Integrative Nutrition Blog

Are the ingredients in your sunscreen healthy?

July 11, 2013

If you’re spending plenty of time outdoors this summer soaking up the sun, then you know just how important it is to apply sunscreen before you do. And while it’s no secret that sunscreen helps protect us from painful burns, you may be surprised to learn what your sunscreen contains or that it may not be protecting you from potentially dangerous long-term skin damage.

How do you know whether your sunscreen is protecting you from damaging UV rays? And does it contain chemicals that are best to avoid applying to your skin? Believe it or not, the ingredients in your sunscreen really matter!

Here are a few tips to look for, according to The Environmental Working Group, that are sure to help you find a sunscreen that will keep you covered all summer long.

  1. Make sure your sunscreen offers broad spectrum protection. This means the sunscreen has been proved to protect against both UVA and UVB rays.
  2. Know your SPF labels. Stick to SPFs between 15 and 50+. Manufacturers can still sell sunscreens with SPFs greater than 50, but FDA officials are evaluating whether higher SPFs are more effective. Plus, anything higher than SPF 50 can tempt you to stay in the sun too long!
  3. Avoid oxybenzone, a synthetic estrogen that is often found in sunscreens.  Oxybenzone penetrates skin and can affect your hormone system. Instead, look for active ingredients that protect skin from harmful UVA radiations like zinc oxide, avobenzone and Mexoryl SX.
  4. Choose cream over sprays and powders. Sunscreen sprays might seem like the most convenient option, but the tiny particles they send through the air might not be safe to breathe. Powdered formulas are also not the healthiest option and are treated like unapproved new drugs by the FDA. It’s best to opt for a cream-based sunscreen and remember to reapply often!
  5. Eating foods rich in vitamin A can help boost our immune system and improve our skin health, but new research shows that coating your skin with vitamin A laced creams before stepping out in the sun can have adverse effects. It’s best to avoid any sun product with vitamin A, also called retinyl palmitate, or retinol.
  6. Check out our favorite natural and safe sunscreens for summer! We’ve rounded up a list of mineral sunscreens that are all ranked the highest for their safety and effectiveness.

What’s your go-to tip for finding a good sunscreen?

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