Better Health, Naturally

Sunscreen Safety

When was the last time you read the back of your sunscreen bottle? Even if you can’t pronounce them, you should know how to recognize these harmful ingredients.


Commonly found in most sunscreens, this organic compound is actually one of the factors that could be to blame in the growing number of Melanoma cases among avid sunscreen wearers. Oxybenzone has been known to act like estrogen to disrupt hormones and alter the production of sperm. It has also been suggested that the substance is linked to endometriosis and breast cancer. This particular ingredient is easily absorbed but hard to get rid of. It has been detected widely in human breast milk and urine.


This endocrine (hormone) disrupter is a UV filter used widely in sunscreens, cosmetics, shampoos and skin creams and like Oxybenzone, Octinoxate, also referred to as Octyl methoxycinnamate (OMC), is readily absorbed through our skin and has been linked to premature aging and contact dermatitis.

Retinyl Palminate

Retinyl Palminate is a form of vitamin A that has potential harmful side effects and warnings including cancer, reproductive toxicity and skin toxicity. Retinyl palmate has also been known to irritate the skin causing a range of negative reactions from peeling and redness to itching, and burning.

When choosing a sunscreen, look for a “broad spectrum” sunscreen which provides protection against both UVA, the rays that are linked to skin cancer and skin aging, and UVB rays, the rays that cause sunburns.

You should also choose a water-resistant sunscreen which has an SPF of 30-50. The SPF number indicates how well the sunscreen protects against harmful UVB rays. In other words, it determines how long it will take you to develop a sunburn with the product versus without. Anything higher than an SPF 50 is likely false marketing.

Covering up is always the best way to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Whenever possible, wear sunglasses, hats, loose-fitting cotton blouses, long skirts and sun-protective clothing, of which the darkest in fabric colour offers the best protection.

If you’re planning on being in the sun for an extended period of time, try to either find areas with plenty of shade, or bring shade with you. You’ll also want to remember to reapply sunscreen at least every two hours.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) publishes an annual guide to sunscreens which reviews approximately 1,700 products on the market and scores them based on their ingredients, protection and advertising claims. For more information visit

Better Health. Naturally.