The BEST and WORST Sunscreen Ingredients

Why Sunscreen Matters

With Memorial Day just around the corner and summer a stone’s throw away (or already here depending on where you live), your sunshine time is increasing daily.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know sunscreen is important.

What you may NOT know is that your sunscreen choice can make a HUGE difference.

Choose the wrong sunscreen and you increase your chances of skin aging (hello wrinkles and sunspots), sunburn, and skin cancer.

Since nobody wants that, I’m helping you choose the best and most effective sunscreen options.

The Best Sunscreen Ingredient

Not all sunscreens are created equally. Some sunscreens are superior (meaning they contain the best ingredients, are broad spectrum, and clean ingredient-wise) while others have much to be desired.

I’m going to give you the 20,000 foot level on this one. If you want the nitty gritty details, check out this post.

There are two main active ingredients in various sunscreens - chemical and physical.

Chemical sunscreens — as their name suggests — utilize chemicals that absorb UV rays after they enter the skin. Examples of chemical sunscreens include avobenzone, dioxybenzone, homosalate, octinoxate, oxybenzone, and padimate O.

Physical sunscreens, in contrast, form a protective layer on the skin and reflect UV rays before their enter the skin. They form a physical barrier of protection against UV rays. Examples of physical sunscreens include zinc oxide and titanium oxide.

Most people use chemical sunscreens, which is a MISTAKE.

For a sunscreen to be effective, it needs to block UVA and UVB rays. In other words, it needs to be broad spectrum. Even better is to pick a sunscreen that blocks UVA1, UVA2, and UVB rays.

The only FDA approved sunscreen that protects against UVA1, UVA2, and UVB rays is zinc oxide (a PHYSICAL sunscreen).

This means zinc oxide is the most comprehensive sunscreen and the ingredient you should pick (barring the unusual allergy or contraindication).


SPF (or sun protection factor) assesses a sunscreen’s ability to protect against UVB rays.

So what do the SPF numbers mean? Different SPF numbers are associated with different percentages of UVB ray blocking.

SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB rays. Increasing to SPF 30 takes you to 96.7%. And SPF 70 blocks 98.6% of rays.

Going beyond SPF 30 has very small gains in sun protection. Furthermore, sunscreens with SPF over 30 typically have more negative side effects.

For this reason, most folks are fine with SPF 30. However, if your dermatologist has suggested otherwise, please follow their instruction.


Now you know the best active sunscreen ingredient (zinc oxide) and most appropriate SPF (usually 30).

So what else should you remember when picking a sunscreen?

You should remember there are some ingredients to avoid.

Sunscreen Ingredients to Avoid

  • Dioxybenzone - this chemical sunscreen has estrogenic effects in the body.
  • Methylisothiazolinone - this is a preservative found in many sunscreens (including those marketed for children). This preservative is highly allergenic and sensitizes skin.
  • Octinoxate - this chemical sunscreen is being banned in Hawaii for harming coral reefs.
  • Oxybenzone - this chemical sunscreen is being banned in Hawaii for harming coral reefs. Also, it has hormonal effects in the body (estrogenic effects in women) and may alter sperm production.

Go Forth & Pick the Best Sunscreen for You

Remember zinc oxide, SPF 30, and my “ingredients to avoid” list. This way when you pick out new sunscreen for your Memorial Day weekend plans, you can make the best choice possible to keep your skin in tip top shape.

In health and happiness,

5 Products to Change Immediately to Decrease Exposure to Carcinogens and EDCs

Welcome back to Part III of the health havoc series! Today I’m sharing the five most important self care products for you to switch to decrease exposure to carcinogens and endocrine disruptor chemicals (ECDs).

If you’re a gentleman and thinking this doesn’t apply to you, I beg to differ. First of all, on average you use 6 personal care products (things like body wash, lotion, shave gel, and antiperspirant) — all of which MAY contain carcinogens or EDCs. Furthermore, you probably know a woman or two that could benefit from you sharing this information. Women use about 12 personal care products a day.

So male or female, read on!

Disclaimer: I have NO financial relationship with any of the brands/companies/products I recommend below.


Let’s recap. In Part I, we discussed how what goes AROUND or ON your body can also impact your health (because we absorb what’s around us). If this still sounds like hippie mumbo jumbo, check out this post. Part II focused on endocrine disruptor chemicals (EDCs) - what they are, why they matter, and the worst offenders.


1. Body lotion

Why You Should Change It:

Body lotion is a product many of us use once or more a day. Furthermore, it is often applied to large areas — even the entire body. For these reasons, body lotion should be one of the first products you transition to natural. Our bodies absorb products applied to the skin and carcinogens or ECDs in body lotion are no exception. Common culprits in body lotion include: parabens, phthalates, and artificial fragrance.

Better Alternatives:

Weleda body lotions have lovely texture and clean ingredient lists, but are pricier than many mainstream options. For light hydration, you can try aloe vera gel. If you have drier skin, oils can be a great option.

Image Credit

Image Credit

Grapeseed, safflower, jojoba, pumpkin-seed, flaxseed, and sweet almond oils are good options. Those with extremely dry skin may enjoy coconut oil, but those with acne prone skin may find this too emollient (I do). I often make my own mixes depending on the season. A good blend for normal-dry skin is 1 part pumpkin-seed oil and 2 parts grapeseed oil. For drier skin try 2 parts safflower oil, 2 parts jojoba oil, and 1 part sweet almond oil.

2. Body Wash

Why You Should Change It:

Body wash, like body lotion, is a product you can use one or more times a day. It is often applied over large areas of the body and to the genitals. For these reasons, body wash is something that you should make sure is carcinogen- and EDC-free. Common culprits in body wash include: parabens, phthalates, and artificial fragrance.

Better Alternatives:

If you are married to the idea of a liquid body wash, Alaffia makes great options. This fair trade company makes a variety of naturally scented and unscented body washes. My favorites are the lavendar and unscented.

If you don’t mind switching to bar soap, pure vegetable glycerin soap is great. The 365 brand is under $2 and can be found at Whole Foods.

3. Lip Balm & Lipstick

Why You Should Change It:

For most of us, lipstick or lip balm is applied multiple times a day. In fact, the average woman eats pounds of lipstick in her lifetime. If your lipstick contains harmful chemicals, lead, and endocrine disruptors, you are putting yourself at risk every single time you swipe. Switching to a natural alternative should be front of mind. Common lip product carcinogens/EDCs include: parabens; phthalates; and butylated hydroxyanisale (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT).

Better Alternatives:

Don’t fret — there are wonderful natural alternatives with great moisturizing benefits and large color selections.

For a straight lip blam, Waxelene makes a hydrating lip balm with high quality ingredients. The good news is Waxelene is priced similarly to conventional brands and can be purchased at many retailers. If you want something more luxurious (and $$$), Kari Gran and Osmia Organics have balms that help mend the driest lips.

If you are going for color, Ilia is a luxury natural brand that makes beautiful, pigmented, and fashion forward lipsticks and tinted lip conditioners. Vapour Organics also make lovely lipsticks. For something more affordable, Pacifica makes lip glosses and tints sold at stores like Target nationwide.

4. Antiperspirant

Why You Should Change It:

Conventional antiperspirants are linked to cancer and other health problems. While there is conflicting evidence (some studies suggest links and others do not), I wouldn’t risk it. Switching to a natural alternative should be a top priority. Top culprits in antiperspirant include: aluminum salts, parabens, and artificial fragrance.

Better Alternatives:

Most natural products are actually deodorants and do not prevent sweating. It may take a few weeks to accustom yourself to using deodorant, but it will be worth the wait. If you are a heavy sweater or do not relish the idea of sweat, consider disposable adhesive sweat pads that can be applied to the underarms daily.

If you like stick deodorant, Tom’s of Maine makes some great options and can be found at national retailers (like Target and Trader Joe’s). If cream is more your thing, Schmidt’s Natural Deodorant (can be found online or at many natural food stores nationwide) and Soapwalla make reputable deodorant pastes that rub on.

5. Artificial fragrances

Why You Should Change It:

Artificial fragrance is a tricky subject. Manufacturers are not required to list individual ingredients in artificial fragrances and can just list “fragrance” on the label. This is a problem because many fragrances contain styrene, a known carcinogen. To be safe, only use fragrances that list the perfume’s individual components or switch to a natural alternative.

Better Alternatives:

Instead of artificial fragrances, use perfumes made from pure essential oils. Brands like Lurk or Kai make good options. Or, make your own signature fragrance with essential oils. Mountain Rose Herbs sells high quality essential oils at competitive prices.


This list shouldn’t scare you off from buying your favorite products, but rather serve as a reminder to read the labels and be aware of what you’re putting in your body. From there, you’ll be empowered to make the right personal care.

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The Hidden Health Havoc: Part II

Welcome Back

You already know what you put in your body is CRUCIAL to your wellness. And last week we discussed how what goes AROUND or ON your body can also impact your health (because we absorb what’s around us). If this still sounds like hippie mumbo jumbo, check out this post.

So now let’s move on to the nitty gritty details.

Remember the term endocrine disruptor chemicals (EDCs)? As a quick refresher from my last post, EDCs are substances that interfere with the normal functioning of your body’s endocrine system. It should come as no surprise that EDCs pose a threat if you consume them (like eating or drinking them). What is surprising? That being around EDCs or having them in physical contact with your skin also poses a major threat.

How EDCs Harm You

EDCs can harm your body in many tangible ways. The top ways include:

  1. Neurological conditions (including ADHD)

  2. Endometriosis and fibroids (and other female reproductive issues)

  3. Premature death (this one explains itself)

  4. Obesity

  5. Diabetes

  6. Male reproductive problems

It is estimated that EDCs account for $340 BILLION in healthcare costs and lost earnings in the US.

Sources of EDCs

If you are a health conscious kind of person, you’ve probably heard of the Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen. These two lists are road maps to help you avoid pesticides and carcinogens in your food. Each year, the Environmental Working Group publishes updated Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen lists. The Clean 15, as the name suggests, is a list of the 15 foods that are typically safe to buy and eat that are conventionally produced. On the flip side, the Dirty Dozen are the top 12 foods that you should either avoid or buy organic.

The good news is we now have an equivalent list for endocrine disruptor chemicals (EDCs).

The list for EDCs is called the Dirty Dozen Endocrine Disruptors.

The Dirty Dozen Endocrine Disruptors includes the top 12 most offensive hormone-altering chemicals. Please note, there are nearly 1,000 known EDCs and they can be found it:

  • Personal care products
  • Cosmetics
  • Fragrances
  • Contaminated soil, water, and air
  • Food contaminated through chemicals in the food chain
  • Food packaging (such as linings of cans, plastic)
  • Workplace: industrial chemicals, pesticides, fungicides
  • Textiles and clothing (flame retardant fabrics)
  • Medications
  • Antibacterial soaps

The EDC Dirty Dozen

And here are the top 12 hormone-altering chemicals. Drum roll please!

How to Limit Exposure to EDCs

Over the course of this series, I will give you specific advice on how to avoid exposure to ECDs. In the meantime, here are some general tips to help limit exposure to EDCs.

  1. Switch to EDC-free household cleaning products and soaps (see this link for more details)
  2. Use all natural cosmetics and personal care items
  3. Use fragrance-free (or naturally fragranced with essential oils) cosmetics and personal care items
  4. Not microwaving food in plastic covers or covered in plastic wrap
  5. Washing plastic food containers by hand instead of in the dishwasher
  6. Avoid using plastic containers with the numbers 3, 6, or 7
  7. Use more fresh food (versus processed/packaged/fast foods)
  8. Use healthy building materials (
  9. Eat organic produce on high risk fruits and vegetables
  10. Treat drinking and cooking water

What’s Coming Next

Now you know more about EDCs and where they hide. Next week, the series continues and I’ll be sharing the top 5 products to replace ASAP to help you reduce exposure to carcinogens and EDCs.

Please Share

If you know anyone that could benefit from this health-changing series, please share this information using the link below. Thank you!

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