Is Your Sunscreen Safe?

There was a time when sunbathers slathered on baby oil and cooked until beet red thinking, “It’ll turn into a tan by tomorrow.”

Times have changed. People still like a nice base coat but rarely does one spend hours in the sun without sunscreen and our skin looks better because of that.  However there are still questions and concerns about sunscreen that need clarification.

FDA Regulations on Sunscreens

In 2012 the FDA updated sunscreen regulations with restrictions on labeling.  Products with “broad spectrum” coverage need to be protective against UVA and UVB rays which cause skin damage such as sunburn, skin cancer and premature aging plus have an SPF value of 15 or higher. If manufacturers do not meet this criteria labels will come with a cancer warning on it. No labels can claim “sweat proof”, “waterproof” or “sunblock.” In 2019, the FDA began further research and testing on specific ingredients to make sunscreens overall safer for consumers. Studies showed six commonly used sunscreen ingredients were known to absorb through the skin and maybe hazardous including oxybenzone, a common chemical ingredient.

Chemical Blockers in Sunscreen

Many of the sunscreens on the market contain the chemical avobenzone which works filtering out UVA rays. But when formulated without a stabilizer such as octocrylene it will actually break down when exposed to sun causing more harm than good. Oxybenzone is found in 80 percent of sunscreen. This is the one to be most cautious about because studies found this ingredient may cause skin allergic reactions and endocrine disruptions. The Environmental Working Group recommends consumers avoid using sunscreens with oxybenzone. On their website they have a listing of sunscreens with safety ratings. Visit for more info.

Mineral Sunscreens

I’ve been using mineral based sunscreens for years. They used to be found mostly in health food stores but are more readily available now in other retail channels. They are made with zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide, both protective against UVA and UVB rays. Both are minerals found in nature and known to be safe for your body and stable in sunlight. Some brands go on whiter than others…think a lifeguard’s nose. Others go on pretty clear. Mineral sunscreens are great because they begin working right away and stay on in the water although reapplication is advised. They are also reef safe unlike chemical sunscreens which may be destroying coral and fish populations. They come in spray and pump options for both face and body.

The Vitamin D and Sunscreen Relationship

The only real down side in using sunscreen is the body’s inability to produce vitamin D while wearing it.  Deficiency in D can lead to colon, breast and skin cancer as well as auto-immune disease, depression and lower immunity.  Vitamin D is made in our kidneys through the presence of sunlight. When we cover ourselves with sunscreen and avoid the sun we are producing less vitamin D. Supplementation of D3 alleviates this issue.  Liquid form seems to have the best absorption. Try Carlson Labs Liquid D3.

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