When you’re someone who is mindful about what you put on your skin and, in turn, gets absorbed into your body you’ve likely come up against the conundrum about whether sunscreen is safe to lather up in. As with many items in the personal care aisle, navigating the maze of sunscreen options is mind-boggling—but there is an easier way to navigate the SPF waters, enjoy the summer sun, and take another important step in your medicine cabinet makeover:
1. Clear Out the Chemical-Laden Sunscreens
Active ingredients in sun protection formulas come in two forms: chemical and mineral filters. While chemical options might do the job of protecting you from the sun’s rays (although that is not always the case), they often contain a potent combination of hormone-disrupting chemicals that wreak havoc with your internal ecosystem.
In fact, the FDA has put the entire sunscreen industry on notice, saying: “There are 12 [active] ingredients for which there are insufficient safety data to make a positive generally recognized as safe and effective determination at this time.” The most common of those 12 active chemical filters up for further investigation include a combination of two to six of the following ingredients:
- homosalate, and
In particular, the FDA has raised concerns about the substantial skin absorption of oxybenzone and it’s potential to alter hormonal balance.
2. Switch to Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide Formulas
Based on new proposed FDA standards, the agency has recognized only two ingredients as being adequately tested for safety and efficacy: zinc oxide and titanium oxide. Physical SPFs like these mineral ingredients act as a physical block (similar to sun protective clothing) and are typically more stable in sunlight that chemical alternatives. They can also provide “broad spectrum” protection meaning they block both UVB (which cause burns and tans) and UVA (causes deeper skin damage).
Other ingredients considered to have UV filters with low toxicity concerns include avobenzone and mexoryl SX with no evidence of hormone disruption while being generally recognized as safe and effective.
3. Be Mindful of Non-Active Ingredients & “Mineral-Based” Claims
Selecting sunscreens that have non-toxic active ingredients is a great start—just make sure that they’re not mixed with other ingredients that are toxic. This could include things like synthetic fragrances, sulfate-based ingredients, parabens, and phthalates. Also, be aware that a product labeled as “mineral-based” could technically be mixed with these same kinds of toxic ingredients and choose a “mineral-only” option to be sure.
While many sunscreen products currently on the market fall short of providing safe and effective sun protection, we’re heartened by the fact that the FDA is proposing to require updates to how products are labeled to make it easier for consumers to identify key product information. And until then, you can still enjoy your day in the summer sun by using these simple guidelines for choosing a great sunscreen.