Top 3 Safest Sunscreens

June 6, 2017

in Ask Dr Lisa

“Dr. Lisa, I have just begun trying to buy clean body products, and I know sunscreen is one product I have to do better with this year. Can you explain to me what bad ingredients I need to look for? And if you have a sunscreen you recommend or use, could you share it with me? Thank -you ahead of time. I love your website too. ” ~ Jenny NC

I live and grew up at the Jersey Shore so lazy summer beach days, splashing around in the ocean, jet skiing, paddle boarding, surfing, roaming the beaches and boardwalks, exploring the bays and just being in the sun was a part of each fun summer day. I recall my parents making sure we used sunscreen, but there was not an overly concern. In fact I remember, tan accelerators to be quite popular at one point (oh, my)!

Then skin cancer began to rise and parents everywhere made putting and reapplying sunscreen a top priority when going out in the sun. This became a must do to protect skin from the sun harmful UV radiation. However, at that time The Food and Drug Administration had not reviewed evidence of potential hazards of sunscreens. Even the FDA grandfathered in ingredients used in the late 1970s when it began to consider sunscreen safety, instead of evaluating each ingredient’s safety.

I noticed that sunscreen safety and effectiveness came into strong question in 2007 when The Environmental Working Group (EWG) launched its very first Sunscreen Guide that looked into some of the most common sunscreen ingredients being used. Since then, many sunscreen products sold in the U.S. are safer as federal regulators have cracked down on the ingredients in these products.

A Little But Very Crucial Sunscreen History

In 2010 EWG first voiced concerns about a vitamin A ingredient added to sunscreen known as retinyl palmitate. It was claimed to be harmful to the skin by increasing sensitivity to sunlight and government test data reported skin tumors and lesions on animals treated with this ingredient and exposed to sunlight. Upon their review, nearly 40 percent of products contained vitamin A . This makes you think, what other ingredients may be lurking in sunscreen?

In 2011 the FDA enacted the very first sunscreen rules requiring sunscreens that claim “broad spectrum” to pass a test to see if they contain ingredients that filters UVA rays. In 2014 EWG reviewed over 2000 sunscreens and over 257 brand where they found more than 75% of the sunscreens contained toxic chemicals with the potential to increase risk of cancer to those who use those brands. This was getting serious since the sunscreen business was exploding, but the safety of sunscreens was in jeopardy.

Think about this. Sunscreens are meant to protect us from skin cancer, but some of their ingredients were being found to possibly increase the risk of cancer. Say what?

The Food and Drug Administration also decided to set new sunscreen rules that removed some of the marketing claims, like “waterproof” and “sweat proof,” from product labels. However, the FDA allowed most sunscreens to claim preventing skin cancer. There is little scientific evidence to suggest that sunscreen alone reduces cancer risk, particularly for melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer. In fact, according to EWG, “the National Cancer Institute, the rate of new melanoma cases among American adults has tripled since the 1970s, from 7.9 per “100,000 people in 1975 to 25.2 per 100,000 in 2014. (NCI 2017), and the melanoma death rate for white American men, the highest risk group, has escalated sharply, from 2.6 deaths per 100,000 in 1975 to 4.4 in 2014.” (

Unfortunately we cannot ignore that despite the dangers of exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet radiation and a multi-billion dollar sunscreen industry, melanoma rates have tripled over the past three decades. From allergic reactions to cancer, there are a host of good reasons to stay away from toxic cosmetic ingredients in sunscreens today. It is time to pay attention!

In 2017, EWG studied the nine most commonly used sunscreen chemicals trying to determine their toxicity potential. The most dangerous of these ingredients is oxybenzone which is unfortunately added to nearly 65 percent of the non-mineral sunscreens. According to the EWG, oxybenzone can cause allergic skin reactions and has a harmful anti-androgenic effect in the body. For example, one study showed adolescent boys with higher oxybenzone measurements had significantly lower total testosterone levels, and another study reported decrease in testosterone in men, accompanied by a minor increase another male sex hormone, inhibin B. Although these studies were not entirely conclusive, they did demonstrate a need for further testing of sunscreen ingredients and their potentially harmful effects on body.

To summarize my above sunscreen history over the years, EWG states “sunscreen ingredients absorb into the blood, and some have toxic effects. Some release skin-damaging free radicals in sunlight, some act like estrogen and disrupt hormones, and several can cause allergic reactions and skin irritation.” So be aware. Check your sunscreen labels to avoid harmful ingredients.

EWG’s Top Sunscreen Offenders

If we look at the EWG 2016 Sunscreen Guide, listing the best and worst sun protection options for you and your family, the sunscreens that are the worst offenders contain oxybenzone (hormone-disrupter), containing retinyl palmitate (a vitamin A that has been linked to light sensitivity and  skin damage) and a SPFs above 50+ (broad spectrum usage) . And no, aerosol sprays are no safe either as the EWG says “can expose sensitive young lungs to potentially hazardous chemicals”, so do NOT use them.

 Ingredients to Avoid in Your Sunscreen

  • Oxybenzone
  • Octinoxate (Octylmethoxycinnamate), Octisalate, Octocrylenereproductive/ thyroid/ behavioral alterations in animals
  • Homosalate
  • Avobenzone
  • Mexoryl SX
  • Benzoic acid
  • Cinoxate
  • Dioxybenzone
  • Phenylbenzimidazole
  • Menthyl anthranilate, Methoxycinnamate, methylisothiazolinone
  • Parabens
  • Petrolatum, petroleum jelly, and mineral oil
  • Silicones
  • Synthetic fragrance ingredients

What Sunscreens Are Safe?

Before jumping into what sunscreens to use, let’s take a closer look at Ultraviolet (UV) rays which will give us a better understanding which sunscreen is safest. UV rays are known to carry ionizing radiation, resulting in a chemical reaction in our body. There are three types of UV rays; UVA, UVB, and UVC. UVA rays penetrate the deeper layers of skin which can cause damage, like premature aging and skin cancer. UVB rays reach the top layers of skin and can cause sunburn. UVC rays are absorbed by the ozone layer and are said to not be harmful.

Now let’s look at the two different types of sunscreens: chemical and mineral. Chemical sunscreens contain chemical ingredients which are absorbed into the skin when applied, allowing UVA rays to reach deeper skin layers and cause damage. Mineral sunscreens include mineral ingredients such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide which forms a barrier on top of skin. This means the sunscreen is not absorbed into the skin and reflects UV rays which ultimately prevents UVA rays from reaching the deeper skin layers.

The best and safest sunscreen is a hat and a shirt. No chemicals for the skin to absorb, no potential health problems as a result. Now, I know I can’t just end this article with “Hey, where a hat and shirt,” so onto what sunscreen to buy.

After reviewing many, my top 3 safest sunscreen picks to buy are the following:

Badger Baby SPF 30 Sunscreen Cream

Badger Balm SPF 30 Kids Sunscreen

Badger All Natural SPF 30 Sunscreen

What Sunscreen is the BEST to use?

The answer is making your own (which is quite easy to do actually).

Make Your Own- DIY Sunscreen Recipe

I decided that the only way to control what harmful ingredients go into my body through my skin is by me making my own body products. This was the only way I control and choose what gets absorbed into my body. My philosophy is very similar to eating. I make my own healthy meals so I decide what ingredients are in them. This is how my gut, brain and body can obtain ultimate health.

My favorite sunblock recipe is from Made on Hard Lotions. I met Renee Harris a few years ago through the internet and immediately fell in love with her DIY skin products. What caught my eye the most was her homemade sunscreen recipe which I could either order the ingredients myself or order a DIY Kit through her. My kids and I love her sunblock stick recipe.

I ordered her lotion/lip balm DIY Kit which was my very first DIY body product . I also bought  zinc oxide separately in her store to make the lotion into a sunscreen as I was hell bent on making sure my family’s sunscreen did not have cancer causing chemicals in them. My kids and I jumped right into learning how to make my own sunscreen lotion and sticks. You can too!

Today, we make our own sunscreen every June when the weather begins to get warm and my husband gets the pool ready and drive on beach pass. I also have been making my own body butters that focus on easing digestion, soothing sore muscles and headaches, relieving sinus congestion and moisturizing my face. It has been so far an amazing journey of making the easiest sunscreens, body butters and face creams that are all natural, pure and organic.

Go here to buy your own DIY kit from Made on Hard Lotion .While you are there, check out Renee’s all natural bug sticks, order the zinc oxide and more at her STORE here and use COUPON CODE: 10offDIY at check out to receive $10 off complimentary of Made On Hard Lotion. 

Smart Sunscreen Tips

Before we part from this topic, understand that sunscreens should be used wisely and even sparingly. The EWG suggests not to use a sunscreen with SPF higher than 50 to avoid exposing yourself to higher amounts of harmful sun-ray filter chemicals we discussed above. The SPF in a sunscreen protects for the UVB rays which can cause sun burn, but does not protect you from the UVA rays which can cause skin damage and skin cancer. This can cause a false sense of security when applying sunscreen, thinking you can be in the sun longer with extended protection.

Lastly and quite importantly, as a nutritionist I can assure you there is a massive vitamin D deficiency reported in our country.  Vitamin D plays a crucial role in bone and vitamin K development and support of the heart, immune and nervous system as well as in the prevention of cancer. The best way to get vitamin D is through sunlight. Therefore, it is wise to allow small amount of sunlight exposure to your unprotected skin for approximately 15-30 minutes a day. You can read my article Family Benefits of Vitamin D here to learn more.

Think before you buy and apply sunscreen, asking yourself did you get enough vitamin D exposure today, AND are you applying a lotion that is truly safe for your skin? When done correctly, you and your family will be safe and happy enjoying the warm fun summer days.


*Always read my disclaimer and photo is by Adobe. This page contains affiliate links meaning we earn a commission if you use those links. We only recommend brands we use and trust.


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