We are a pasty pale family. We pack the sunscreen but recently started looking at what exactly is in our sunscreens. According to the Environmental Working Group, active ingredients in sunscreens come in two forms, mineral and chemical filters. Each uses a different mechanism for protecting skin and maintaining stability in sunlight. The most common sunscreens on the market contain chemical filters. These products typically include a combination of two to six of these active ingredients: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate. Mineral sunscreens use zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. A handful of products combine zinc oxide with chemical filters.
Part of FACT’s mission is to educate consumers on toxic chemicals present in everyday products. Most concerning are chemicals that are endocrine disrupters (EDCs) as discussed in more detail here. Lab studies indicate that some chemical UV filters may mimic hormones or cause skin allergies, which raises important questions about unintended effects on human health from frequent sunscreen application. The most worrisome is oxybenzone, added to nearly 70 percent of the non-mineral sunscreens. Many sunscreens also contain methylisothiazolinone, which the American Contact Dermatitis Society named as its “allergen of the year”.
Spray sunscreens have become increasingly popular in recent years, but have additional dangers, especially if inhaled. Consumer Reports warns that spray sunscreens should not be used on children and that adults should exercise caution and make sure not to use on the face or inhale them.
Below is a list of some mineral sunscreens recommended by the Environmental Working Group; we use the Alba Botanical Mineral sunscreen. For the complete list click here.