5 Ingredients to Avoid in Sunscreen + FREE Sunscreen Stick

sunscreen ingredients

**If you want to know how to get your hands on a FREE sunscreen stick, go to the bottom of this post!

Sunscreen has been a hot topic recently, and it’s becoming more and more confusing for consumers to choose the right kind. I’ve written a blog post before discussing why I don’t use sunscreen and natural ways to prevent a sunburn, but going this method can be difficult and irrational during the summer or on a beach vacation when we are spending our time outdoors for an extended period of time.


While the sun is not the enemy and vitamin D from sunlight is essential and so beneficial for our health, there IS such a thing as too much of a good thing. This is why I recommend everyone to choose the best kind of sunscreen with the safest ingredients, if they know that they’re at a risk of getting a sunburn.

Unfortunately, so many sunscreens on the market contain toxic chemicals that contribute to hormonal problems and skin issues. Just like food, it’s so important to read the ingredients of all our skin care products because our skin is extremely absorbent, and anything we put on it enters our bloodstream. So what ingredients should we avoid when it comes to sunscreen?

1. Chemical filters 

Okay, so I’m grouping several chemicals under 1 ingredient unbrella, but some of the names you’ll see on the labels include: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate. All these chemicals are used to help the sunscreen penetrate in our skin more easily, and even more so when exposed to sunlight. They then accumulate in our bodies, burden our liver, and disrupt our hormones, throwing off our entire endocrine system.

A 2010 study of Swiss mothers by Margaret Schlumpf of the University of Zurich found at least one of these sunscreen chemicals in 85% of milk samples, which shows how much these toxins can be stored in the body and then be exposed to babies! These chemicals may also cause allergic reaction in the body, and produce free radicals that damage our cells and cause cancer.

2. Titanium dioxide nanoparticles

The jury is still out for this one, but nanoparticles are tiny particles that absorb the sun’s radiation. These particles are so small that they may be seeped into the skin and into the bloodstream and cause inflammation in the body. Titanium dioxide is a potential carcinogen, and can cause lung damage when inhaled.

This is a particular concern for me especially with children who regularly put their hands and feet (or anything, really) in their mouths. Also, I’ve accidentally swallowed sunscreen before when I go swimming after applying it on my face so this pertains to adults as well.

3. Spray sunscreen

Yes yes… I know this isn’t really an ingredient. However, I think it’s important to bring up. Spray sunscreen, while being convenient, can easily be inhaled by you and those around you, causing internal harm especially if you are using a chemical based sunscreen. It’s also flammable and can be toxic to the environment. If you read the labels on spray sunscreens, you can read warnings like, “If swallowed, get medical help or contact a Poison Center right away.” So… no thanks.

4. Retinyl palmitate or retinol

These are forms of Vitamin A that, while may be a great antioxidant on its own, is harmful when used on skin exposed to sunlight. Many skincare manufacturers add this ingredients to their products because they believe that it has anti-aging benefits. However, when it comes in contact with sunlight, retinyl palmitate may speed up the development of skin lesions and tumors. This is because when exposed to UV rays, these antioxidant compounds break down and produce free radicals that damage our DNA and may lead to skin cancer.

5. Parabens

Parabens are used as preservatives in sunscreens, and can be hard to identify because they have many names on the ingredients list. Here are some alternate names to help you locate them better:

Benzyl-parahydroxybenzoate (p-hydroxybenzoate)
Methyl-parahydroxybenzoate (p-hydroxybenzate)
Ethyl-parahydroxybenzoate (p-hydroxybenzoate)
Propyl-parahydroxybenzoate (p-hydroxybenzoate)
Butyl-parahydroxybenzoate (p-hydroxybenzoate)
Parahydroxybenzoate (p-hydroxybenzoate)

There are many reasons to avoid parabens. They disrupt hormones, they are associated with breast cancer, induce allergic reactions, and interfere with reproductive and developmental health. Parabens are used in many other skin care products, not just sunscreens, so remember to look out for them on all skin care products you use!

So… which sunscreen should I use?

The safest sunscreens to use are the ones that are formulated with zinc oxide. While chemical sunscreens “aborb” the sun rays and are potentially more dangerous when exposed to UV rays, zinc-based sunscreens physically block the sunlight without the harmful effects. You can do your own research to find the best brand, or take a look at Environmental Working Group (EWG)’s top sunscreens that meet their tough safety criteria.

sunscreen ingredients

My favorite sunscreen that’s been working great for me this summer is Beautycounter’s Protect All Over Sunscreen. It has a EWG rating of 1 (which basically translates to A+) with SPF 30, and I love that it’s not oily and it doesn’t leave white marks on my skin!

FREE sunscreen stick for you!

**This offer has now ended.

Because I’m so passionate about protecting our skin the right way when it comes to the sun, I’m giving away a FREE Beautycounter Sunstick ($18) when you make a purchase of $50 or more on Beautycounter through me! Just make sure that you see my name (Jean Choi) as your consultant when you shop through this link.


This sunstick is small enough to carry in your purse, so easy to apply even for kids, waterproof, and works extremely well! This offer is good for the entire month of July. It’s a great way to enjoy the sun and outdoors this summer while loving on your skin as well!

5 Ingredients to Avoid in Sunscreen

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