April 26, 2009

I’ve never been very fond of sunscreens.  I know it is recommended that you use one just about constantly, but I’ll admit that I haven’t.  And just about the time I’d start thinking maybe I should there would be another article in the press suggesting that the chemicals in the sunscreens were either not good for you (The Chemical Sunscreen Health Disaster is a pretty comprehensive criticism of sunscreens).

Then there is real life.  We spent all day yesterday at a track meet.  It was a warm and sunny day with a strong wind so it never felt especially uncomfortable until it was too late.  Even facing away from the sun my face got burned from the reflected light off the bleachers.  I looks like a racoon (my sunglasses worked really well apparently).  My husband and daughter are both pink, daughter less so because she was smart and played under the bleachers most of the day.  The athlete is the worst off.

So now I’m motivated to find a solution.  Long story short:  My morning research has told me that parabens – which are a preservative found in many cosmetics – have been found in breast cancer tissue (Shawna Robbins).  The parabens serve as an estrogen mimicker and this is neither good for people n or for the environment.  Also, oxybenzone, another common chemical in sunscreens, has been linked to allergies, hormone disruption, cell damage, and low birth weight in baby girls (Ask An Organic Mom).  And, as if that isn’t enough, nanoparticles, such as those found in many sunblocks, can damage beneficial microbes when they enter the water system (Scientific American: Nanoparticles in Sunscreen Damage Microbes). 

The Environmental Working Group’s site has information about the various chemicals and their possible effects, as well as about which products to avoid and which to seek out.  Their Skin Deep cosmetics safety database is a great resource.  You can search for sunscreens or sunblocks (they are different) and get a list of ingredients and products – with rated hazard risks.  For instance, if I search sunblocks there is a list of 10 ingredients and 34 pages of products.  This might be useful if you are looking to see how a product you already own stacks up. 

Another option is to check their list of recommended brands of sunscreens and major brands with nothing to recommend.  Here’s some the top 10 suncreens and other information from their printable guide.




1. Blue Lizard (anything without oxybenzone)

2. California Baby (anything with SPF 30+)

3. CVS with zinc oxide

4. Jason Natural Cosmetics Sunbrellas Mineral Based Sunblock

5. Kiss My Face “Paraben Free” series

6. Neutrogena Sensitive Skin Sunblock

7. Olay Defense Daily UV Moisturizer (with zinc)

8. SkinCeuticals Physical UV Defense

9. Solar Sense Clear Zinc for Face

10. Walgreens Zinc Oxide for Face, Nose, & Ears





• SPF 30 or higher for best protection.

• At least 7% zinc oxide or titanium dioxide for broad

spectrum protection.



• Oxybenzone or benzophenone-3: skin absorption,

allergies, hormone problems

• Spray and powder sunscreens: inhaling sunscreens can

pose extra risks

• Fragrance: allergies, reproductive problems

• Sunscreen with added bug repellent: you can get too

much of the pesticide in your body

• Coppertone, Neutrogena and Banana Boat: fewer than

5% of their products are recommended as safe and effective.


I’m encouraged – I can buy some of these quite redily.


Enjoy the sun – safely.



  1. Thanks for this list. We have been using the Neutrogena Sensitive Skin product because it’s one of the few that doesn’t make my daughter break out in a rash, so that’s two good reasons to stick with it.

  2. We wore zinc oxide all the time in Florida- until everyone told us that PABA was much more effective. Time to go back to the old fashioned basics, I guess! I know CVS brands are usually a pretty good value.

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