bad ingredients in sunscreen

13 Bad Ingredients in Sunscreen: The BS List!

Ever feel like you need a chemistry degree to understand what’s in your sunscreen?

You’re not alone! 

It’s like decoding a secret language where every ingredient ends in “-zone” or “-ate.” 

But don’t sweat it! We’re here to cut through the chemical BS and dish out the dirt on which bad ingredients in sunscreen could be detrimental to our hormone health, and causing damage to marine eco systems around the world.  

Article at a Glance:

Quick List: The 13 Bad Ingredients in Sunscreen to Check on Labels

History and Regulations of Bad Ingredients in Sunscreen

Key Considerations When Choosing Safe Alternatives To Chemical Sunscreen 

Quick List: The 13 Bad Ingredients in Sunscreen to check on labels

bad ingredients in sunscreen to avoid

Understanding the Bad Ingredients in Sunscreen: History and Regulation

When choosing sunscreen, the goal is to find products that offer effective UV protection while being free from chemicals that could harm your health or the environment. This decision-making process requires knowledge of which ingredients have been identified as potentially harmful and an understanding of the regulatory landscape surrounding these substances.

Historical Context of Sunscreen Ingredients 

Sunscreen formulations have evolved significantly over time. Early sunscreens, developed in the mid-20th century, often contained ingredients like PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid) and benzophenones, including oxybenzone and dioxybenzone, known for their effective UV absorption. However, as scientific research advanced, concerns emerged about these and other chemicals’ health and environmental impacts.

Concerns and Research 

Studies began to link certain sunscreen ingredients to adverse health effects, such as hormonal disruption and increased skin allergy risks. For example, oxybenzone was found to mimic estrogen and could potentially affect reproductive health. Concurrently, environmental research highlighted the detrimental effects of these chemicals on marine ecosystems, particularly coral reefs, leading to widespread coral bleaching and degradation.

Laws and Regulations 

In response to growing scientific evidence and public concern, some regions and countries have started to regulate or ban specific sunscreen ingredients. For instance, Hawaii became the first state in the U.S. to ban the sale of sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate in 2018, due to their harmful impact on coral reefs. Other places, including Key West (however, this ruling was sadly overturned by the Florida Governor) and Palau, have followed suit with similar bans to protect marine life.

Moreover, the European Union and Canada have established stricter regulations on using certain sunscreen chemicals, demanding more comprehensive safety data and imposing limits on concentrations allowed by sunscreen manufacturers.

The Shift to Safer Alternatives 

With the FDA pushing for more research into the effects of these chemical’s UV blockers, the popularity of natural mineral-based and “reef-safe” sunscreens has skyrocketed. Unlike chemical filters, these minerals (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) provide UV protection by sitting on the skin’s surface and reflecting UV rays, posing fewer health risks and minimizing environmental impact.

As research continues and laws evolve, consumers are increasingly guided towards products that are both effective in sun protection and responsible in their health and environmental footprint.

🔎 Reasons You Need to Know the Sunscreen Ingredients to Avoid 

Understanding the potential dangers of certain chemical sunscreen ingredients is vital:

  • Health Risks: Some chemicals can disrupt hormones or cause allergic reactions.
  • Environmental Impact: Ingredients like oxybenzone and octinoxate have been linked to coral reef damage.
  • Making Informed Decisions: Knowing which ingredients to avoid helps you choose safer products.

Recognizing these risks equips you with the knowledge to choose sunscreen products that are good for you and the earth.

Switching to natural sunscreens with hydrating ingredients is the ultimate solution to this problem.

The BS List! The Full List of Bad Ingredients in Sunscreen

Here’s the “BS List” – 13 potentially harmful ingredients commonly found in sunscreens that you might want to avoid for a safer sun experience.

1. Oxybenzone: The Hormone Hijacker

Research and Background: Utilized for its UV absorption, concerns about oxybenzone’s safety have risen due to its endocrine-disrupting properties.

Health Effects of Oxybenzone: It mimics estrogen, potentially affecting hormonal balance and reproductive health, with studies linking it to conditions like endometriosis and lower sperm counts.

Environmental Impact: It is notorious for causing coral bleaching, leading to bans in areas like Hawaii to protect marine life.

oxybenzone in sunscreen banned

2. Octinoxate: The Coral Killer

Research and Background: Octinoxate, a chemical commonly found in sunscreens for UV protection, is endocrine-disrupting, sparking health and environmental debates.

Health Effects of Octinoxate: Can disrupt hormone functions, with potential reproductive toxicity concerns, prompting calls for safer alternatives.

Environmental Impact: Known to harm coral reefs and marine ecosystems, contributing to the push for bans in sensitive areas.

Four studies published in 2020, after the FDA released its draft proposal, support previous findings that oxybenzone can act as an endocrine disruptor and may increase the risk of breast cancer and endometriosis.


3. Homosalate: The System Disruptor

Research and Background: Homosalate absorbs UV rays but has come under scrutiny for its potential hormonal effects and environmental persistence.

Health Effects of Homosalate: Suspected of disrupting estrogen and testosterone, with concerns about its ability to enhance pesticide absorption in the body.

Environmental Impact: Potential for bioaccumulation and toxicity in aquatic environments, indicating a need for more research.

4. Octocrylene: The Allergen Accomplice

Research and Background: Octocrylene stabilizes sunscreens and absorbs UV rays, but its allergenic and possible endocrine-disrupting effects are concerning.

Health Effects of Octocrylene: Linked to skin allergies and potential hormonal activities, necessitating further health impact studies.

5. Avobenzone: The Unstable Protector

Research and Background: Avobenzone is favored for UVA protection but criticized for its instability and potential degradation into harmful byproducts.

Health Effects of Avobenzone: Concerns include skin irritation and free radical release, which could potentially lead to skin aging and cancer risk.

avobenzone bad ingredient in sunscreen

6. Cinoxate: The Lesser-Known Irritant

Research and Background: Cinoxate is used in sunscreens for UV protection, but its risk profile is less clear, necessitating further investigation.

Health Effects of Cinoxate: Known to cause skin sensitization and irritation, highlighting the need for comprehensive safety data.

7. Dioxybenzone: The Double Trouble

Research and Background: Dioxybenzone provides strong UV protection but shares oxybenzone’s concerns regarding endocrine disruption and environmental harm.

Health Effects of Dioxybenzone: Its ability to penetrate the skin and mimic hormones raises serious health concerns, emphasizing the need for safer alternatives.

Environmental Impact: Poses risks to coral reefs and aquatic life, mirroring the ecological threats of oxybenzone.

In 2021, the Food and Drug Administration, which governs sunscreen safety, proposed its most recent updates to sunscreen regulations. It found that only two ingredients, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, could be classified as safe and effective, based on the currently available information.


8. Ensulizole: The UVB Absorber

Research and Background: Preferred for its light texture and UVB protection, ensulizole’s safety profile, particularly regarding skin penetration, is debated.

Health Effects of Ensulizole: Potential skin irritation and sensitivity issues require more thorough long-term safety studies.

9. Meradimate: The Under-Scrutinized Filter

Research and Background: Meradimate offers UVA protection but lacks extensive safety data, leading to concerns about its long-term health effects.

Health Effects of Meradimate: The lack of comprehensive safety data necessitates further research to understand its health implications fully.

10. Octisalate: The Stabilizer with Side Effects

Research and Background: Octisalate absorbs UVB rays and stabilizes sunscreen formulas, but its skin penetration and irritation potential raise safety concerns.

Health Effects of Octisalate: Concerns focus on skin irritation and potential systemic absorption, highlighting the need for detailed safety assessments.

11. Padimate O: The Allergy Activator

Research and Background: A derivative of PABA, Padimate O is scrutinized for its UV protection efficiency and allergenic potential.

Health Effects of Padimate O: Known to cause skin allergies and sensitivities, its chemical lineage to PABA underlines the need for cautious use in sunscreens.

12. Sulisobenzone: The Skin and Eye Irritant

Research and Background: Sulisobenzone blocks UV rays but has been flagged for its potential to irritate skin and eyes and cause allergic reactions.

Health Effects of Sulisobenzone: Its irritant properties and potential for allergic responses necessitate careful consideration in product formulations.

Sulisobenzone: The Skin And Eye Irritant

13. Parabens: The Preservative

Research and Background: Used widely as preservatives, parabens are examined for their estrogen-mimicking effects and environmental persistence.

Health Effects of Parabens: Associated with reproductive health issues and cancer risks, leading to a surge in demand for paraben-free products.

Environmental Impact: Their presence in waterways and wildlife raises concerns about their long-term ecological effects.

Key Considerations When Choosing Safe Alternatives to Chemical Sunscreen

Selecting the right sunscreen goes beyond just looking at the SPF; it’s crucial to scrutinize the active ingredients to ensure you’re not exposing yourself to potential adverse health outcomes.

Active Ingredients and Their Impact

The active ingredients in sunscreen are the compounds that actually protect your skin from UV radiation. Chemical ingredients like oxybenzone and octinoxate have been widely used because they are readily absorbed into the skin, providing effective UV protection. However, this property also means they can enter the bloodstream and affect other bodily systems. Research has linked these chemicals to various adverse health outcomes, including hormonal disruption and increased skin allergy risks.

In contrast, physical blockers like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide sit on the skin’s surface and reflect UV rays rather than being absorbed. These ingredients are less likely to cause systemic health issues and are often recommended for those with sensitive skin or health concerns related to chemical sunscreens.

Spray Sunscreen Considerations

While spray sunscreens are popular for their ease of application, it’s essential to consider the inhalation risks associated with aerosolized particles. The active ingredients in spray sunscreens can be inhaled into the lungs, potentially leading to respiratory issues or internal exposure to chemicals meant only for external use. Therefore, when using spray sunscreens, especially those with chemical active ingredients, it’s important to apply them in well-ventilated areas and avoid inhaling the mist.

Choosing ‘Reef-Safe’ Sunscreens

The term “reef-safe” refers to sunscreens that do not contain chemicals known to harm marine life, such as oxybenzone and octinoxate. Choosing products labeled as “reef-safe” helps protect aquatic ecosystems, particularly coral reefs, from the adverse effects of sunscreen chemicals.

In summary, when selecting sunscreen, it’s important to consider both the SPF and the active ingredients to minimize the risk of adverse health outcomes and environmental damage. 

Choosing products with physical blockers like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide and choosing “reef-safe” formulas can contribute to safer sun protection for both individuals and the environment. When using spray sunscreen, take precautions to avoid inhalation and ensure safe application.

Organic Face Sunscreen Tinted Mineral SPF 50

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Hydrating, antioxidant-boosted natural face sunscreen crafted for adventure and endurance sports.

Level Up Your Sunscreen: Natural Ingredients for More Than Just Sun Protection

Let’s break down what’s really going into that tube of mineral sunscreen and why it’s the good stuff for your skin. You don’t just want something that keeps the sunburn at bay; you want a sunscreen that’s working overtime to pamper your skin, right?

Antioxidants: The Damage Defenders 

Think of antioxidants as your skin’s personal bodyguards against sun damage. They tackle the nasty free radicals that the sun hurls at your skin. Now, Australian natives like the Kakadu plum are chock-full of vitamin C, a superstar antioxidant that helps prevent premature aging by promoting collagen production and brightening up your complexion. 

Let’s not forget vitamin E, the moisture master, which helps repair and protect skin from environmental stressors.

Hyaluronic Acid: The Hydration Hero 

Hyaluronic acid is the ultimate thirst quencher for your skin. This hydrating powerhouse pulls water into your skin cells, keeping them looking fresh and full. 

It’s like having a secret reservoir of moisture that keeps your skin hydrated even when the sun tries to dry you out.

Natural Oils: The Nourishing Base 

Now, onto the base of the sunscreen. We’re talking about natural oils that do more than make the sunscreen spreadable. These oils, like jojoba, coconut, or argan, are packed with nutrients and their own set of antioxidants. They’re the smooth operators that keep your skin feeling soft and supple, not to mention they’re way gentler for those with sensitive skin.

So, when you pick up that next bottle of mineral sunscreen, take a peek at the label. Finding one with these skin-loving ingredients means you’re getting sun protection and a lot of skin benefits packed into one powerful product. It’s like giving your skin a mini spa day while you lounge in the sun!

Wrapping Up: From Rooftops to Reformulating Sunscreen

As a roofer, slathered in whatever sunscreen I could get my hands on, I was clueless about what was actually in those tubes. I just needed something to fend off the sunburn. 

Finding out about the nasty chemicals I absorbed daily was a wake-up call and the spark that led to Skorcha Organic Suncare. 

I dove deep into the world of sunscreen ingredients, determined to craft a formula that’s not only effective but also kind to our bodies and the planet. Shifting from roofing to refining skincare has been quite the ride, but it’s been worth every moment.

I’m on a mission to spread the word about cleaning up the suncare industry and raising the bar on sun protection in the trades. 

It’s not just about avoiding sunburn; it’s about protecting our health and caring for our environment. Skorcha’s bottles are packed with the good stuff—antioxidants, hydrating agents, and natural oils—minus the bad.

So, as you venture outdoors, remember that choosing the right sunscreen goes beyond SPF. It’s a decision that impacts your skin and the wider world.

 Let’s make smarter choices together, one bottle of sunscreen at a time, because what we put on our skin matters – for our health and our planet’s future.

Why you can trust us:

  • Real-World Experience: Mick founded Skorcha Organic Suncare to provide effective organic and natural suncare products based on his 10 years of working under the sun as a roofer and door-to-door salesman.
  • Self-Testing: We live and breathe suncare and everything related to caring for your skin under the sun. If we haven’t tried it ourselves, we have researched it thoroughly.
  • Continuous Learning : Always learn about natural ingredients’ power for suncare and our skin health.

Want to know more? Visit our store


Which Sunscreen Ingredient Should I Avoid?

If you’re wondering which sunscreen ingredient to give a wide berth, keep your eyes peeled for oxybenzone. This guy is like the bad apple in the bunch. It’s not just that it loves to soak into your skin, but almost everyone in the U.S. has traces of it floating around in their bodies, especially those who use sunscreen regularly. So, when scanning those sunscreen labels, remember that oxybenzone is the one you might want to skip to keep things a bit safer for you and the environment.

What’s the Safest Sunscreen to Use?

When it comes to the safest sunscreen, mineral sunscreens take the crown. Unlike their chemical counterparts that can cause skin allergies or irritation—especially those sneaky ones like oxybenzone, cinnamates, and octocrylene—mineral sunscreens are much gentler on your skin. They use ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to block the sun’s rays, and the bonus is they don’t usually lead to skin reactions. So, if you aim for happy, healthy skin under the sun, going mineral is your best bet.

What are the banned chemicals in sunscreen?

You’ve probably heard the buzz about banning certain sunscreen chemicals, right? Well, oxybenzone and octinoxate are the ones in the hot seat. Places like Key West and Hawaii have kicked them to the curb because they’re just no good for our ocean buddies, messing up marine ecosystems like nobody’s business. And it’s not just the fish and corals that are getting the short end of the stick; there are some eyebrow-raising questions about how these ingredients might be affecting us humans too. So, when picking out your next sunscreen, you might think twice about including these in your beach bag.

What are the hormone disruptors in sunscreen?

When it comes to sunscreen and hormones, there are a few ingredients you might want to think twice about. Top of the list for hormone disruptors in the U.S. are aminobenzoic acid, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, and the infamous oxybenzone. Oxybenzone gets the most flak because it’s been called out for potentially messing with your body’s hormone levels. So, if you’re concerned about keeping your hormonal balance in check, you might want to check your sunscreen’s label for these ingredients.

What is the most harmful chemical in sunscreen?

Oxybenzone often tops the list when talking about the not-so-great stuff in sunscreen. This chemical is a bit of a troublemaker because it doesn’t just sit on your skin; it dives deep, gets into your bloodstream, and takes a little tour through your body. This could mess with various bodily systems, so oxybenzone gets a bad rap in sunscreen. So, next time you browse the sunscreen aisle, you might think twice about picking one with oxybenzone in the mix.

Mick Wadley

Mick Wadley – Founder of Skorcha

After a decade in the scorching sun as a roofer and going door-to-door in sales – I was forced to take my skin health seriously following a skin cancer scare before the age of 30.

So began my passion for suncare, which is both effective and natural. Crafted for adventure and endurance sports, Skorcha formulas are non-greasy, have no eye sting and absolutely no bullshit (100% Organic).

My goal is to share what I’ve learned about skin health and safe ingredients, inspiring happier, healthier lives through adventure, organic goodness and conservation!

Help us plant a mangrove tree with every Skorcha product sold to protect fragile marine ecosystems and support underprivileged communities around the world.

Statements made on this website have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Products sold on this website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Information provided by this website or this company is not a substitute for direct, individual medical treatment or advice. It is the responsibility of you and your healthcare providers to make all decisions regarding your health. Skorcha recommends that you consult with your healthcare providers regarding the diagnosis and treatment of any disease or condition.