I love the sun. So much so that I’ve often referred to myself as a “sun baby”. If I could pick one day to do whatever I want, it would be to grab a good long book, a glass of wine… and bake in the sun. Preferably by water but since that’s not an option at home, I pull up a long chair on our deck as soon as the weather gets warm enough just to soak up the rays. For this reason it’s especially important that my sunscreen be something that makes me feel safe using.
But unfortunately, many sunscreens simply aren’t safe. And I definitely don’t feel comfortable using most of them on myself or my family.
The Presence of Benzene
By now most of us have heard about the presence of the chemical, benzene in sunscreen products. And that it’s been linked to leukemia and blood disorders. In fact, several Johnson & Johnson products have been pulled from shelves due to this link.
How it got there in the first place is a question no one seems to be able to answer. But regardless, the announcement made me want to double back and have a closer look at the ingredients being used.
What to Avoid When Choosing a Sunscreen
Unfortunately, benzene isn’t the only unsafe ingredient in sunscreen. Some other ingredients to be avoided are as follows.
Active Ingredients to Avoid
Oxybenzone: This is an endocrine disrupter associated with lower testosterone in adolescent boys. I certainly don’t want my son exposed to this on a consistent basis.
Octinoxate: This another endocrine disrupter and is known for harming coral reefs. Additionally, it’s been linked to reproductive problems in animal studies.
Homosalate: "A recent opinion from the European Commission found that homosalate was not safe to use at concentrations up to 10 percent and recommended a maximum concentration of 1.4 percent, because of concerns for potential endocrine disruption (SCCS 2020). The FDA allows U.S. sunscreen manufacturers to use it in concentrations up to 15 percent."
Retinyl Palmitate (Vitamin A): It's considered to increase sun cancer risk.
Inactive Ingredients to Avoid
Methlsothiazolinone: This is a preservative and may be a sensitizer. A sensitizer is defined by OSHA as "a chemical that causes a substantial proportion of exposed people or animals to develop an allergic reaction in normal tissue after repeated exposure to the chemical."
I also choose to avoid any sunscreen in aerosol or spray bottle form as the risk of inhalation can lead to other health issues. Plus I find that they simply don’t cover as well. How often have you found yourself with an angry random shaped burn on your skin? I know I have.
What You Can Do About it
Look up Your Lotion
I think the simplest way to find out whether your sunscreen is something you feel comfortable using on your family is by checking the Environmental Working Guide (EWG) database. They have an app you can download or you can visit their website to search for the product in question.
Get in the Shade
As much as I love the sun, I admit I’m one to avoid suntan lotion if I can manage a way to stay in the shade enough to avoid burning. I believe most of us cover up too much and risk being vitamin d deficient. (Post on that coming soon!)
This may mean utilizing an umbrella with SPF protection or a good hat. I love this one and use it when I sunbathe and whenever I take Beckett on walks in the sun.
Invest in a Better Sunscreen
For those days when we absolutely need some protection from the sun, below are my go-to sunscreens myself and my family have used for years. I should forewarn you; however, if you’re used to conventional lotions, these will go on quite thick. Though inconvenient, it’s the zinc mineral barrier which protects your skin from the sun. So consider getting your photo-op in prior to putting it on.
A couple sunscreens I’ve been meaning to try are:
If you’ve been using one of the recalled sunscreens to date, don’t panic! The body is a miraculous thing and wants to heal itself. Just toss it out and replace it with something better. As Maya Angelou said, “do the best you can until you know better. And when you know better do better.