How To Find a Truly Non-Toxic Sunscreen

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The sun is out in full force here in California, and that means sunscreen is everywhere you look! 

I've been seeing great tips on buying non-toxic sunscreen recently, but little on how easy it is to be tricked into buying something actually toxic. Many companies are banking (literally) on the fact that you won't read the ingredients simply because the label says  "pure" or for "baby-safe". 

Throwing these words on a sunscreen does not somehow make it safe for babies/kids - and for that matter, adults! Shouldn't we want a sun screen that is simply "human" safe? 

Many companies are trying to greenwash you into thinking their product is safe while still using ingredients known to be carcinogens, hormone disruptors, skin irritants, allergens, penetration enhancers, cross-contaminated, and/or neurotoxic. 

These so-called "safe" sunscreens still include skin irritants and hormone disrupting ingredients like the ones below. AVOID these ingredients: 

  • Octinoxate 7.5% 
  • Ethylparaben
  • Isobutylparaben
  • Homosalate 15.0%
  • Oxybenzone
  • Methylparaben
  • Propylparaben
  • Polysorbate 60
  • BHT
  • Phenoxyethanol
  • Polymethylmethacrylate
  • Retinyl Palmitate

The brands I've found most guilty trying to greenwash the consumer while still using a combination of those toxic ingredients in their sunscreens:

  • Alba Botanicals
  • Aveeno
  • Beauty Counter
  • Babyganics
  • Banana Boat Baby Sunscreen Lotion SPF 60
  • Blue Lizard
  • Earth's Best
  • JASON
  • Mustela Broad Spectrum Mineral Lotion SPF 50
  • Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 60+
  • SunBum
  • View EWG's Worst Scoring Sunscreens

To put this in perspective, several of these "clean" sunscreens avoid the parabens and pthalates yet still choose to use

  • Octinoxate
    • Effects cellular level changes, hormone disruption, persists and bioaccumulates, has shown to be an organ system toxin and enhances skin absorption. Mineral sunscreens should not be absorbing!
  • Oxybenzone
    • Besides the SAME concerns as Octinoxate listed above, this chemical absorbs through the skin in significant amounts. It contaminates the bodies of 97% of Americans according to the CDC.
  • Phenoxyethanol
    • This ingredient has been shown by the NIH (National Institute of Health) to be a nuerotoxin, a reproductive toxin, ovarian toxin (and affects offspring), allergen and contact dermatitis cause. Even if they state this ingredient to be sourced naturally, the chemical structures are still identical. I'd avoid it completely. (Source 1, Source 2, Source 3, Source 4, Source 5)

What makes for a safer sunscreen? 

  • Zinc Oxide (first choice) or Titanium Dioxide (regular or non-nano for both) 
    • Both ingredients provide sunburn and UVA protection while holding up well in the sun, but Zinc Oxide simply preforms better. These ingredients pose the lowest hazard on healthy skin and do not penetrate the barrier into the blood stream. 
  • No higher than SPF 50
    • EWG discovered that higher SPFs offered marginally better sunburn protection then SPF 50 and lower and do not suppress UVA exposure, so your body is still at risk for other types of sun damage. They also found that when tested, many SPF 100 sunscreens only contained protection between SPF 37 - SPF 75. The higher concentration of the chemicals used to produce these products also put your body at risk for tissue damage and hormone disruption.

Truly Clean Sunscreens That Work

Truly Clean Sunscreens That Work - janny: organically.
  • Raw Elements SPF 30
    • Formulated with zinc oxide with UVA/UVB broad spectrum protection. Certified organic moisturizers, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals in this formula protect skin during and long after environmental exposure.  Enriched with skin-soothing certified organic oils, including sunflower and hemp seed to nourish skin.  Moisturizing organic cocoa butter and mango butter help prevent and relieve dry or chapped skin. Antioxidants, green tea and black tea help hydrate, soothe and protect skin from sunburn and skin damage. The formula will not sting or run into eyes. 
    • Best For: Extended periods in the sun, particularly the water, though you can use this for daily use as well!
    • Repels water: Excellent
    • Scent: Smells like Cocoa Butter
    • Application: Lotions: Thick but easily spreadable. Sticks: A little harder to apply but gives just as much coverage. Great size to keep in your purse for those moments you don't expect to need sunscreen!
    • Product Differences: Lotions come in a plastic squeezable tube - or - a plastic-free tin, including a tinted facial lotion. The Tin and Tube seem to be the same formulation and consistency
    • Available from Amazon or Integrity Botanicals
  • Badger Sunscreen SPF 30
    • Simple & effective certified organic sunscreens provide safe broad spectrum protection with mineral zinc oxide. Available in Baby & Kids, Active, Sport, and Daily.
    • Best For: Extended periods in the sun, even in the water, though you can use this for daily use as well!
    • Repels Water: Great (the Cream version, not lotion)
    • Scent: Mine was Chamomile and Calendula and that's exactly what it smelled of
    • Application: Easy, spreadable consistency
    • Available from Amazon
  • Kabana Green Screen Organic Sunscreen SPF 32
    • Uses 8 simple, edible-grade ingredients including Non-nano, not-micronized Zinc Oxide. Petrochemical-free, 97% UV absorption across entire UVA & UVB spectrum,  fragrance-free, soy-free, gluten-free, corn-free, dairy-free and vegan. Biodegradable formula safe for reefs and aquatic environments. Baby and pregnancy safe.
    • Best For: Days at the park or daily use
    • Repels Water: Good
    • Scent: I couldn't detect any smell
    • Application: Comes out quick and a seems a bit thin, but applies great!
    • Available from Amazon or Kabana directly
  • Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sunscreen SPF 30
    • Natural Mineral Formula, broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection, Vegan, Gluten-free, soy-free, no synthetic fragrances
    • Best For: Days at the park or daily use
    • Repels Water: Good but not great, perhaps not my first pick where water is involved
    • Scent: Very faint fruity smell
    • Application: Easy and spreadable like a lotion
    • Available from Amazon or Integrity Botanicals

The best facial SPF ever:

  • Josh Rosebrook Day Cream: This is my daily face moisturizer with SPF 30 protection! The purest and cleanest and most effective for daily facial protection! (No synthetics or "iffy" ingredients found in others!) A Tinted version available now too! (See my review!)

Detailed information about other brands and ingredients can be found on EWG's 2016 Sunscreen Guide. It's a great tool! 

One of the easiest ways to get detailed information about products, ingredients and concerns, download the ThinkDirty App for free. You can even scan the barcode on items in the store! We use this all-the-time! Even my two-year old can do it!

Don't be "Greenwashed" by these Toxic Sunscreen Manufacturers! - janny: organically.

Which are your favorites?