Sunscreen Safety & Tips

Last Fall I was fortunate to fly to Belize and take a week long vacation. I spent time snorkeling in some of the greatest coral reef on the planet. Boaters and tour guides in Belize are very proactive in trying to protect their precious coral. If you aren’t aware, coral reefs are in danger and dying at a rapid pace (please watch Chasing Coral a Netflix documentary highlighting this).

The Belize captains anchor their boat at a distance from any reefs to protect the integrity. As I was applying my natural sunscreen, the other guests on the boat were spraying themselves with chemical sunscreens and jumping in near the coral. I wondered to myself, if these toxic chemicals are coming off our bodies and going into the endangered reefs, isn’t it damaging the coral? Studies are now showing chemical sunscreens are not good for us as humans or our precious life under water.

What are the concerns around conventional sunscreens?

Four common conventional sunscreen ingredients: avobenzone, oxybenzone, ecamsule and octocrylene – can enter a person’s bloodstream after just one day of use, according to a recently published FDA study. The chemicals get absorbed by the skin and linger in the body 24+ hours. When any chemicals or toxins enter our blood supply, our organs have to detox them and the body can become sluggish and create disease.

Oxybenzone, is one of the four chemicals published in the recent JAMA article. It is known as an endocrine disruptor, as it mimics estrogen chemical, shown to lower testosterone levels, disrupt men’s hormones, damage the coral reef, and may lead to shorter pregnancies for females.

Another common and often surprising ingredient in sunscreen (and beauty products) is a Vitamin A derivative called retinyl palmitate.  When exposed to UV-A, retinyl palmitate can form free radicals that damage DNA, and can speed the growth of cancerous tumors on the skin (NTP, 2011)

In today’s world, we have a lot of chemical and toxin exposures, it really only takes one “perfect storm” to send our immune system over the edge to create disease. That’s why I am passionate about these taboo topics. I’ve seen the damage of cumulative toxin exposures. Why put ourselves at risk if there are safer options?

How to Choose a Safe Sunscreen?

  • Find a chemical-free Sunscreen that blocks BOTH UV-A and UV-B light. This is important because a lot of sunscreens have used UV-B only protection. UV-B is necessary for Vitamin D production and UV-A alone has more cancer-causing properties.
  • Mineral sunscreens tend to block UVA better than chemical sunscreen ingredients and also tend to be rated safer on EWG’s sunscreen database.
  • Avoid Sunscreen with the four chemicals listed above and vitamin A (retinyl palmitate) due to their toxic effects on the skin and internal organ systems.
  • Avoid spray-on sunscreen. Although it may be convenient, your inhaling chemicals with unknown risks.
  • The EWG found the most toxic sunscreens to be some of the largest sunscreen manufacturers such as Banana Boat, CopperTone, CVS brand, Neutrogena brand, Equate brand, Panama Jack and more.
  • The EWG safest sunscreen list can be viewed by clicking this link: Safest Sunscreen

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NTP (National Toxicology Program). 2011. Findings of NTP Board of Scientific Counselors on Retinoic Acid and Retinyl Palmitate – TR 568. Meeting, January 26, 2011. Research Triangle, North Carolina. Available: