Non Toxic Sunscreen Guide – What You Should Look For When You Buy A Sunscreen

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Non Toxic Sunscreen

Which Sunscreen Brands Are Non Toxic?

 

I have explained how sunscreens can be toxic in my previous blog, ‘Non Toxic Baby Sunscreen Guide – Which Baby Sunscreen Brands Are Safe?‘ In this blog, I wanted to go in detail about things to look for when choosing a sunscreen.  Most sunscreens have toxic chemicals and many of them don’t even work. According to a 2017 research done by nonprofit Environmental Working Group, 73% of sunscreens available have worrisome ingredients (out of 1500 sunscreens, moisturizers and lip balms that advertise sun protection tested) and they don’t even work. Chemical-based sunscreens are so bad with highly toxic chemicals that they should be avoided. Even safer mineral sunscreens, there are a few things to watch out for.  In this blog, I share with you what you should be looking for when choosing a sunscreen and which sunscreen brands are safe.

 

 

Things To Look For When Choosing A Sunscreen

 

Choose Zinc Oxide As An Active Ingredient

Sunscreens can be made with chemical-based or mineral-based active ingredients. Chemical-based ingredients are very harmful. (You can read why they are harmful and what chemicals to avoid in my previous post ‘Non Toxic Baby Sunscreen Guide – Which Baby Sunscreen Brands Are Safe?)  Chemicals used in chemical-based sunscreens penetrate skin, disrupt hormones and cause skin allergies. Therefore, avoid chemical-based sunscreens.

Mineral-based sunscreens use zinc oxide or/and titanium dioxide as their active ingredient. EWG’s Skin Deep (Environmental Working Group, Online database for cosmetics and personal care products and their potential hazards and health concerns) selected safe sunscreens based on sunscreen’s ingredients, health hazard and efficacy. Safe sunscreens that are selected are mineral-based sunscreens. Between zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, however, zinc oxide is the best ingredient to be used.

So why choose zinc oxide over titanium dioxide? The reason is that zinc oxide offers better UVA and UVB blockage than titanium dioxide. Titanium dioxide blocks UVB and short-wave UVA rays but not long-wave UVA rays. UVB ryas reaches the top layer of skin and cause sunburn or non-melanoma skin cancers. UVA rays penetrate deeply into skin and cause aging of skin cells and damage their DNA. These rays are linked to cause long-term skin damage and skin cancer. One study concluded that long-wave UV rays also cause a skin cancer and supported need for UVA protection.  Therefore, it is important to make sure your sunscreen protect your skin from all types of UVA rays.  Surprisingly so many sunscreens do not protect our skin from UVA rays. When we see SPF on sunscreens, it is easy to think that SPF number is for protection against both UVA and UVB. However, SPF is only a measure of UVB protection, not UVA protection. Therefore, make sure your sunscreen indicate that it covers the broad spectrum including UVA and UVB rays.

Zinc oxide, on the other hand, blocks long-wave UVA rays. Also, zinc oxide is often combined with additional UVB blockers and it blocks more broad spectrum providing more protection. EWG’s Skin deep recommends zinc oxide 15-20% as an active ingredient in the sunscreen.

 

 

Select 100% Non-Nano Particle Zinc Oxide

A sunscreen can be made with nano particles or non-nano particles. Nano particles are particles smaller than 100 nanometer and non-nano particles are particles bigger than 100 nanometer.  There are a lot of controversies with a nanotechnology since nano particles can travel through our blood stream, enter our organs such as liver or brain and can cause damages.  (because they are so small in size)

So if nanoparticles are so small, can they be absorbed through skin? They were suspected to penetrate into skin in the past due to their small size. However, studies have found that nano particles do not penetrate into a deeper layer of skin. Therefore, they concluded that topical application of sunscreen with nano particles are safe.   Inhaling nanoparticles, on the other hand, is harmful since nanoparticles can travel through lungs.

So if topical application of nano particle sunscreen is safe, does it matter if we choose nano or non-nano particles? You can decide after reading about nanoparticles of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are both photocatalysts. That means when zinc oxide or titanium dioxide is exposed to sunlight, they can generate free radicals and cause cellular damage. Free radicals damage DNA and cells, and cause negative health effects such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, atherosclerosis and other illness.  When particles are nano-size, they are more affected by sunlight so they will generate free radicals more and faster.

One good news is that our skin’s own antioxidants can stop free radicals and also prevent free radical damage before it occurs. However, this is done to a certain degree. Although  antioxidants neutralize free radicals, if there are more free radicals than antioxidants in our body, excess free radicals can cause damage and aging due to oxidative stress.  Therefore, you can still get damage from free radicals if your body is going through oxidative stress. In order to avoid free radicals, manufacturers coat nano particles of zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. When zinc oxide is coated, it becomes photo-stable and does not produce free radicals. So do we choose coated nano particles then?  Nano technology is still fairly new and there hasn’t been enough studies done about its long term effects and other potential problems.  Coated Nano particles are, however, still better than chemicals in chemical-based sunscreens.  I personally do not want nanoparticles in my sunscreen so I choose non-nano particle sunscreens.

However, just because a sunscreen says it has non-nano particles, it doesn’t mean the particles are 100% non-nano. Often, non-nano particles are made by grinding larger particles to smaller size (they call this micronized). While grinding larger particles, some nano-sized particles can be produced because grinding doesn’t always produce equal-sized particles. Equal-sized particles are produced using a different method and they are called micron-sized particles.  According to EWG’s article, a sunscreen is considered non-nano if more than 50% of the particles are larger than 100nm. So that means 49% could be nano-sized particles.  However, manufacturers are not required to list the quality of particles, therefore, you may just see ‘non-nano’ indication on the sunscreen. That means unless the manufacturer indicate the particles of their sunscreen are micron-sized or 100% non-nano, there is a chance that nano-particles are included in ”non-nano’ sunscreens.

 

 

Avoid A Spray Sunscreen

Some studies concluded topical application of nanoparticles are safe since nanoparticles do not penetrate into a deeper skin level. However, inhaling nanoparticles is not safe since it can enter our lungs and travel through our blood stream to get to other organs of our body.  Nanoparticles of zinc oxide has respiratory toxicity concerns when inhaled.  Nanoparticles of titanium dioxide is also classified as a possible carcinogen according to the International Agency for Research Cancer (IARC). The European Chemicals Agency (Echa) also proposed  nanoparticles of titanium dioxide to be classified as suspected of causing a  cancer when inhaled.  Nanoparticles of titanium dioxide or zinc oxide can be inhaled while spraying a sunscreen with those ingredients. Therefore, spray sunscreens are not recommended.

 

 

Coated Vs Uncoated Zinc Oxide

Zinc oxide (also titanium dioxide) can be coated or uncoated when used as an ingredient in the sunscreen. Coating is done to reduce the photocatalytic activity when zinc oxide is exposed to sunlight.   Coating materials include paraffin, silicone, aluminum, capric/caprylic, triethoxycaprylylsilane. Coating can dramatically reduce the UV reactivity by as much as 99 percent. Therefore, uncoated zinc oxide is more photo-reactive than coated one. However, the rate of reactivity is still very low compared to that of titanium dioxide, nanoparticle zinc oxide and other chemical sunscreen active ingredients. What is good about uncoated zinc oxide is that zinc oxide is natural.  Natural zinc oxide has anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and anti-microbial effects.

Coatings, on the other hand, can have some problems although it reduces UV reactivity. There is always a possibility that zinc materials are not completely coated. When zinc oxide particles are not completely coated and they are not stable, then they can still have photocatalytic activity. The coating can also break down over days or weeks if the sunscreen is stored for too long. In addition, coating can leach chemicals. For example, when zinc oxide is coated with aluminum, the coating can release aluminum. Also, when zinc oxide is coated with dimethicone/ silicone, it is not biodegradable and will harm our environment.

In short,  uncoated zinc oxide is more natural (leaching-free, biogradable, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and anti-microbial) whereas coated zinc oxide offers protection from  free radicals. (although may not be 100%) Therefore, you can choose whichever you may feel more comfortable with between uncoated or coated. I personally feel more comfortable with natural option which is uncoated.

 

 

Non Toxic Sunscreens For Face And Body

 

Badger SPF 35 Sport Sunscreen Cream – Non Toxic Sunscreen

EWG’s Skin Deep Toxic Rating Score: 1
(1 being lowest, 10 being highest)

Protection against UVA & UVB: Yes

100% Certified Natural and 94% Certified Organic

Just 5 ingredients and no added scent

SPF 35

Water resistant for 80 min.

Non-GMO certified by NSF, cruelty-free certified, biodegradable, no animal testing

Container is BPA and phthalate-free, made of >35% PCR recycled #2 plastic.

Active Sunscreen Ingredient:
Non-Nano, Uncoated Zinc Oxide 22.5%

Base Ingredients:
*Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, *Cera Alba (Beeswax), *Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Tocopherol (Sunflower Vitamin E).

*=Certified Organic

More Info

 

 

Badger SPF 35 Sport Sunscreen Face Stick – Non Toxic Sunscreen

EWG’s Skin Deep Toxic Rating Score: 1
(1 being lowest, 10 being highest)

Protection against UVA & UVB: Yes

98% Organic Ingredients Certified by NSF

SPF 35

Water resistant for 80 min.

Non-GMO certified by NSF, cruelty-free certified, biodegradable

Container is BPA and phthalate-free, made of >35% PCR recycled #2 plastic.

Active Sunscreen Ingredient:
Non-Nano, Uncoated Zinc Oxide 22.5%

Base Ingredients:
*Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, *Cera Alba (Beeswax), *Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter, *Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Tocopherol (Sunflower Vitamin E).

*=Organic

More Info

 

Green Screen Organic Sunscreen – Non Toxic Sunscreen

 

EWG’s Skin Deep Toxic Rating Score: 1
(1 being lowest, 10 being highest)

Protection against UVA & UVB: Yes

SPF 31 (97% UV protection)

86% Certified Organic Ingredient Formula

Biodegradable, Safe for Protected Aquatic Parks, Reef-Safe

tinted to blend with skin tones

Active Sunscreen Ingredient:
Uncoated except for the extra virgin olive oil to wet the particle surface easily.

Non-nano Zinc Oxide 25% (100% non-nano particles)

 

The zinc oxide Kabana uses is non-nano, and not-micronized (it is not crushed to size which produces nanoparticles); there are zero zinc oxide nanoparticles in our formulas.

Particle Size: 0.26 micron with SD of 0.012 micron so there are statistically zero nanoparticles (<0.1 micron=100nm) in the size distribution.

Base Ingredients:  Eldorado Springs Artesian Water, Certified Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Certified Organic Jojoba Oil, Vegetable Glycerine, Organic Shea Butter, Vegetable Emulsifying Wax NF (cetearyl alcohol & polysorbate 60 from COCONUT!!), Vegetable Vitamin E (non-gmo from sunflower seeds), Iron Oxides

More Info

 

 

Babo Botanicals Sunscreen  – Non Toxic Sunscreen

 

EWG’s Skin Deep Toxic Rating Score: 1
(1 being lowest, 10 being highest)

Protection against UVA & UVB: Yes

SPF 30

Water resistant for 80 min.

Cruelty-free certified

Active Ingredient:  Zinc Oxide 19.0% (100% Non-Nano)

Particle Size:  >100 nm

Inactive Ingredients: Aloe Barbadensis Leaf (Aloe Vera Gel) Juice*, Aqua (Deionized Water), Argania Spinosa (Argan) Oil*, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter*, Calendula Officinalis Extract,* Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside, Caprylyl Glycol, Caryodendron Orinocense (Kahai) Oil, Chamomilla Recutita (Chamomile) Extract*, Glycerin*, Glyceryl Stearate, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Oil*, Hexylene Glycol, Hippophae Rhamnoides (Sea Buckthorn) Oil), Hydroxyethylcellulose, Nasturtium Officinalis (Watercress) Extract*, Polyhydroxystearic Acid, Potassium Sorbate, Pueraria Lobata (Kudzu) Extract*, Rosa Canina (Rose Hips) Oil*, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Extract*, Sodium Bicarbonate, Spiraea Ulmairia (Meadowsweet) Extract*, Stearic Acid, Xanthan Gum, Zemea (Corn) Propanediol.

*Certified Organic Ingredients

More Info

 

 

Babo Botanicals Sunscreen Sport Stick – Non Toxic Sunscreen

EWG’s Skin Deep Toxic Rating Score: 1
(1 being lowest, 10 being highest)

Protection against UVA & UVB: Yes

SPF 30

Water resistant for 80 min.

Cruelty-free certified

Active Ingredients: Zinc Oxide 15.0% (100% Non-Nano)

Inactive Ingredients: Beeswax*, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter*, Calophyllum Tacamahaca (Tamanu) Seed Oil*, Euphorbia Cerifera (Candelilla) Wax, Jojoba Esters, Octyldodecyl Oleate, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Oil*, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil*, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil*, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter*, Tocopherol.

*Certified Organic Ingredients

More Info

All Good SPF 30 Sport Sunscreen Lotion – Non Toxic Sunscreen

 

Non Toxic Sunscreen - All Good Sport Sunscreen

Non Toxic Sunscreen – All Good Sport Sunscreen

EWG’s Skin Deep Toxic Rating Score: 1
(1 being lowest, 10 being highest)

Protection against UVA & UVB: Yes

SPF 30

Water resistant for 80 min.

biodegradable, coral reef friendly, vegan

Active Ingredient:Zinc Oxide 12% (Non-nanoparticle)
Coated with jojoba esters only for smoother application
Particle Size: Their zinc has been third party tested to be 100% above 200nm with an average size of 270nm.

Inactive Ingredients: Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe) Leaf Juice*, Bentonite, Calendula Of cinalis (Calendula) Flower*, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract*, Caprylhydroxamic Acid, Caprylyl Glycol, Carthamus Tinctorius (Saf ower) Seed Oil*, Cellulose Gum, Cetearyl Alcohol, Cetyl Alcohol, Coco-Glucoside, Glycerin, Helianthus Annuus (Sun ower) Seed Oil*, Heptyl Undecylenate, Jojoba Esters, Mauritia Flexuosa (Buriti) Fruit Oil*, Methyl Dihydroabietate, Microcrystalline Cellulose, Octyldodecyl Oleate, Olea Europaea (Olive) Oil*, Rosa Canina Fruit Oil*, Rubus Idaeus (Raspberry) Fruit Extract*, Water (Aqua).Certified Organic to USDA/NOP Standards.

More Info

 

 

LureLux Organic Sunscreen – Non Toxic Sunscreen

EWG’s Skin Deep Toxic Rating Score: N/A

Protection against UVA & UVB: Yes

SPF 25 (94% UV absorption)

100% Organic, All Natural and Eco-Friendly ingredients

Vitamin D2 included in sunscreen for additional anti-aging properties.

Biodegradable, reef friendly

Active Ingredients: Zinc Oxide 15%

Inactive Ingredients: Fresh Organic Hand Filleted Aloe Vera Leaf, Fresh Spring Water, Vitamin D2 Extracted From Fresh Mushrooms, Grape Seed Oil, Beeswax, Vegetable Wax,  Fermented Horseradish, Grapefruit Extract, Pineapple and Coconut Extract (Natural Fragrance)

More Info

 

 

Final Thoughts

The best way to cover harmful rays is to stay in shades, cover the sun with clothes and hats. Unfortunately, we can’t always cover the sun that way so there is a need for a sunscreen. UVB and UVA rays can cause long term skin damage and skin cancer, therefore, protection from the sun is a must. However, most sunscreens available in the market have harmful ingredients. Better ingredient sunscreens which are mineral-based sunscreens also have things to be careful about.  Many mineral-based sunscreens including the best ingredient ones, zinc oxide sunscreens use nanoparticles.  Nanoparticles have been controversial for safety and there are still many uncertainties. Although studies have concluded that nanoparticles do not penetrate into a deeper layer of skin to go into our body, I still do not want nanoparticles in the sunscreens in case of unknown long-term problems could occur. Also, it is possible that many non-nano sunscreens can still have nano particles in them.  Therefore, I only like the companies who indicate their particles as 100% non-nano or micron-sized nano particles.

Nanoparticles of zinc oxide or titanium dioxide can be coated to prevent them from generating free radicals. However, there are some problems with coatings as well since they can breakdown or not coated 100%. It can also leach chemicals depending on the coating. Therefore, I like uncoated zinc oxide if I have to choose. Our skin’s antioxidants can stop damage from free radicals on their own anyway. However, this is only possible when your body has enough antioxidants. Therefore, provide a good supply of antioxidants in your skin and eat healthy food  such as lots of fruits and vegetables.  This can help you reduce the risk of free radicals damaging your skin.  Lastly, although spray products are easy to use, it should be avoided since many studies claim inhaling nanoparticles are dangerous.  Nanoparticles of titanium dioxide are possible carcinogens when inhaled.

From my listing, I like Badger Sunscreen,  Baby Botanicals Sunscreen and Green Screen Organic Screen. They all use 100% non-nano or micron-sized particles. They also use zinc oxide close to 20% as an active ingredients. None of their ingredients are harmful. Badger Sunscreens have organic ingredients in them and Babo Botanicals Sunscreens & Green Screen Organic Sunscreen use certified organic ingredients. Non-nano particle sunscreens will most likely have a white cast. (Nano particles provide more transparency) Larger particles sits on your face to create blockage from the sun rather than getting absorbed through skin. Although a white cast in sunscreen  is not ideal, I don’t mind a little white cast in exchange of safe, non-toxic ingredients.

 

 

If you are interested in reading how sunscreen can be toxic and which baby sunscreen brands are safe, please read my previous post, ”Non Toxic Baby Sunscreen Guide – Which Baby Sunscreen Brands Are Safe?)  

 

PLEASE SHARE THIS POST WITH YOUR FRIENDS OR LEAVE ME A COMMENT! 🙂

 

 

 

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