How to Stay Safe in the Sun

One of my scariest recent discoveries is how harmful your conventional sunscreen can be. Everyone talks about the dangers of the sun, but hardly anyone knows that your sunscreen can also cause cancer! Crazy, right?

What makes sunscreen unsafe?

Here is a list of 7 things to watch out for in sunscreen:

  • Oxybenzone – This is one of the most popular ingredients in chemical-based sunscreens, providing broad-spectrum UV coverage. The problem is that it's also absorbed by your skin, enters your blood stream and can stay in your body. It’s known to be an allergen, hormone disrupting, and has been linked to hormone-related cancers in both men and women, as well as early puberty and low sperm count.
  • Retinyl Palmitate/Vitamin A – Retinyl Palmitate is a form of Vitamin A commonly used in sunscreens. Thing is, Vitamin A can be great for your skin helping with wrinkles and acne (as it converts to retinoic-acid), BUT when applied to the skin in the presence of sunlight, it can speed the development of malignant, cancer-causing cells in the skin. 
  • Sprays – Aerosol cans release additional toxic chemicals that are easily inhaled (and these chemicals are often not tested nor approved). Also, they may not produce an even or thick enough coat on your skin.
  • Fragrance – Fragrance/Perfume is a petroleum based product that is linked to organ toxicity and allergies.
  • Parabens - Parabens are synthetic preservatives that allow your skin care products to survive for months (even years!) in your medicine cabinet, but they also enter your body through your skin. Similar to oxybenzone, parabens have been linked to hormone disruption, and issues including breast cancer, early puberty, and decreased sperm levels.
  • SPF above 50 - This one is a shocker, I know! Basically, there’s no scientific proof that SPF 50 and higher work better than lower SPF, but it may lead people to spend more time in the sun. Studies show that users are exposed to as many ultraviolet rays as those who use lower-SPF products. Also higher SPF requires higher concentration of sun-filtering chemicals, many of which pose serious health risks.
  • PABA – I list the one last because thankfully, most sunscreens nowadays are PABA-free. But not always, and it's important to be aware. PABA is a natural chemical found in folic acid (and various healthy foods) and is used in sunscreens for its natural ability to absorb UV rays. However, it has been found to increase sensitivity to allergic reactions, and potentially even damage DNA. Lesson: natural doesn't necessarily mean healthy/safe!

What should your sunscreen have?

Your sunscreen should be mineral-based (not chemical) with the primary ingredient being ZINC OXIDE, as well as TITANIUM DIOXIDE. These 2 ingredients are stable in sunlight and offer a good balance between protection from the two types of ultraviolet radiation (UVA and UVB) - which is key!

Ideally, they should be mixed with other natural ingredients that can provide extra sun protection and antioxidants.

Note- zinc oxide can leave a white film and be difficult to spread, so I recommend finding a lightweight or sheer option.

What's the best way to stay safe in the sun?

Thankfully, there are plenty of safe options available.

FIRST OPTION: Go out in the sun when the sun isn’t too strong (early morning or late afternoon), get only 15 minutes of direct sun, and then get in the shade. This way you get some sun rays to produce your much-needed Vitamin D, and can enjoy the beach under your umbrella with your beautiful beach hat and sunglasses (or for your kids and anyone a bit more active, use sun-proof beach clothes with long sleeves, and always a cap). No need for toxic sunscreen! 

Sunscreen will block your body’s ability to convert ultraviolet rays from the sun into Vitamin D. So getting some "sunscreen-free" sun, as little as 10-15 minutes, is a great way to avoid Vitamin D deficiency.

Vitamin D is VERY important for your overall health – it’s crucial for bone health (to avoid osteoporosis), to maintain proper calcium levels, to prevent insulin deficiency/resistance, to support a healthy menstrual cycle and fertility, to boost your immune system and prevent auto-immune disorders, and has even been linked to cancer prevention.  

ALSO, when your Vitamin D levels are low, you produce less of the chemical that controls your appetite (leptin). Basically, you won’t get the message that you’re full even when you’ve eaten plenty. So yep, vitamin D helps to control cravings and lose weight! Lastly, vitamin D helps to boost serotonin levels, aka your ‘happy hormone” so it can also prevent depression. Therefore, enjoying a bit of sunscreen-free sun can help keep you stay skinny and happy! (But please avoid peak sun hours and keep it to 10-15 minutes so you don’t burn or get wrinkles!)

I personally aim to get 15 minutes of sunshine most days without putting sunscreen on my body, as I walk to my gym/office under the beautiful Miami sun. And luckily, my Vitamin D levels are now normal!

SECOND OPTION: Enjoy the sun using a toxic-chemical-free sunscreen! The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has an amazing guide to safe sunscreens which they update every year based on further research and screening. Here is the link.

Here are some of my favorites:

For the FACE:

Tinted moisturizer with sunscreen:

For the BODY:


Enjoy the sun this summer (just not too much!) with your hat, sunglasses, and mineral sunscreen. Lastly, share this post with anyone you know that is still buying harmful chemical sunscreen!

Love and Sun,