5 Ingredients You Wouldn't Want in Your Sunscreen

May 10, 2011
We all know how important it is to use the sunscreen to prevent the sun exposure and protect our skin from UV rays. However, specialists of the Environmental Working Group (EWG) warn that many sunscreens contain harmful ingredients that can have long-term unwanted effect on our health.

1. Oxybenzone

Oxybenzone or benzophenone-3 is widely used in suncreens and can be found in small quantities in our body. The study conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that this chemical is present in 96,8 percent of people. However, oxybenzone is lnked to such problems as skin irritation, sensitization and allergy. Another study found that pregnant women that had higher concentration of oxybenzone in the third trimester, were more likely to have low birth weight girls or high birth weight boys. Studies on animals show that oxybenzone may cause hormonal disruption.

2. Octinoxate

Octinoxate or Octyl-methoxycinnamate is also one of the ingredients that may become a subject of sunscreen safety concern. EWG says that animal studies showed that this ingredient has an estrogenic effect, which disrupts hormone balance in the body.


PABA or para-aminobenzoic acid was commonly used in sunscreens, absorbing UVB rays. It reduced skin damage and protect against skin cancer in animals. However, later the scientists revealed that PABA can cause DNA damage, hormonal disruption, allergies and discoloration. Fortunately, you have little chance to find sunscreen with PABA, but if you still do-try to avoid by all means.

4. Retinyl palmitate

Retinyl palmitate or vitamin A may not seem like a harmful ingredient for your skin, sicne we are used to think that vitamins are all good for us. However, too much of a good thing can be dangerous. Excessive amount of retinyl palmitate can be especially harmful for pregnant women as it is associated with birth defects. Also this ingredient in sunscreen products can lead to production of free radicals and cause DNA damage. According to FDA data, retinyl palmitate that is applied to the skin when you are exposed to the sunlight, can stimulate the development of skin tumor and lesions.

5. Fragrances

If you want to use natural sunscreen and reduce the amount of chemicals in your sunscreen, try to avoid fragrance, unless it is plant-based. Artificial fragrances are know to contain phthlates that are associated with hormonal disruption, allergies and other problems.

What sunscreens to choose?

EWG recommends using sunscreen products that contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as an active ingredient. These ingredients offer broad-spectrum protection, are better tolerated by the skin and are not associated with allergic reactions.
Choose sunscreen that does not have preservatives or has mild preservatives such as potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate.

Look for natural sunscreens that contain natural oils such as olive oil, sunflower oil, jojoba oil, coca butter and others instead of mineral oils.

Avoid aerosol spray and powder sunscreen because that can be inhaled and cause lung problems.

Keep in mind that it is necessary to use other protective measures to avoid sun exposure, such as wearing sun-protective clothes and avoiding sun between 10 a.m and 4 p.m.