The Safe Sunscreen Guide: Why Chemical Sunscreens Are NOT Your Best Bet

Woman putting suncreen
Is your sunscreen really as safe as you think?

For many years, so-called health experts and conventional media have played up the dangers of sun exposure, saying that it can cause wrinkles and premature skin aging.

Here’s what I say: DON’T be fooled by these health warnings.

Appropriate sun exposure is one of the basic health habits you should incorporate in your life, as it’s the best way to obtain vitamin D.

However, getting just enough sun is crucial. There are instances when you may spend long hours in the sun, such as when you’re at the beach or doing activities outdoors. In these cases, using sunscreen is essential.

But don’t be quick to slather on just any sunblock you find – here’s why.

Are You Subjecting Your Skin to a Potentially Toxic Chemical Concoction?

Choosing sunscreen
Check the labels of the commercial sunscreens on your local grocery shelves, and I guarantee you’ll find one or more of these damaging chemicals.

Sunscreens are designed to protect your skin by scattering, reflecting, or absorbing harmful UV light. The most common types today are chemical-based sunscreens, which are absorbed by your skin and work by deactivating or degrading the UV light once it's in your skin.

Chemical sunscreens often contain a combination of three to six of these active ingredients: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octocrylene, octisalate, homosalate, and octinoxate.

It’s easy to get lost in the long list of ingredients found in sunscreen labels, especially if they are loaded with hard-to-pronounce, scientific-sounding words. Since they’re found on supermarket shelves, most people assume they’re safe to use.

But the cold, hard fact is that many studies have found potential links between active chemical sunscreen ingredients and cell damage, allergies, and even hormone disruption.

An animal study conducted found that widely-used sunscreen chemicals mimic the effects of estrogen and trigger developmental abnormalities in rats. 

What’s more, the chemical cocktail in conventional sunscreens can add to your toxic load.

To give you an idea of just how invasive these chemicals can be, here’s an example: oxybenzone, a penetration enhancer (a chemical that allows other chemicals to be penetrated by the skin), is used in 56 percent of non-mineral sunscreens in the market. It is found that it already contaminates the bodies of 97 percent of Americans, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are other risky chemicals lurking in your sunscreen, such as:

Para-amino benzoic acid Padimate O Methyl anthranilate
Octyl salicylate Dioxybenzone Sulisobenzone
Avobenzone Phenylbenzimidazole Trolamine salicylate
Cinoxate Homosalate Octocrylene

So here’s my tip: if you can’t pronounce it, trash it!

Why Mineral-Based Sunscreens Are Safer

Sun exposure protection
Using an umbrella is also an easy way to protect yourself from overexposure to the sun.

In my opinion, the best way to stay protected from the sun is to wear a hat and comfortable cotton clothing. Doing outdoor activities in the shade, such as exercising under a tree, is also a good idea.

But if these are not viable options, then you should use a safe sunscreen that contains minerals, and not a harsh, chemical cocktail that may have hidden effects on your health.

Your best choice is a sunscreen that uses mineral ingredients acquired from natural sources, such as clay and beach sand deposits. There are two popular choices available today: titanium dioxide (TiO2) and zinc oxide (ZnO). These minerals protect you by forming a stable physical barrier on your skin without clogging or irritating your pores. They sit on your skin and effectively scatter or reflect the light away without getting absorbed. Think of it as a mirror – the UV light simply bounces off the surface.

I believe that sunscreens made with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are generally safer than the chemical concoctions sold today, because they:

  • Provide strong UVA protection with few health concerns
  • Don’t break down in the sun

Look for a Sunscreen Made with Safe Ingredients

A cup of green tea
Loaded with inflammation-fighting antioxidants, green tea benefits your skin, too.

It’s smart to check for other additives in the sunscreen formula, such as chemical fragrances, petroleum (makes the formula water-resistant), parabens used as preservatives, and nanoparticles (can be absorbed by your vital organs, tissues, and cells, where they may cause harm).

Look for a safe sunscreen formula that nourishes, protects, and moisturizes your skin using plant or food-based ingredients like:

  • Green tea
  • Coconut oil - A dietary and beauty staple that has been used for thousands of years, it helps maintain your healthy and youthful-looking skin. It is also gentle and mild on your skin, making it a safe option for people with skin sensitivities.
  • Sunflower oil - This plant-based moisturizer is rich in vitamins A, D, and E. It helps moisturize dry, weathered, and aged skin.
  • Shea butter - Has effective moisturizing properties, and works as a thickener and an emulsifier in lotion and other skin care products.
  • Beeswax – Used as a carrier for zinc oxide, and makes the sunscreen water-resistant.

Here's The Sunscreen That I Highly Recommend

Sunscreen SPF 50

I’ve come up with a safe sunscreen that uses all the ingredients mentioned above to answer your need for optimal sun protection. The Mercola Sunscreen is a pleasant-smelling sunblock that’s tested regularly for safety and efficiency.

What makes the Mercola Sunscreen superior is that it protects against both UVB and UVA light, unlike other conventional formulas that only protect against UVB rays.

My Sunscreen comes in different SPF levels to suit the level of protection you need. SPF 30 (20% zinc oxide) gives just the right amount of coverage for most activities. If you want lighter protection, I recommend  SPF 15 (9.5% zinc oxide). For times when stronger UVA protection is necessary, such as for a child’s delicate skin or if you’re spending long hours under the sun, I advise using SPF 50 (22.5% zinc oxide and 6% titanium dioxide).

Safe sunscreen
Mercola Sunscreen is safe for all ages, including children aged 6 months and older.

However, I still recommend reapplying the sunscreen frequently, especially after swimming, perspiring, or towel-drying. If applied heavily, the zinc oxide and titanium dioxide can leave a noticeable white mark. To prevent this from occurring, simply use less of the product.

Another important addition to your sun protection kit is Aloe Vera Gel, made with aloe vera gel (one of the most nutritionally alive plants on Earth) and cucumber and green tea extracts. This formula will soothe and moisturize your skin, and also works as a hairstyling and shaving gel.

One Final Reminder: Only Wear Sunscreen When You Absolutely Need To

Again, I advise you to use a sunscreen only when you have to, such as when you’ll be outside for long periods of time. Otherwise, you may not get the vitamin D you need.

I also urge you to consume a healthy diet rich in antioxidants, as it is one of the best ways to get essential nutrients. Eating fresh, raw, unprocessed foods that maintain a healthy balance of omega-6 and omega-3 oils in your skin is your first line of defense against sunburn.

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