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Stay Safe in the Sun: Essential Sunscreen Ingredient Tips

several people sun bathing on the beach

Ingredients to Look Out For

When it comes to protecting our skin from the harmful effects of the sun, safe sunscreen is an essential tool. However, not all sunscreens are created equal. According to research by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), some sunscreen ingredients can potentially cause more harm than good, including increasing the risk of skin cancer. This blog aims to educate readers about the good and bad ingredients in sunscreens and provide guidance on choosing the safest and most effective products.

The Problem with Certain Sunscreen Ingredients

The EWG has highlighted concerns about several common sunscreen ingredients that may pose health risks, including hormone disruption, skin irritation, and most importantly, an increased risk of cancer. Here are some of the problematic ingredients:


Concerns: Oxybenzone is a chemical filter that absorbs UV light. It has been linked to hormone disruption and allergic reactions. Some studies suggest that it may also contribute to coral reef bleaching.

EWG Rating: High hazard. The EWG recommends avoiding sunscreens with oxybenzone, especially for children.


Concerns: Like oxybenzone, octinoxate is another UV filter associated with hormone disruption and environmental damage. It can penetrate the skin and has been detected in human urine, indicating systemic absorption.

EWG Rating: Moderate to high hazard.

Retinyl Palmitate (Vitamin A Palmitate):

Concerns: This ingredient, when exposed to sunlight, may speed up the development of skin tumors and lesions. It's used in sunscreens for its antioxidant properties, but its risks may outweigh the benefits.

EWG Rating: High hazard, particularly when used in sun-exposed skin products.


Concerns: Homosalate is a UV filter that can accumulate in the body faster than it can be eliminated, leading to potential hormone disruption.

EWG Rating: Moderate hazard.

Safe and Effective Sunscreen Ingredients

Fortunately, there are safer alternatives available that offer effective sun protection without the associated risks. The EWG recommends looking for sunscreens with the following active ingredients:

Zinc Oxide:

Benefits: Zinc oxide is a mineral sunscreen that provides broad-spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays. It is stable in sunlight and does not penetrate the skin, making it a safe choice for most people, including those with sensitive skin.

EWG Rating: Low hazard. Zinc oxide is one of the safest options available.

Titanium Dioxide:

Benefits: Like zinc oxide, titanium dioxide is a mineral sunscreen that offers broad-spectrum protection. It is also stable in sunlight and has a low risk of skin penetration.

EWG Rating: Low hazard.

Non-Nano Formulations:

Benefits: Non-nano formulations of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are preferred as they minimize the risk of particle absorption into the skin and the environment. Look for products labeled "non-nano" to ensure safer use.

Additional Tips for Choosing Sunscreen

  • Broad-Spectrum Protection: Ensure the sunscreen offers broad-spectrum protection, which means it protects against both UVA and UVB rays.

  • SPF Value: Choose a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 for adequate protection.

  • Water Resistance: If you are swimming or sweating, opt for water-resistant formulas to maintain protection.

  • Avoid Sprays and Powders: These forms can pose inhalation risks. Lotions and creams are generally safer and more effective.

To Sum It Up

Choosing the right sunscreen involves more than just picking a product with a high SPF. It’s crucial to be aware of the ingredients and their potential impacts on health and the environment. By opting for sunscreens with safer ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, you can protect your skin effectively while minimizing risks. Always check resources like the Environmental Working Group’s sunscreen guide to make informed choices for you and your family.

For more detailed information, visit the EWG’s 2024 Guide to Sunscreens.


By staying informed and choosing wisely, you can enjoy the sun safely and responsibly.


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