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Some of the Most Toxic Sunscreens and Safer Options

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Health Issues page and our Coming Clean Campaign page.

Do you dutifully apply sunscreen on all of your exposed skin every time you go out in the sun? There are a few reasons why this widely circulated advice is counter to reason, one of which is the sunscreen itself.

Every year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases their annual guide to sunscreens,1 and this year's data again shows that you must be very cautious when choosing sunscreen to apply to your skin.

Two-thirds of the sunscreens analyzed by EWG did not work well or contained potentially hazardous ingredients. This included many of the most popular brands on the market.

If you use sunscreen purchased from a drug store, grocery store, or discount chain, there's a high chance your sunscreen is on EWG's worst sunscreens list. So do yourself (and your kids) a favor by getting up to speed which sunscreens are safe, and which are toxic, before slathering up again.

EWG Releases Toxic Sunscreens' List

Top-selling sunscreen brands including Neutrogena, Rite Aid, Walgreens "Well" brand, "Up and Up" brand from Target, and Coppertone were among those that made the most toxic list. Most contained the following three "red flag" ingredients. If you see them listed on the label of your sunscreen, throw it away and choose another:

1. Oxybenzone

This is one of the most troublesome ingredients found in the majority of sunscreens. Its primary function is to absorb ultraviolet light. However, oxybenzone is also believed to cause hormone disruptions and cell damage that may provoke cancer. According to EWG:2

" the chemical oxybenzone penetrates the skin, gets into the bloodstream and acts like estrogen in the body. It can trigger allergic reactions. Data are preliminary, but studies have found a link between higher concentrations of oxybenzone and health harms.

One study has linked oxybenzone to endometriosis in older women; another found that women with higher levels of oxybenzone during pregnancy had lower birth weight daughters."




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