Sunscreen and Sunblock Review: How to Avoid Toxic Ingredients


Sunblocks You Don't Need

Before you slather on that sunscreen, you may want to take a second look at the ingredients. There’s new evidence from the Environmental Working Group (EWG), that indicates some suntan lotions and other sunblockers have been proven to cause hormonal imbalances or accelerated formation of cancers.

The EWG is an environmental organization that specializes in environmental research and advocacy in the areas of toxic chemicals, agricultural subsidies, public lands, and corporate accountability.

What Makes a Sunscreen Bad?

The answer to the above question has nothing to do with the product’s ability to screen out cancer causing UV rays. It has nothing to do with whether there is enough SPF they use to prevent you from getting killer skin cancer.

A bad sunscreen product is when it contains false or misleading information in the guise of a high SPF, or if the ingredients can cause hormonal imbalances or even cancers. The EWG says most sunscreen products have pumped up SPF ratings and contain undesirable ingredients.

SPF- More Isn’t Necessarily Better

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. If you want to figure out how much protection you are getting, just multiply the SPF number by 10. The result is the number of minutes you can stay in the sun with protection. So if an SPF is 30, 30×10= 300 minutes of protection.

Seasoned sunbathers  have a pretty good idea how long it takes before they start to burn. If you fall into this category, you can select your SPF accordingly. For example, if you start to get red after 15 minutes of unprotected sun exposure, theoretically you’re protected 15 times longer with an SPF 15.

The numbers work within reason, but the fact is, that if you’re using a sunscreen higher than SPF 30, and you think you can sunbath without fear of burning for 300 minutes, you’re fooling yourself. You are also being fooled by the sunscreen manufacturer.

Here Are the Facts

SPF 50 blocks 98 percent of UVB rays, while SPF 30 blocks 96.7 percent. SPF 100 blocks 99 percent of UVB rays. Not a lot of difference really.

In 2007, the Food and Drug Administration proposed capping SPF at 50+, but they haven’t gotten around to it yet, so the makers of sunscreens are taking advantage of consumers while they still have the chance.

The danger lies when someone expects to be protected from the sun’s rays far longer than if they had used a lower SPF.

Doesn’t Sunscreen Protect Me from Getting Skin Cancer?

American Cancer Society has stated that the use of sunscreen prevents squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma because they block UVB rays; however, not all sunscreens block UVA radiation, which can increase the rate of melanoma, (a more deadly skin cancer).

A recent FDA study indicates that a form of vitamin A, retinyl palmitate, may speed the development of skin tumors and lesions when applied in the presence of sunlight.  The sunscreen industry adds vitamin A to 41 percent of all sunscreens.

Hormonal Changes From Sunscreens?

If the label on your sunscreen contains the ingredients oxybenzone, retinyl palmitate” or “retinol” I’d throw it away if you want to stay on the safe side.

Although the reports are just emerging and testing has just begun, it seems oxybenzone, a/k/a/ benzophenone-3, is also a hormone disruptor.  If you’re having more hot flashes than you’re used to, perhaps it is being caused by your SPF skin cream.

Oxybenzone seeps into your skin and blood stream (unlike other, safer sunscreen ingredients) causing those hormonal imbalances.  There are other articles that support the claim that oxybenzone is linked to increased estrogen production, affects the nervous system and can creates free radicals when exposed to the sun.

Three Types of Sunscreens

Sunscreens fall into three categories; chemical sunscreens, physical sunscreens and a combination of both. According to medical experts:

Chemical Sunscreens are absorbed into the skin. They all require 20 minutes to activate and should be applied in two coats 20-30 minutes apart.

Physical Sunscreens contain titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide. They sit on top of the skin to reflect, scatter and block the sun’s rays. They are immediately active upon application, are less irritating and offer broad spectrum protection.


Some of the Very Best Sunscreen Lotions

These Sunscreens contain safe products that may include zinc, but none of them are smelly and greasy. None contain Vitamin A or Oxybenzone. All products protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Remember, a good sunscreen for baby, doesn’t have to have the word “baby” in its title.

You can get more information by clicking on any of the links or the photos. The site will open in a new window.

Murad APSicon
Oil-Free Sunblock SPF 15 Sheer Tint

Shields skin without shine by:

  • Delivering powerful protection from sun and free radicals
  • Absorbing excess oil and soothing sensitivity
  • All Skin Types

Featherweight and non greasy, Murad sunblock has a sheer tint that blends into all skin tones and is perfect for all skin types.

Origins Out Smart Daily Sunscreen SPF 25 1.7 fl oz (50 ml)

Smoothing Seaweed Extract safeguards against dryness despite humidity dips indoors and out.  With natural Origins, sensitive skin is spared possible irritation from harsh chemical sunscreens.icon

  • Lightly tinted.
  • Oil-free.
  • Dermatologist and Ophthalmologist Tested.


Jack Black Sun Guard Oil-Free Very Water Resistant Sunscreen SPF 45 4 fl oz (118 ml) 

iconOil-Free Sun Guard stays on in extreme conditions and absorbs quickly with no heavy, oily residue. Jack Black Sun Guard won't run or drip into eyes.

  • SPF 45
  • Cruelty-Free
  • Certified Organic

Tocca Stella SPF 30+ Sunscreen Towelette 8 ea

This luxuriant designer sunblock is worth the price.  Scented in TOCCA's classic Stella scent of Italian blood orange, these towelettes are saturated in a gentle, sweat resistant, broad spectrum SPF 30+ physical sunscreen that is enriched with Vitamins E and B5, aloe and marine silk. Individually wrapped Tocca towelettes make it easy to be sun savvy no matter where you are – on the beach or on the go! icon

  • SPF 30+ Physical Sunscreen
  • Water/ Sweat Resistant
  • UVA/UVB Protection
  • Hypoallergenic and Clinically Tested
  • Natural ingredients include: Vitamins E and B5, Aloe,M
  • Marine Silk, Oat Extract, Grape Seed Oil, Avocado Oil
  • Not tested on Animals
  • Not sticky or tacky

Wondering if the sun delivers vitamin D better than supplements? Here's the answer.


MD Moms is the first pediatrician-developed personal care line for babies. They are non-chemical and less irritating than other brands. MD Moms products are recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Dermatology.

MD MOMS Baby Silk Daily UV Shield Moisturizing Lotion SPF 30+, Fragrance Free 2.7 oz


  • Developed by Pediatrician-Moms
  • Contains no fragrance, parabens, phthalates, lanolin, mineral oil, petroleum or waxes
  • Pure physical, not chemical, sunscreen using Titanium Dioxide & Zinc Oxide as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics as safest for young infants, even under 6 months
  • Safe for young infants
  • Broad Spectrum protection: protects against UVA and UVB rays
  • UVA Rating PA+++
  • Fragrance-free for ultra sensitive skin
  • Protects from environmental damage while nourishing, with antioxidant vitamins E and B5, grapeseed oil and avocado oil
  • Clinically tested, hypoallergenic and dermatologist-approved
  • Gentle, water-resistant, sweatproof and non-irritating to the eyes
  • TSA-approved for carry-on luggage

Some of The Worst Sunscreen Lotions

Be wary of when a product claims to have “broad spectrum” or “full spectrum” protection. EWG researchers identified 218 beach sunscreens that were falsely labeled and had only “low” or “medium” UVA protection in FDA’s proposed labeling system. Stay away from the following suntan lotions.

Banana Boat Baby Max Protect, SPF100

This product is one of the lowest rated on the market.
It claims an SPF of 100 which means it should keep your baby safe from getting a sunburn if she stays out in the sun 100 times longer than the time she takes to burn. That claim is ridiculous and untrue. Sunscreens should be reapplied often, regardless of SPF. Sunscreens wash off, sweat off and don’t always last as long as the SPF promises.

Panama Jack Naturals Baby Sunblock SPF 50

Another bad product for baby, Panama Jack should be buried in the sand up to his shoulders without a hat, while babies shovel sand in his face.
This terrible sunblock not only contains the potential hormone disruptor oxybenzone, all ingredients are not “natural” as claimed. There are at least 10 compounds that do not occur in nature.


 iS Clinical SPF 20 Powder & Peter Thomas Roth Instant Mineral Powder SPF 30

These loose powder sunscreens may feel comfortable on your skin, but the powder doesn’t just stay there. It gets into your lungs and bloodstream.  The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies inhaled titanium dioxide as “possibly carcinogenic to humans,” based on studies of rats and of people who work in dusty environments (IARC 2006).

Stay Away From These SPF Moisturizers

Sunblocking ingredients may be found in cosmetic moisturizers as well as beach-type sunscreens.

I’ve reported on a lot of Stupid Beauty Secrets but here’s another. Many highly rated moisturizers contain the ingredient oxybenzone, the recently disclosed endocrine system disruptor.

A few products you may wish to avoid because they contain oxybenzone are:

  • Revlon Age Defying Performance Skincare, Face Cream SPF 15
  • Ponds Age Defying Complex, Delicate
  • Avon Anew Ultimate Age Repair Day Cream

Here Are Some of the Best Moisturizers With SPF icon

NeoCutis Journee Bio-Restorative Day Cream PSP SPF 30+

Yes, it costs more, but it’s divine and you’re worth it. Recommended by many dermatologists and facial plastic surgeons, JOURNEE is one of the few day creams that combines PSP technology with antioxidants and broad spectrum UVA/UVB sun protection. Elegantly formulated JOURNEE revitalizes the skin while guarding against premature aging.

  • Non-comedogenic.
  • Free of synthetic color additives.
  • Fragrance free.
  • Not tested on Animals.
  • Dermatologist tested.


Revision SPF 45 Intellishade MatteAn amazing product that's perfectly tinted, covering imperfections for even the palest skin. The matte finish is non-oily. It comes in a non-matte finish as well.

  • Moisturizes and blend naturally with the color of your skin.
  • Reduces the apperance of lines and wrinkles.
  • Fights sun damage which causes premature aging.


Devita International Daily Solar Protective Moisturizer 30

  • Feather-light
  • Never heavy, oily or greasy
  • Moisturizing sun block
  • Full spectrum UVA/UVB sun protection


The bottom line is that suntan lotion should never be your first line of defense against the sun’s harmful rays. A hat and a shirt are the best protection you can have; that along with smart sun-sense and a highly rated sunblock.


  1. Thanks as always for commenting Andrea and thanks for following! I grew up using sunscreens at the beach or the lake or whenever I was in the “hot” sun because I tend to burn easily, but you’re right…it wasn’t until skin cancer outbreaks became more prevalent in the 60’s. They say it takes 30-40 years for the damage to appear. My guess is that before the late 30’s people favored milky white skin and stayed out the sun or wore hats and carried parasols. Being tan was  for farmers and other “common” folk. I think Coppertone actually made tanning more popular. Just my guess 😉

    • Andrea H. | The Hypnotism Weekly on April 25, 2012 at 12:48 am
    • Reply

    Interesting article even if I’m not that much into creams. 🙂
    I’ve always wondered why skin cancer is something that really exploded after a widespread use of sunscreens but seems to haven’t been present in the past. Stronger Sun rays, business strategy or dangerous chemicals used?
    New subscription done. 🙂

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