How can I choose the safest and most effective sunblock?

With so many different kinds of sunblock on the shelves this summer, choosing the right kind can be a challenge. Consider these guidelines to make sure that your sunblock not only protects your skin, but also contains ingredients that are safer for your body. 

Safer Sunblock Guidelines

Reduce the amount of sunblock you need in the first place

Stay in the shade and wear hats and clothes like long sleeves that cover your skin. Long sleeves and pants aren't just for cold days! Consider wearing loose cotton or linen, which can keep you cool while protecting you from the sun. 

Look for these qualities to find the safest and most effective sunblock

  • Check the label for products that are lotion-based instead of spray, water-resistant, and are broad-spectrum (protect from both UVA and UVB rays).
  • Look for products that are at least SPF 15 but no higher than SPF 50. Sunblock that is higher than SPF 50 is not proven to be more effective than lower SPF sunblock, and an increase in SPF may increase exposure to chemicals.
  • Look for products that do not come in aerosol containers, since you can potentially inhale the product chemicals when sprayed.

Check the ingredient label and try to avoid products that:

  • contain Oxybenzone, a hormone disrupting chemical
  • contain Vitamin A  (also known as retinyl palmitate or retinol) which may speed the development of skin tumors and lesions
  • contain methylparaben or ethylparaben (also known as parabens) or fragrance. Parabens are a class of chemicals that may have estrogenic activity (can affect your hormones) and may also react with UVB rays, resulting in DNA damage. 

Follow the Precautionary Principle and check for micronized particles or nano-particles

While studies are still being conducted to assess the safety of nano-particles, the precautionary principle would tell us to avoid products with nano-particles. Many sunblocks already advertise the use of non-nano particles. You can find a list here