Sunscreen has been solidifying itself in skin routines and summer beach excursions as the number one way to prevent skin cancer. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the US, so protecting your skin from UV damage is crucial for women’s health, especially the health and preservation of your skin. What we’re finding though is that sunscreen isn’t always clean for the body or the environment. While it prevents the skin from external damage, toxins found in sunscreen get absorbed into the body and bloodstream and could potentially cause damage internally. We don’t recommend dropping sunscreen entirely. Instead, let’s take a look at what ingredients to avoid and how to replace questionable chemicals with clean and green sunscreen instead.
An Outdated Approval
Mainstream sunscreen ingredients haven’t really changed since the FDA originally approved them in the 1970s. Just imagine if other substances that were commonplace in the 1970s like lead in paint and asbestos in classrooms had never been re-evaluated and were still around today. Now, these chemicals that are being applied to the largest organ of the human body are getting a critical second look.
Studies conducted as recently as January 2020 have found that many of the ingredients found in sunscreen are absorbed into the skin and accumulate in the body at concentrations that surpass the FDA threshold. Even days after discontinuing the use of sunscreen, the chemicals still remained in the bloodstream. While any one chemical hasn’t officially been flagged as unsafe for use, the buildup caused by frequent sunscreen application warrants a re-evaluation of the contents of our sunscreens.
The Chemicals in Question
There are a couple of chemicals to look out for in sunscreen. Laboratory studies have indicated that some of the chemical UV filters found in sunscreen may mimic hormones (aka endocrine disruption) or cause skin allergies. These chemicals to look out for can include ensulizole, octisalate, octocrylene, octinoxate, avobenzone, cinoxate, dioxybenzone, meradimate, and sulisobenzone, but the biggest concern is oxybenzone.
On top of endocrine disruption and skin irritation, a 2017 study found that oxybenzone can react negatively when exposed to chlorine and produce hazardous byproducts in the water. A 2015 study also proved its harmful effects on coral reefs, leading to a complete ban of oxybenzone in Hawaii. Like most of the ingredients in sunscreen, further research needs to be done to definitively and finally have the FDA ban it across the board. However, these preliminary studies have proven that it’s better to avoid it and stay on the safe side. Whether you want to go clean or green beauty, there are plenty of other UV blocking alternatives.
Of all the active ingredients commonly found in sunscreen, only two have passed under the FDA’s “GRASE” (“Generally recognized as safe and effective”) classification: titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.
Titanium dioxide is a broad-spectrum UV filter commonly found in sunscreen, pressed powders, and lotions. When looking for a sunscreen, it’s best to use cream formulas rather than spray-ons as it can be carcinogenic if accidentally consumed. It’s a great alternative to other potentially toxic ingredients that pop up in sunscreens.
Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are a power duo when it comes to sunscreen. Though it isn’t effective at preventing sunburn as other chemical sunscreens, zinc oxide is a great alternative for sensitive skin and helps prevent sun damage. Zinc oxide has been proven to not be absorbed into the skin, thus avoiding any women’s health concerns about chemical buildup or toxicity after use.
Clean Sunscreen Alternatives that are better for Women’s Health
Despite some potentially worrisome chemicals, sunscreen should NOT be left out of your skincare routine. When shopping for a powerful sun protector, it’s important to understand how the SPF scale works. SPF determines how many damaging UVB rays can get through and penetrate the skin, but the scale isn’t linear. For example, SPF 15 is 93% effective, meaning it lets 7/10 photons through. SPF 30 doesn’t double the efficacy, rather it means it becomes 97% effective and allows in only 3/10 photons. Upping the SPF is certainly beneficial for more protection, but this scale doesn’t mean that doubling SPF doubles the protection. For this reason, we recommend looking for at least SPF 30 and reading through the ingredients to see what other benefits for women’s health the product can bring.
Don’t forget your sunscreen! Check out these stellar clean sunscreen alternatives!
- Ever Skincare has a great lineup of clean sunscreens. Whether you’re looking for an SPF “infused” moisturizer that will protect your skin all day or a tinted moisturizer to simplify and amplify your skincare and beauty routine, Ever’s got it! The tinted moisturizer is perfect for your summertime beauty routine as it adds a healthy, natural glow while protecting your skin all day long. It has even been recommended for daily use by the Skin Care Foundation!
- This Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen is also a great low-cost sunscreen packed with zinc oxide for broad-spectrum protection! It’s recommended by dermatologists and has great reviews!
- MD Solar Sciences’ Mineral Moisture Defense Sunscreen is excellent for dry skin. It’s loaded with SPF 50 and is gentle enough to use on the face and body.
- If you prefer a sunscreen stick to a lotion, Sunbum’s Mineral Sunscreen Face Stick is a great choice! It’s perfect for easy, quick application and is carry-on friendly for all our jetsetters!
- Thinksport’s sunscreen is easy on the skin and on the environment. It’s also water-resistant, making it great for swimmers and other athletes.