Nowadays, the importance of wearing sunscreen is pretty much ingrained in our heads. We want what’s best for our children, so we lather them up with SPF, too. But, have you ever considered what exactly is in your sunscreen? Find out which ones are the safest to use and what you should avoid when shopping for sunscreen.

Every year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) conducts a comprehensive study of over 1,400 SPF-rated products, giving parents peace of mind when choosing sunscreen for their families. In their recently released 2013 study, 184 out of the 738 beach & sport sunscreens tested met the EWG’s safety criteria. Let’s take a look at a few of the winners and losers…

Top-rated Safe Sunscreens:

Sunscreens to Avoid:

For the complete list of beach & sport sunscreen ratings, from safest to most toxic, visit the EWG website HERE.

Tips to consider when buying sunscreen:

  • Say NO to spray and loose powder. Not only do spray and powder sunscreens pose dangerous inhalation risks (especially for our young ones!), they also go on unevenly, leading to a greater chance of sunburn.
  • Avoid anything higher than SPF 50. EWG has found that an SPF higher than 50 really isn’t any more effective at protecting you from the sun’s harmful rays. Basically, all a high number SPF does is create a false sense of security. On the flip side, don’t waste your time with anything below SPF 15.
  • Make sure it doesn’t contain Oxybenzone. The chemical oxybenzone gets into the bloodstream and acts like estrogen in the body. There are studies linking it to several health defects. And the scary part is that nearly half of all beach and sport sunscreens that EWG studied, contain this chemical!
  • Make sure it doesn’t contain Retinyl Palmitate. This form of vitamin A has been found to have anti-aging effects, so many companies are putting it in their sunscreens. The problem is that retinyl palmitate on sun-exposed skin may actually speed up the development of skin tumors and lesions.
  • Say NO to combined sunscreen/bug repellant. Let’s face it, are bugs really that big of an issue when you’re in direct sun? Since sunscreen should be reapplied regulary, using one that also has bug repellent in it, exposes you to unnecessary amounts of the bug repellent chemicals. Keep the two separate just to be safe.
  • Don’t buy sunscreen towelettes. It is questionable whether these products contain enough sunscreen to actually absorb into your skin and protect you. Save your money.
  • Steer clear of tanning oils. Some oils may have an SPF level, but it is generally not sufficient enough to actually protect you. Oils promote an increased risk of sunburn and skin damage.
If you found this post useful, you may also be interested in this one: Deodorant Dangers and Your Healthiest Options

Source: EWG’s 2013 Guide to Sunscreens
Photo Credit: Dreams To Do


  1. I looked up babyganics sunscreen on amazon and saw this review- apparently they don’t make all of their products safe as this one includes the bad chemicals you mentioned. “Babyganics Pure Mineral Sunscreen Stick SPF 50, 0.47-Ounce (Pack of 2), Packaging May Vary (Health and Beauty)
    Well, this is unfortunate. I went ahead and purchased this item, based on the ingredient list on the EWG Skin Deep database. It had an overall rating score of 1, which is nice and low, and no ingredient had a score higher than 3. The actual item has several ingredients, however, that were not included on the EWG site, which makes me think the entry for this item is outdated. This is the complete list with their EWG ratings in brackets:

    Active ingredients: Octinoxate [6] 7.5%, Octisalate [3] 5.0%, Zinc Oxide [varied] 11.7%
    Inactive ingredients: C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate [1], Beeswax [0], Copernicia Cerifera (Carnauba) Wax [0], Caprylic / Capric Triglyceride [1], Neopentyl Glycol Diethylhexanoate [0], Tribehenin [0], Euphorbia Cerifera (Candelilla) Wax [0], PPG-3 Benzyl Ether Myristate [0], Myristyl Myristate [2], Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Wax [0], Cyclopentasiloxane [3], Stearyl/Octadodecyl Citrate Crosspolymer [0], Dimethicone Crosspolymer [0], Polyglyceryl-10 Pentaoleate [0], Triethoxycaprylylsilane [0], Caprylyl Glycol [0], Ethylhexylglycerin [1]

    So the worst item in this list is Octinoxate, which has the following concerns: Enhanced skin absorption, Biochemical or cellular level changes, Developmental/reproductive toxicity, Endocrine disruption, Allergies/immunotoxicity, Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), Persistence and bioaccumulation

    I have yet to test the efficacy of the product as a sunscreen because I am a bit hesitant about whether to try using it or not. I am going to try the Badger Balm sunscreen stick first, since their ingredient list looks safer:


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