Is your sunscreen safe? 86% in the market are not!

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Beach season is here!

It’s that time of the year again! Time to really think about SUNSCREEN. Shocking news is that most sun lotions in the market contain chemicals, which are bad for you and your family, the good news is that I have a list of twenty products right here for you, and you can check how your sunscreen measures up.

Read more about the safety concerns and sun lotions, and then see is your sun lotion on the safe side – if not, consider changing, you can never be too safe, right?

I read a very interesting article (CDC Finds 97 Percent of Americans Contaminated by Sunscreens) at Natural News this morning. The article was written by Ellen Holder, co-founder of Caren, an online store for natural, organic and synthetic chemical free skin care products. One sentence in particular crabbed my attention “And interestingly, as sunscreen sales have risen, so has the rate of skin cancers.”

What? Shouldn’t sunscreen protect us from skin cancer?

Obvioulsy not.

According to The Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) recent study nearly all Americans are contaminated with with oxybenzone, a common ingredient in sunscreens. Environmental Working Group (EWG) identifies nearly 600 sunscreens sold in the U.S. that contain oxybenzone, including household brand names like Hawaiian Tropic, Coppertone, and Banana Boat. Oxybenzone has been linked to allergies, hormone disruption, and cell damage. Oxybenzone was also recently linked to low birth weight in baby girls whose mothers are exposed during pregnancy, according to a study from the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine.

What? Shouldn’t Food and Drug Administration (FDA) protect us from harmful chemicals like this?

Obviously not.

Time to really think about SUNSCREEN. Shocking news is that most sun lotions in the market contain chemicals, which are bad for you and your family, the good news is that I have a list of twenty products right here for you, and you can check how your sunscreen measures up.  Read more about the safety concerns and sun lotions, and then see is your sun lotion on the safe side – if not, consider changing, you can never be too safe, right?

The fact is that FDA last reviewed the safety of oxybenzone in the 1970s. At present, there aren’t any health-based standards for safe levels of oxybenzone in the body. Europe, Canada and Australia changed sunscreen regulations in 1997 though, and oxybenzone was banned and three other specific active sunscreen ingredients – avobenzone (also known as Parsol 1789), titanium dioxide, and zinc oxide – were recommended as the basis of sunscreens.

Doesn’t this make you wonder, why in the USA, the cosmetic companies are still using the chemicals banned in other countries?

EWG’s research shows that some sunscreens on the U.S. market:

– offer inadequate protection from the sun;

– may be less safe and effective than products offered in other countries;

– are labeled with misleading product claims;

– contain ingredients with significant safety concerns.

I had to investigate more and find out is there a way to be outdoors safely, with or without sun screen. On the bottom of this post I also gathered twenty sunscreens and their active ingredients. There are several safe ones to choose from!

There are also natural ways to protect yourself from sun, like adding more Vitamin D in your diet, or increasing your melanin production. Read more.

Keep also in mind other Sun Safety issues, like wearing a hat and sunglasses and read Sun Facts from Skin Cancer Foundation.


Let’s get the terminology right first.

Sunscreen is a product with an SPF of 2 and higher.

SPF means Sun Protection Factor.

Sunblock is a barrier between your skin and sun, and there can be two kinds of barriers: physical and chemical. Products higher than SPF 12 are sunblock. Most products are mixtures of physical and chemical barriers.

Difference between physical and chemical barriers:


Physical barrier is not absobed by your skin, it just sits on the skin’s surface. Light is either absorbed into the sunblock material or reflected away from the body back into the atmosphere similar to a mirror or tin foil. Physical protectors, such as zinc oxide, reflect UVA rays.

Physical sunblock ingredients

(UVA and UVB protection, non-irritating, non-allergenic)


Recognized as a mild antimicrobial, wound healing and sunscreen agent. Primarily absorbs UVA light rather than scattering or reflecting, non-irritating, non-comedogenic, and micronized by forming many small micro particles for cosmetic use.


Derived from Titanium, a highly reflective white chalky mineral, non-irritating, non-comedogenic, micronized by forming many small micro particles for cosmetic use, listed in the FDA monograph as one the top and most effective active ingredients for sun protection.


A chemical barrier has the ability to be absorbed by the skin, sunlight is invalid upon contact. Most chemical protectors absorb UVB rays. Meaning: the chemicals absorb the UVB rays, so your skin does not do it. None of the chemicals absord the whole spectrum of of UV rays (like physical barriers do), so several different chemicals are needed to make a protective chemical barrier.

Chemical sunblock ingredients

There are total of almost twenty different chemicals used in sunscreens. The problem with these chemicals: your skin absorbs them, and the chemical itself can be harmful for you.


Why they are so popular:

Not just blocking the UVA rays by reflecting them, but they are also penetration enhancers, chemicals that help other chemicals penetrate the skin better. It makes all those other chemicals in the sunscreen to work better.

Both are linked to developmental and reproductive toxicity, can harm skin in the cell level, which can lead to several health problems, which are not widely researched yet. Oxybenzone is also linked to cancer and harming the immunesystem.

AVOBENZONE, also known as also known as Parsol 1789

Avobenzone absorbs UVA rays. Recommended in Europe, but there are some safety concerns about its safety too.


There are over 900 sun lotions in the market in the United States at the moment, and 86% them offer inadequate protection from the sun, or contain chemicals which are harmful for you and your family. Seems like a mission impossible to try to find a sun lotion, which protects and fits in with your family’s needs. Luckily there are safe products, and I have the list of twenty sun lotions right here for you. Many of them are well-known brands you should not use anymore and plenty of great safe choices.


Also consider making your on lotion with coconut oil and Carrot Seed and Lavender essential oil (instructions for the natural DIY sun lotion here). Note: this is not a sun block.

EWG investigated the sun lotions, and this is just a recap of their results.


This list is also known as “DON’T BUY THESE SUN LOTIONS”

Alarming in these lotions: many of them are marketed for children, many have “Dermatologist recommended” text on the side of the bottle, many say “for sensitive skin” and “organic ingredients”.

Don not let these marketing pitches fool you.

Avon SKIN SO SOFT BUG GUARD PLUS IR3535® Gentle Breeze SPF 30 Sunscreen Lotion :

Octinoxate 7.5%

Oxybenzone 6.0%

Octisalate 5.0%

Alba Organic Lavender Sunscreen SPF 30

Octocrylene 10.0%,

Octinoxate 7.5%,

Oxybenzone 6.0%,

Octisalate 5.0%

Lubriderm Daily Moisturizer Lotion with Sunscreen SPF 15:

Octinoxate 7.5%

Octisalate 4%

Oxybenzone 3%

Neutrogena Sunblock, Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch SPF 55:

Avobenzone 3%

Homosalate 10%

Octisalate 5%

Octocrylene 2.8%

Oxybenzone 6%

Mary Kay SPF 30 Sunscreen:

Homosalate 10%

Octinoxate 7.5%

Octisalate 5%

Oxybenzone 4%

Avobenzone 2%

(And recommended by American Skin Cancer Foundation, unbelievable!)

Aveeno Baby Sunblock Lotion, Continuous Protection, SPF 55:






(This one: Pediatrician recommended)

Banana Boat Boat Baby Sunblock, Tear Free SPF 50

Homosalate 15%

Octinoxate 7.5%

Octisalate 5%

Titanium Dioxide 2.4%

Hawaiian Tropic Baby Faces & Tender Places Sunblock 60+ SP:



Avobenzone (Parsol 1789)



Arbonne Save Face & Body, SPF 15:


PRICE: $26.00

Supergoop! Sunlotion:

Avobenzone (Parsol 1789)




Padimate O

PRICE: $6.50 (small tube)


Baby Blanket Sunscreen for Babies SPF 50+

Ethylhexyl P-Methoxycinnamate

2 Ethylhexyl Salicylate

Titanium Dioxide

Octisalate 5%

PRICE: $8.99

Anthelios SX Daily Moisturizing Sunscreen with Mexoryl, SPF 15:




PRICE: $28.49


California Baby Water Resistant, Hypo-Allergenic Sunscreen, SPF 30+:

Micronized Titanium Dioxide

PRICE: $18.09

TruKid Sunny Days™ SPF 30+ Natural Mineral Sunscreen:

Titanium dioxide 10%

PRICE: $14.00

Vanicream Sunscreen, Sensitive Skin, SPF 30

Titanium Dioxide 5%

Zinc Oxide 5%

PRICE: $14.95

Blue Lizard Sun lotion SPF 30 for Baby:

Titanium Dioxide 5%

Zinc Oxide 10%

PRICE: $12.99

Keys Solar Rx:

Nano Zinc Oxide

PRICE: $26.95

Badger Broad Spectrum UVA-UVB Protection:

Zinc Oxide 20.5%

PRICE: $16.00

Jason Natural Cosmetics Sun Care Mineral Based Physical Sunblock (SPF 30+) Sunbrellas 4 oz.:

Titanium Dioxide 8.0%

Zinc Oxide 2.5%

PRICE: $14.00

Clarins Sun Care Cream For Children SPF 30:

Titanium Dioxide

PRICE: $29.00



made by TruKid Natural Skin Care Company.

The following ingredients have been linked to one or more of the following: cancer, neuro-damage, and developmental/reproductive toxicity. It’s a great idea to even print it out – who can remember these chemical names anyway!


1. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) – Can be found in 90% of products that lather.

2. Avobenzone – Can be found in sunscreen.

3. PABA and PABA esters – Can be found in lipstick; products with SPF; lip balm; skin fading/lightener; conditioner; facial moisturizer/treatment; moisturizer; styling gel/lotion.

4. Cinnamates, also seen as Octyl methoxycinnamate (OMC) – Can be found in sunscreen.

5. Diethanolamine and Triethanolamine – Can be found in foundation; sunscreen SPF 15 and above; hair color and bleaching; moisturizer.

6. Paraben preservatives (Methyl, Propyl, Butyl, Ethyl, Isobutyl) – Can be found in facial moisturizer/treatment; anti-aging moisturizer; facial cleanser, sunscreen SPF 15 and above; conditioner; eye shadow; hair color and bleaching; foundation; shampoo.

7. Polyethylene glycol (also listed as PEG) – Can be found in facial moisturizer or treatment; hair color and bleaching; anti-aging moisturizer; facial cleanser; conditioner; shampoo; styling gel/lotion; body wash/cleanser; antiperspirant/deodorant.

8. Phthalates (listed under fragrance) – Can be found in most products in the fragrance.

9. Benzophone, more commonly known as Oxybenzone – Can be found in sunscreen.

10. Formaldehyde derivatives – can be found in nail polish


CDC: Americans Carry Body Burden of Toxic Sunscreen Chemical, at EWG.

Oxybenzone, at

Sunblocks at

Sunscreen Summary — What Works and What’s Safe

About Katja Presnal

Katja Presnal is an international lifestyle expert, originally from Finland. Katja shows how to live globally inspired life to the fullest. She has been featured in NY Times, Glamour, Redbook, Fodor's, Forbes and Woman's Day magazines among many other national and international publications and written for MTV3 and Lifetime TV networks. She is a board member of the Professional Travel Bloggers Association, award-winning social media strategist, and a well-known speaker in the social media conferences. Katja has lived in four different countries, and seven states in the USA, and married to a helicopter pilot. Their three children were all born in different countries within three years. When not working or jet-setting the world, Katja is at home cooking big family dinners.

Get Katja's first book Instagram as your Guide to the World - How, What and Who to Search and Follow on Instagram to Help You Travel the World for free, and follow Katja's travel account @skimbaco on Instagram.


  1. I have a problem with all sunscreens I’ve tried. As soon as they get on my skin they develop a strong repulsive sunscreen odor that nauseates me, even if they are listed as fragrance free and appear to have to odor when in the tube or bottle.

    I’m going to test some of the ones you’ve listed and see if the “best” ones are ok. I suspect it is the chemicals that start with “O” that are the problem.

  2. I’m glad somebody took time out of their life to research the truth for others’ quality of life and safety. I’d gladly pay more for a ‘safe’ product.

  3. Thanks so much for doing the research on this. I really had no idea (as I’m sure 99.9% of Americans feel) that this was something to be nervous about. I printed the list of “good” sunscreens to go get myself some! My family and I have been using Neutrogena Sunblock, Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch SPF 55 for years : /

  4. Hi,
    Great post! I’ve been checking out the EWG sunscreen site for the last 3 or 4 years. I’m so glad you’ve noted that some “safe” sounding sunscreens are even bad for you. Keep sharing the info. People look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them I will not use Oxybenzone or the likes of bad sunscreens.

  5. This is great info. Thanks a lot! However, I don’t understand why PEG is toxic. It’s known as the most biocompatible polymer that does not penetrate the skin. Please let me know the reason if any one knows. Thanks!

  6. This is the fine info about the sunscreen. Sunsreen is the very useful for skin care and protact us from many skin disease like lupus, vitiligo, and skin cancer ets. People suffering from Vitiligo use it for sunburn.
    I thing all the products you listed are fine. but I like Alba Organic Lavender Sunscreen because of its effectiveness.


  1. […] sunscreen. BigBrother broke out in hives. I know better. In fact, I know enough to pay attention to helpful lists like this one at Skimbaco Lifestyle. Knowing which sunscreens are safe and which are, well, really not is helpful […]

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