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Chemical Suncreen Ingredients You'll Want to Avoid & Safe Alternatives

Chemical Suncreen Ingredients You'll Want to Avoid & Safe Alternatives

As a skincare brand with a focus on skin health and recovery, we’re frequently asked by our clients for sunscreen recommendations.

What’s hard about answering this question is that like skincare, we each have our own individual texture, spreadability, SPF, and scent preferences.

But choosing the right sunscreen is essential for both our skin health and environmental safety. 

And while we can’t suggest which exact sunscreen brandnames to use, we can share a list of ingredients you’ll want to avoid in your sunscreen plus those you will want and why.

Mineral vs. chemical sunscreens

Safe mineral sunscreens are made with non-nano zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. They offer excellent protection against the sun without any harmful side effects to your health or the environment.

Unlike chemical sunscreens, mineral options sit on top of the skin, reflecting UV rays without absorbing into the bloodstream. This makes them safer for both sensitive skin and long-term health.

Remember, not all mineral sunscreens are created equal. Be sure to choose a non-nano mineral sunscreen.

Chemical sunscreens on the other hand, often contain harmful ingredients like oxybenzone and avobenzone. These chemicals can penetrate the skin, enter our bloodstream, and act as endocrine disruptors, potentially leading to hormonal imbalances. 

In addition, ingredients like butyloctyl salicylate and octocrylene degrade into harmful substances that can damage aquatic life. Preservatives such as diazolidinyl urea and quaternion-15 release formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.

To make sure your sunscreen is effective and safe, look for formulas with non-nano zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. 

We’ve put together an ingredient cheat sheet for you to screenshot next time you go sunscreen shopping, which we hope is soon given that suncare is always in season!

Here’s what you DO WANT in your suncreen:

  • Non-nano zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide mineral sunblock.
  • Botanicals like Edelweiss, carrot seed oil, and raspberry seed oil have all shown natural UV protective properties. 
  • Supplements like astaxanthin may help to fortify skin from UV exposure from the inside out.
  • A big fashionable hat & long sleeves! 

Here’s what you DON’T WANT in your suncreen:

  • Benzophenone-3, aka Oxybenzone: Absorbs into the bloodstream and pulls other toxic chemicals into the body.
  • Avobenzone: Skin allergen and irritant, degrades into free radicals which can damage skin health.
  • Butyloctyl Salicylate: Class 4 chronic aquatic toxin.
  • Cylcopentasiloxane / Cyclomethicone: Suspected reproductive toxins and endocrine disruptors.
  • Diazolidinyl urea, Quaternium-15, DMDM Hydantoin, and Hydroxymethylglycinate: Release Formaldehyde which is toxic.
  • Homosalate: Endocrine disruptors.
  • Methylisothiazolinone: Studies suggest this is a neurotoxin.
  • Nanoparticles: Ecotoxin, if you are using a mineral sunscreen, zinc, or titanium, make sure it is non-nano grade.
  • Octocrylene: Quickly degrades into carcinogen and endocrine disruptor benzophenone
  • Octinoxate / Octyl methoxycinnamate: Absorbs into the bloodstream, is an endocrine disruptor.
  • Parabens like Propylparaben, benzylparaben, methylparaben, and butylparaben: Mimic hormone estrogen.
  • Phthalates: Endocrine disruptors, that can cause reproductive issues in males
  • Quaternium-15: Suspected to release formaldehyde.
  • Retinyl Palmitate: When exposed to UV light breaks down into free radicals that damage skin.
  • Sodium lauryl and laureth sulfate (SLS/SLES): Toxic to humans and aquatic life
  • Clear Zinc Oxide: Highly toxic to aquatic life.

We hope this helps you choose the prefect sunscreen and that you feel better equiped to navigate the sea of choices on the market.

To you health! 


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