Sunscreen is an important and necessary product that we use on a regular basis here in Arizona.  Many sunscreens now contain potentially hazardous chemicals which have been added to bump up the SPF count.  There are many ingredients and brands to avoid, but there are also many companies that make a safe and effective sunscreen. 

Ingredients to avoid:

Synthetic Vitamin A or Retinyl Palmitate: shown to accelerate sun damage by forming free radicals that damage DNA. 

Oxybenzone and octisalate: can trigger allergic reactions, and are potential hormone disruptors that penetrate the skin readily.

I have searched almost every drug store, pharmacy, and grocery store and did not find one sunscreen that did not contain the ingredients listed above.  I turned to the Environmental Working Group Website,www.EWG.org to search for sunscreen that was “clean”.  The good news is that there are many companies that make “clean” sunscreen.  The bad news is that some of the sunscreens either smell bad or don’t absorb well, i.e leaving a white residue on your skin.  I will list the brands that smell good or have no scent and absorb well.

Alba Botanica Very Emollient Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 fragrance free.  This absorbs well and has no odor.  It is rated a 2 out 10 on the Environmental Working Group’s website, www.cosmeticdatabase.org.

MyChelle Sun Shield SPF 28.  This absorbs nicely and has no odor and is rated a 2 out of 10.

Badger Sunscreen SPF 30.  It absorbs ok, it develops a faint white residue after being in the water, and has a mild scent.  It is rated a 1 out of 10.

References:

Cherng SH, Xia Q, Blankenship LR, Freeman JP, Wamer WG, Howard PC, et al. 2005. Photodecomposition of retinyl palmitate in ethanol by UVA light-formation of photodecomposition products, reactive oxygen species, and lipid peroxides. Chem Res Toxicol 18(2): 129-38

Mei N, Hu J, Xia Q, Fu PP, Moore MM, Chen T. 2010. Cytotoxicity and mutagenicity of retinol with ultraviolet A irradiation in mouse lymphoma cells. Toxicol In Vitro 24(2): 439-44.

Systemic absorption of sunscreen after topical application. Lancet 350(Sep): 863-64.

Percutaneous absorption of benzophenone-3, a common component of topical sunscreens. Clinical and Experimental Dermatology 27(8): 691-94.