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The Sunscreen Scaries: 5 Harmful Sunscreen Ingredients to Stay Away From

The Sunscreen Scaries: 5 Harmful Sunscreen Ingredients to Stay Away From

Sunscreen is full of chemicals that disrupt the body. Here’s the safe SPF you should be slathering on this summer...

Summer is right around the corner (June 20th).

Stores are stocking up on sunscreen with every SPF under the sun.

You’re slathering it all over your skin, the kids, the grandkids, and whoever else you can get your hands on.

Because protecting your skin from the ultra-radiant sun and its UV rays is your most important mission every single summer.

In this article, you’ll learn what UV rays are, what their unwanted side effects are, how to protect yourself from them, and what SPF you should be reaching for this summer.

What Are UV Rays?

Ultraviolet (UV) light is a type of invisible electromagnetic radiation that is emitted by the sun [1].

There are a few different types of solar UV energy—UVA, UVB, and UVC. The two that are the strongest and most damaging to living things are UVA and UVB [2].

Here’s how it works: Of the solar energy that reaches the equator, 95% is UVA and 5% is UVB. UVC is very unlikely to reach the earth’s surface due to things like ozone, molecular oxygen, and water vapor in the upper atmosphere [3].

Although the sun gets bashed for transmitting so much radiation, only 10% of its sunlight is UV.

Fun Facts about UV Rays

Here is everything you need to know about UV rays [4]...

  • UV rays are at their strongest between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM
  • UV rays are stronger during the spring and summer months
  • UV rays can get through to the ground, even on a cloudy day
  • UV rays can bounce off surfaces like water, sand, snow, pavement, and even grass (this means an increase in UV exposure)
  • Man-made sources of UV rays include tanning beds, UV therapy, black-light lamps, mercury-vapor lamps, plasma torches, and welding arcs

The Side Effects of UV Rays

The sun is what brings life to this earth—literally.

It’s what generates photosynthesis, weather patterns, and solar energy.

Despite all the good it does for us, there are safety measures to take. Because as the old adage goes, “Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing” (think: ice cream, wine, and a good movie).

You already know what happens when one gets too much sun: A red, painful, blistering sunburn.

Repeated sun exposure throughout one’s life is what leads to skin cancers like basal cell cancer, squamous cell cancer, and melanoma.

How to Protect Your Skin from the Sun

Believe it or not, there are good sunscreens and bad sunscreens.

When it comes to SPFs, there are 5 harmful ingredients you should be on the lookout for:

  1. Oxybenzone
  2. Octinoxate
  3. Homosalate
  4. Octisalate
  5. Octocrylene.

There are so many unsafe ingredients in our sunscreen because the FDA automatically grandfathered in these ingredients back in the 1970s without reviewing their potential hazards.

Fast forward to 2021...The only two active sunscreen ingredients that the FDA gave the “generally recognized as safe” (GRASE) badge or honor to are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide [5].

Even though this is a positive step in the right direction, there are still dozens of sunscreen products with those 5 chemicals listed above. The absolute worst of those is oxybenzone (also called benzophenone-3, not to be confused with benzophenone), which is linked to endocrine disruption, organ system toxicity, contact allergies, and photoallergies [6], [7].

Many people don’t realize that with just one application of sunscreen, those chemicals seep into your bloodstream and stay there for weeks. So much so that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention routinely find oxybenzone in 96% of Americans.

As your scrolling through sunscreens online or roaming the aisles of your local grocery store, be on the lookout for a mineral sunscreen that says “broad-spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection.”

Applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen will protect you from both UVA and UVB rays. And since UVB rays are the actual cause of sunburns and UVA rays are associated with aging because they penetrate deeper into the skin, this is crucial for the health of you and your skin [8].

The Difference between SPFs

SPFs over 30 don’t make too much of a difference in terms of protection. Here are the general guidelines:

  • SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB rays
  • SPF 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays
  • SPF 50 blocks 98% of UVB rays
Although there isn’t a sunscreen that can block all UV rays, an SPF 30 will do the job. But if you have fairer skin, you would benefit from an SPF 50 and the extra 1% protection it provides.

If your tropical vacay has you out in the sun all day, be sure to reapply your mineral sunscreen every 2 hours. Studies also show that a double application of sunscreen before sun exposure optimizes protection compared to a single application [9].

How Much Sun Should I Be Getting?

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends getting 5 to 15 minutes of sun exposure 2 to 3 times a week—without the application of sunscreen [10].

Once you exceed 5 to 15 minutes, it’s wise to slather on an SPF 30 sunscreen.

The Bottom Line

Sunlight is healthy.

Without it, we wouldn’t be alive. It’s what keeps us warm, what triggers the production of vitamin D and serotonin (the happy hormone), and what improves skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema, and acne [11], [12].

Once you’ve exceeded your weekly dose of sunshine, be sure to apply a broad-spectrum mineral sunscreen with an SPF 30 to keep your skin looking youthful and free of cancer, sun spots, and wrinkles.

As always, be sure to consult a health care professional before adding anything new to your diet, supplement, or exercise regimen. NativePath and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any diseases. All NativePath material is presented for educational purposes only.


  1. UV Radiation 
  2. 14th Report on Carcinogens cover
  4.  https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/radiation-exposure/uv-radiation 
  5. The Trouble With Ingredients in Sunscreens
  6.  Neurotoxic effect of active ingredients in sunscreen products, a contemporary review
  7.  Contact and photocontact allergy to octocrylene: a review
  8.  UV Radiation and the Skin
  9. Sunscreen use optimized by two consecutive applications
  10.  Radiation: The known health effects of ultraviolet radiation
  11.  Sunshine, Serotonin, and Skin: A Partial Explanation for Seasonal Patterns in Psychopathology?
  12.  Benefits of Sunlight: A Bright Spot for Human Health 




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Medical Disclaimer
This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Chad Walding nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.

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