They categorize the scores into 3 groups: 0 – 2 = low-hazard, 3 – 6 = moderated hazard, and 7 – 10 = high hazard.

With that in mind, 1 is the lowest (safest) score you’ll find for any sunscreen, as there is no 100%, “perfectly safe” option – only some that are much better choices than others. Please scroll down for a list of hazardous sunscreen ingredients that are best avoided, taken directly from the EWG website. Luckily, there are a good number of products that can protect our skin without the unnecessary risks associated with these harsh chemicals.

The sunscreens most highly recommended are mineral based (as opposed to chemical).  Active ingredients to look for are zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, or a combination of both.

The cosmetic database, of course, evaluates all personal care products.  Please use this amazing reference guide when choosing any type of lotion, toothpaste, shampoo, make-up….etc.


I’ll offer a quick review here, of just a few sunscreens I can comment on, but keep in mind, skin care is very personal. What works well on my skin might not work for yours, and vice-versa.


UPDATE – 6/18/12

Two products I’ve been using for the kids are made by BADGER – water resistant spf 30 sunscreen (for swimming) and spf 30 face stick.



I’ve used this one as a moisturizing, facial sunscreen for the past several years. It was given a score of 1 by the EWG. I really love it – just works well for my skin. Applies easily, hydrates well, non-greasy, effectively blocks the sun. Worth mentioning – It uses nano-zinc particles as its active ingredient. “Nano” products have come into some controversy as of late, but at this point in time, the EWG (who has conducted the most thorough investigation on this topic) still deems nano particles safe and continues to recommend them. As an experiment, over the past 6 months, I’ve tried a few other brands that use a non-nano formula, to see if I could find one that works just as well for me as Keys Solar Rx. I did find a few that are very good, but Keys happens to feel & look the best on my particular skin. I alternate at this point, since I have a few different kinds on hand that need to be used up. However, I use my regular moisturizer, without sun protection most frequently, and reserve the SPF moisturizers only for days I’ll be in the sun for extended periods of time.

For a summary on the EWG’s stance on nano technology:



This is a relatively new product, and I have to say I really like it.  It’s been given a score of 1 by the EWG.  It applies really nicely, doesn’t look white on the skin, and it’s not just for kids either.  This is a great, general, full body sunblock that can be used by everyone in the family. Hooray.



This is a really close runner-up for me – nice SPF facial moisturizer. It comes scented & unscented (I prefer the unscented version). It’s got all sorts of anti-aging/anti-wrinkle action and was given a score of 2 by the EWG. This is a non-nano formula. Non-nano can sometimes leave your skin looking white, however, this one is pretty good. Every once in a while, if I apply a little too much, I have a slight white tint visible only if the light hits me a certain way, but it’s usually not an issue if I don’t go overboard applying. It hydrates nicely without feeling heavy/greasy. Worth mentioning, if purchasing directly from manufacturer’s website, you’re allowed to test the product for 14 days & return if it doesn’t work for you (how nice!). Lastly – “Skin QR Organics L’air du Soleil” is the same exact formulation as this one (same manufacturer, different marketing).



This is another nice, full body (non-nano) sunscreen for anyone, though make note that the “fun” part of this sun-n-fun sunscreen is the scent, which is chocolate-marshmallow =) Was given a score of 2 by the EWG. Again, similar to the grown-up version above, it applies easily but can look a little white if too much is applied and not rubbed in properly (though the kids don’t seem to mind). The difference between this sunscreen & the grown-up version above it, is that this one does not contain the anti-aging properties more important to mature skin, making it about half the price (& as mentioned, this one has that “fun” scent). The fact that it’s water-resistant is a big plus. A good choice for when the kids are swimming.



This is another good, non-nano formulation if it works for your particular skin. Given a score of 2 by the EWG. For me, it was a little heavy (makes my skin look & feel a little greasy/dewy). No whiteness at all though which is nice. Sanre also has a few other SPF formulations. “Supple Sunshine” is for dry to normal skin. “Sparkling Aloe” is for oily/combination & acne prone skin, and “Shaded Rose” is for irritated, psoriasis/eczema prone skin. It is, however, very expensive, as their bottles are tiny compared to some of the other SPF moisturizers.



Given a score of 1 by the EWG. This is a very nice product, but didn’t work for me because it has a tint. Actually, Marie has 3 shades of this sunscreen – light, medium, and no tint. However, even the no tint has a tint, as they use a yellow color to offset the whiteness of the zinc-oxide. It doesn’t necessarily make your skin look yellow, but it does look like you have face make-up on. If you’re used to wearing foundation type make-up and/or powder, this may be the perfect facial sunscreen for you (I believe the most popular color is “light”). Personally, I don’t like anything on my skin, other than a moisturizer with no color, so this just didn’t work for me. Keep in mind that the company offers a 30 day money back guarantee, so if it sounds interesting to you, give it a try, as there’s no risk. If you order one shade, they usually send samples of the other two for you to also test out.



Mercola has 3 formulations – SPF 15, 30, or 50. We’ve tried the 30 & 50 but couldn’t use them. For us, they had a very white look, but worse was the fact that the lotion balled up on our skin as we tried to rub it in. They both also left my skin feeling very dry. Would have to apply a moisturizer in addition to this sunscreen (which is too much for me to do!). Tried them on several occasions, but always got the same disappointing results. Perhaps others with different skin types have done better with it. Like some of the other companies, Mercola does offer a money back guarantee, so there’s no risk in trying. Additionally, his website offers a large amount of information on sunscreen safety (and any other health topic you can think of), so I highly recommend stopping by regardless of whether or not you plan to purchase.


To view other good options (as evaluated by EWG), click on the following links:

Best beach/sport sunscreens:

Best moisturizers with SPF:

Best lip Balms with SPF:

Best make-up with SPF:


As you do your own searching & testing, keep in mind, although the whole sunscreen topic is somewhat controversial, it’s clear that many sunscreen chemicals are indeed absorbed through the skin. Here’s a list of common sunscreen chemicals best avoided if possible:

4-Methylbenzylidene camphor (4-MBC)
Benzophenone-3 (oxybenzone)

3-Benzylidene camphor
Octyl methoxycinnamate (OMC)
Padimate O
Sulisobenzone (Benzophenone-4)

For more details on the above listed chemicals:,4-MBC,4-MBC,oxybenzone

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