Safer Sunscreen

I’ve been in the health industry since the early 1990’s. Yes, more than two and a half decades! During that time I’ve made it my mission to create the healthiest food possible for my family. I’ve also created my own non-toxic household cleaning products and personal care products. That’s because health and beauty are about so much more than what goes in your mouth.

Since our skin is our largest organ what we put on it is critical to our health. Because I have the MTHFR genetic mutation this is even more crucial for me. People with the MTHFR gene may have impaired detoxification, so avoiding products with toxic ingredients is of the utmost importance.

Safer Sunscreen

Growing up in California, my friends and I baked in the sun. By the time I was in my 20’s I wasn’t outside much, I spent my time indoors building my first company. Once I reached my 30’s I started thinking about aging. My top beauty secrets? Sleep, diet, and moderate exercise. I also realized that applying a good sunscreen to my face might help prevent wrinkles. Since then I’ve used sunscreen on my face religiously. When I go out for a walk I also wear a baseball hat and sunglasses. It’s great to use such items to protect the delicate skin on your face. It’s also important to find a fantastic sunscreen that does not contain harmful endocrine disrupting chemicals and other toxins.

What’s Not in My Sunscreen

Here are just a few of the scary ingredients that may be hiding in your sunscreen!

  • Aerosol Spray -application method that can expose lungs to hazardous chemicals
  • Aluminum -coloring agent and neurotoxin that affects diverse metabolic reactions
  • Oxybenzone -photostabilizer and endocrine disrupting chemical that leads to adverse cellular change
  • Parabens -preservative and endocrine disrupting chemical that can lead to hormonal imbalance
  • Propylene Glycol -skin conditioning agent that can lead to eye, skin, and lung irritation as well as organ system toxicity

I don’t use chemical based sunscreens even though many people choose them, finding them lighter and easier to rub in. I prefer the healthier alternatives below that use zinc oxide to block out the sun!

Finding the Right Sunscreen

Finding the right sunscreen isn’t as easy as you’d think. I went through product after product years ago until I landed on my non-toxic sunscreen favorites. They’re full of safe ingredients and work very well at blocking out the sun.

Loving Naturals Sunscreen

I use Loving Naturals SPF 30 because it’s made with ingredients like coconut oil and beeswax. The main active ingredient is zinc oxide which is unique because it is a truly broad spectrum blocker that protects from UVA and UVB. Zinc oxide scores well with the Environmental Working Group because it provides “strong sun protection with few health concerns.” EWG also rates it highly because it doesn’t break down in the sun.

This product is incredibly safe and effective and EWG gives it the highest rating possible. It’s very easy to rub in and blend properly and doesn’t  leave a weird white residue on your face. With ingredients like coconut oil it is a bit oily. Given that I live in the high desert of Colorado this is great for me. I don’t use it at the beach however because I think sand would stick to it. I keep this sunscreen by the door and in my car so that I can apply it as needed, i.e., prior to going out in the sun.

Think Baby Sunscreen

Think Baby SPF 50+ Sunscreen is another one of my favorite sun blocking products. Can I tell you a secret? Because my skin is so sensitive I like to use personal care products that are gentle enough for an infant to use. Beware though, not everything that’s labeled “baby safe” actually is, so you’ll still need to check ingredients even when using baby products. Still, just because it’s for baby, doesn’t mean you can’t use it if you’re an adult, and this product is amazing! Made with aloe, cranberry seed oil, castor oil, vitamin C, and magnesium, it feels great going on, rubs right into your skin and leaves no ghostly white residue. EWG gives this sunscreen its highest rating.

This product is great for your face, because it’s moisturizing, leaves a little glow on your skin, and is incredibly effective. It’s also light and versatile enough to use at a pool or the beach. Another plus? With real papaya and coconut oil this sunscreen has a very light tropical scent and reminds me of sitting under a palm tree by the ocean.

Juice Beauty Moisturizer

Juice Beauty’s Tinted Mineral Moisturizer SPF 30 (Sand) is another winner. It’s non-toxic and safe, receiving the highest rating from EWG. It is basically a lightly tinted sunscreen that goes on very nicely. I use this when I’m going out for lunch and want to look a little more polished. I also keep this by the door. Because it is tinted with a slight beige coloring, you will want to wash your hands after applying, especially if you are wearing white, or light colored clothes, so that it doesn’t get on them.

Sun Exposure Boosts Vitamin D Levels

On a final note, although I wear sunscreen on my face religiously, I’m not afraid to get some good sun exposure every day! It helps with my vitamin D levels and feels great on my arms and legs when I go out for my daily walk in the warmer weather.

The sunscreen debate can be a heated one (pun intended), and I take the middle path, using it on my face, but not the rest of my body. What’s your strategy when it comes to the sun? Do you use sunscreen or not?

The BEST advice, as always.


66 responses to “Safer Sunscreen”

  1. I’m 52 and starting last summer I get a rash on my arms and chest if I’m out in the sun. I’m waiting for an appt with a dermatologist & I hope it’s not a sign of something serious. I’ve purchased 2 UV tops and they help alot with sun protection. In fact I just ordered fingerless UV protection gloves! Guess I’ll be that weirdo this summer!

    • Holly, I’m so sorry to hear about that. I hope you’ll stop back by after you see the dermatologist to give me an update :-)

    • Holly, several years ago I had a similar issue. Every time I was in the sun, the exposed skin would break out in a rash. I was seeing my chiropractor a lot for allergies at the time, and we discovered it was a Vitamin D allergy. After treating me for the allergy, I never had the rash again. And a cool bonus: I had never tanned before; after the treatment, I started tanning!

  2. And your sunscreens would probably not destroy our coral here in the Hawaiian islands and elsewhere.

  3. Wish you could make this (and your many other) articles printable. I need to take a copy to my out-of-state doctor and am cutting and pasting to get this printable. Thanks for considering!

    • Karen, thanks for your feedback! We used to have the entire article printable and folks asked to have only the recipe printable so we changed it. I wish there was a happy medium :-)

  4. Thanks for the great sunscreen suggestions. We have been using LureLux, an all natural and organic sunscreen purchased on Amazon. It has 15% zinc oxide as the natural ingredient but no nasty chemicals. We bought it both for our own benefit and because if you are a snorkeler/diver, it’s “reef friendly”. I’ll be looking into Elana’s recommendations also.

  5. Speaking of natural and safe alternatives, on a site that has home-made and healthy products, the Deodorant is made of Milk of Magnesia as a base, and it really works. The suggested brand (sold on Amazon) is called Goodsense Milk of Magnesia, which has nothing added to it, no flavoring or other ingredients besides plain milk of magnesia (Magnesium Hydroxide 1200 mg), also gluten free. I have not added aloe, baking soda, or anything else to it, only the product with a few drops of essential oil (I like Ylang Ylang or anything mild), and use a roller ball container (also found on This works great, as well as or better than, anything you can buy for deodorant.

  6. Elana, thanks so much for all your hard work on all things healthy … you have helped me so much. I just bought the thinkbaby sunscreen at WholeFoods and I really like it … and it’s not greasy. I’ve been using MyChelle Sun Protection and have been happy with it because it’s more like a lotion than a sunscreen … but I now find it maybe has the “nano” problem. Elana, your email has also inspired me to go out and get the ingredients to make my own laundry detergent!
    Thanks. Veronica

    • Veronica,
      what is the “nano” problem with the MyChelle sun protection? I have been using it for years and would love to know if I need to stop.

      • Charlotte, according to the EWG among other issues:

        “Nanoparticles could cause lung damage when inhaled. Inhalation of nanoparticles is dangerous for many reasons. EWG strongly discourages the use of loose powder makeup or spray sunscreens using titanium dioxide or zinc oxide of any particle size…EWG has urged the FDA to review carefully the safety of nanosize particles used in cosmetics products, and to evaluate skin and lung penetration and the potential for greater toxicity to body organs. EWG remains deeply concerned about the general lack of oversight of nanotechnology and associated risks to consumers, people with workplace exposures and the environment. Government regulators should exercise strong oversight to ensure that the production, use and disposal of nanomaterials do not harm workers and the environment.”

        There you have it!

  7. Homemade Sunscreen

    Organic non-nano powdered zinc oxide
    with some combination o or your choice of:
    Hemp oil
    Coconut oil
    Avocado oil
    Jasmine oil for fragarance

    Keeps the skin ( the largest organ of the body) moist and protected at the same time.

  8. Thank you for sharing this. It is nerve-wracking to be told our whole lives that we need to wear sunscreen every day to prevent skin cancer and then hear about the horrible things that are in many sunscreens. It really puts the consumer between a rock and a hard place.

  9. Thanks so much for this post, Elana. I heard an EWG scientist on Science Friday last week talking about this very topic and put figuring out the right products on my to do list. Thanks for crossing off the research for me!

  10. Elana: As a life guard, I remember spreading zinc oxide on my nose to prevent sunburn. It always worked, but the rest of me got burned – badly. Ha. Of course, in those days, if I had covered myself with it, I would have looked pretty stupid sitting there looking like a ghost. You might be onto something here. :)

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