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. My arms are covered in sun spots from years of playing baseball w/ no sun protection. Now with a 2 year old son to set an example for, I’m much more diligent about applying sun screen. Thanks for some tips on where to find healthy ones. I’m in phase of life where I’m slowly switching from non-healthy to healthy in all things. Appreciate it.

  2. I do the same Elana, sunscreen on my face, neck, chest but leave the rest for vitamin D. Thank you for the great recommendations!

  3. Thanks Elana, always great info and resources. Are all of these sunscreens available at pharmaca, or whole foods here in Boulder?

    • Jillian, thanks for your comment! I haven’t checked that out yet. I was looking for options online so that all of my readers would have access to the sunscreens. If you do find these products locally I hope you’ll stop back by and let us know :-)

  4. Elana, thank you for this article and for all of your research. I use Keys sunscreen (Amazon) Rated well on EWG and goes on nicely. So glad you are in my life!

  5. Unfortunately my skin seems to react to anything with zinc oxide in it. My face breaks out in a rash :-( Any ideas for safe sunscreen that doesn’t use that ingredient? Thanks!

    • Tracy, oh goodness! I’m so sorry to hear that. Zinc oxide is my go-to for sun protection so I’m not sure. If you do experiment and find another sun block base that works for you I hope you’ll stop back by and share it with us :-)

  6. The BEST advice, as always. Thank you! I once had a doctor who told me she does not use sunscreen at all, on herself or her children, and doesn’t burn – even though she is fair skinned like I am. She said you can *feel* in your eyes when you’ve had enough sun exposure and should go inside after that. Personally, I have light blue eyes, and my eyes can be really sensitive to bright light, so I’m a sunglasses wearer, which blocks my natural sun meter. But I thought what she said was interesting, even though I myself cannot rely on that. So I will for sure be buying what you recommend for my fair skin – as well as for my beautiful niece and nephews, who unlike their mother/my sister who shows more of our Italian side, are fair like I am (so I’m always responsible for lubing everyone up on family vacation) :).

    • Laura, I totally agree. When we are at the beach I can somehow tell when I’ve had enough sun on my skin and I either go inside or put on clothing over my swimsuit and sit under an umbrella :-)

    • Marjory, yes. The sunscreens I use are gluten-free. Please remember though that formulations of products may change so it’s best to check prior to purchasing and applying anything to your body :-)

  7. I’ve never written in here… and felt compelled to now. It’s time to thank you SO much for being a stellar resource – for all things gluten-free for me, and now for sunscreen! Echoing another commenter in thanking you for doing all of the research for me! Please know that you are making an incredible difference for so many people… even those of us who regularly and often visit your website but stay silent in the wings :). I appreciate your honesty, your transparency, the clarity with which you write… and your lighthearted humor in the midst of the multiple challenges you’ve been given. Keep posting, keep inspiring, keep sharing: we’re all watching. xo

    • Laura! Thanks SO MUCH for your comment. I’m so happy to meet you here and glad that I can be a resource for you and others :-)

  8. Thanks for this list! I’d like to add AnnMarie Gianni. It’s a tinted sunscreen and works so well on my sensitive face.

      • I would like to add Arbonne mineral sunscreen and our ABC baby sunscreen! Arbonne has never used any harsh ingredients, no fillers, parabans, alcohol in 37 years!!! All thier products are clinically tested and all results are found on the website. It’s an amazing company!! Thank you for sharing it’s so important!

        • Jennifer, yes that is a lovely company, but please note that some of their products do not get fantastic ratings on EWG.

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