Non-Toxic Sunscreen: What You Need to Know
Sunscreen safety has been a discussion for the last decade, but concerns have hit the mainstream in the past year. Even people who never thought twice about clean beauty and the potential for toxic ingredients in their cosmetics and skincare products are suddenly asking questions.
First was the news that chemical sunscreens are causing damage to coral reefs and other marine life. Then there was an FDA test proving that the skin absorbs high concentrations of certain chemicals, and those chemicals are leaching into our bloodstream.
So what do we know: there’s cause for concern with chemical sunscreens. What should we use instead? And which ingredients should we avoid? Here’s the low-down on non-toxic sunscreen.
The EWG Skin Deep database can help you research most sunscreen brands. Each sunscreen they evaluate is ranked from 1 to 10, with one being the safest. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind when you’re shopping for and using non-toxic sunscreen:
When In Doubt, Choose Mineral Sunscreens.
Unlike chemical sunscreens that use earth and skin-damaging ingredients like oxybenzone, mineral sunscreens use mineral nanoparticles to create a physical barrier on your skin to block the sun’s rays. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, the two most common active ingredients in mineral sunscreen, are the only ingredients recognized as safe and effective by the FDA based on existing test data. It’s important to note that some sunscreens have both mineral and chemical ingredients, so be sure to carefully read the label.
Apply Every 2 Hours
(Or every hour if you’re sweating or swimming)
As a general rule, mineral sunscreens will have to be reapplied more often. Unless the label specifically says the product water-resistant, it most likely will wash off quickly with water or sweat. That doesn’t make the sunscreen less effective, but it does mean you have to be diligent about reapplying. Set a timer on your phone to remind you to lather up, and resist the urge to hit ignore when that timer rings.
Opt for lotions and creams over sprays
Mineral sunscreen sprays and powders are not as safe as lotions and creams. The nanoparticles in sprays can be inhaled, and sprays are not as effective as sunscreen in other forms. The EWG recommends waiting until more testing is done to ensure their safety.
Make sure it’s broad-spectrum
The label should specifically say the sunscreen blocks both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays are the leading cause of wrinkles and a significant contributor to skin cancer, and UVB rays are the cause of sunburns. UVA rays can also penetrate glass, so don’t forget your sunscreen before hit the road on a summer day.
Check the inactive ingredients
Even if the active ingredients are non-toxic, it’s still important to read the label. You want to be sure you are avoiding parabens, phthalates, sodium laureth sulfate, fragrance, and these top five toxic ingredients often found in sunscreen, especially if you’re pregnant, nursing, or using this sunscreen on your kids.