ingredients to avoid in sunscreen

What Ingredients to Avoid in Sunscreen (Check Your Labels)

Did you know there’s no strict rule on labeling something as ‘natural’, or ‘green’ in the world of sunscreens and beauty products? 

Yep, a product can have just a tiny splash of something organic and then boast being all safe and eco-friendly. But don’t be fooled… this doesn’t always mean it’s good for you or the earth.

Make it a habit to scan the ingredients list on your products. Here’s a quick heads-up on some common but sketchy ingredients in sunscreen that could be toxic and disrupting our hormone balance… steer clear!

Let’s learn how to choose natural & organic sunscreen for our health and the environment around us.

Article at a Glance:

Quick List of The Ingredients to Avoid in Sunscreen

10 Ingredients to Avoid in Sunscreen

Best Natural Alternative to Chemical Sunscreen

Quick List of The Ingredients to Avoid in Sunscreen

ingredients to avoid in sunscreen list

Brief History of The Ingredients to Avoid in Sunscreen

The history of sunscreen ingredients that have raised health and environmental concerns spans several decades. Initially, sunscreens were developed to prevent sunburn, with little consideration for long-term health impacts or environmental effects.

  1. 1970s-1980s : Early formulations often contained PABA (Para-Aminobenzoic Acid), which was later found to cause skin allergies and other adverse reactions, leading to its decreased use and eventual phase-out in many products.
  2. 1990s : Awareness grew regarding the broader spectrum of UV protection, and ingredients like oxybenzone and octinoxate became popular for their effective UV absorption. However, subsequent research revealed their potential as endocrine disruptors, affecting hormone levels and reproductive functions.
  3. 2000s : The focus shifted towards more comprehensive UVA protection, with avobenzone gaining popularity. Yet, concerns about its stability in sunlight and potential for free radical generation led to scrutiny.
  4. 2010s and Beyond : Environmental concerns came to the forefront, with studies highlighting the detrimental effects of certain chemical sunscreens on coral reefs and marine life, particularly oxybenzone and octinoxate. This led to bans in various regions, including Hawaii and Key West.
  5. Present : The dialogue around sunscreen safety has expanded to include not just UV efficacy but also the overall health and environmental impact. Consumers and regulatory bodies are now more vigilant about ingredients like homosalate, octocrylene, and others, leading to a rise in demand for mineral-based sunscreens with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which are considered safer for both humans and the environment.

This historical perspective shows a growing awareness and response to the complexities of sunscreen ingredients, balancing sun protection with health and environmental safety.

🔬 Ingredient Spotlight: Oxybenzone

Oxybenzone is an ingredient in approximately 80% of chemical sunscreens, as reported by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found oxybenzone in the blood of over 96% of Americans, noting increased levels during the summer.

Potential Health Risks:

Studies have shown it can affect estrogen and testosterone levels, leading to potential reproductive issues. Environmental impact is significant, as oxybenzone contributes to coral bleaching and damages marine ecosystems.

Reasons You Need to Know How To Check Sunscreen Labels

Knowing which sunscreen ingredients ingredient to avoid in sunscreen, is vital for:

  • Minimising exposure to potential toxins.
  • Protecting your skin from damage and premature aging.
  • Preserving marine ecosystems and reducing environmental impact.

Educating yourself on harmful sunscreen ingredients ensures you make healthier choices for both you and the planet.

List of Ingredients to Avoid in Sunscreen

To protect your health and the environment, be cautious of sunscreens containing these ingredients:

1. Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3)

Oxybenzone, a chemical UV filter, is readily absorbed into the skin and can mimic hormones, potentially disrupting the endocrine system. Studies have shown it can affect estrogen and testosterone levels, leading to potential reproductive issues. Environmental impact is significant, as oxybenzone contributes to coral bleaching and damages marine ecosystems.

popular sunscreen brands with oxybenzone

2. Octinoxate (Octylmethoxycinnamate)

Octinoxate, another UV filter, can disrupt hormonal balance by mimicking estrogen and affecting thyroid function. It is also known for its environmental toxicity, particularly in contributing to the degradation of coral reefs, affecting the health and resilience of marine life.

3. Homosalate

Homosalate, used in sunscreens to absorb UVB rays, can accumulate in the body over time. Research suggests it may disrupt estrogen, androgen, and progesterone hormones, raising concerns about its effects on the endocrine system and potential links to health problems like breast cancer.

4. Octocrylene

Octocrylene is stable in sunlight and provides UVB protection but can cause skin allergies and allergic reactions too. It is persistent in the environment, accumulating in water bodies and potentially impacting aquatic life. Concerns about its potential to act as a hormone disruptor are also growing.

5. Octisalate

Octisalate absorbs UVB rays and is used to stabilize avobenzone, but like other chemical filters, it can penetrate the skin and may have systemic effects. The full impact of octisalate on human health and the environment is not as well studied, which calls for caution and further research.

6. Avobenzone

Avobenzone offers broad-spectrum protection against UVA rays but can degrade in sunlight, leading to the release of free radicals that can damage skin cells and potentially contribute to aging and skin cancer. It often requires stabilizers like octocrylene to remain effective blocking sun exposure, which can compound potential health risks.

7. Retinyl Palmitate (Vitamin A Palmitate)

Retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A, is used in sunscreens for its antioxidant properties. However, when exposed to UV radiation, it can break down and produce free radicals that may accelerate skin damage and increase the risk of skin cancer.

8. PABA (Para-Aminobenzoic Acid)

PABA was once a common ingredient in sunscreens but has been largely phased out due to concerns over skin allergies and other adverse reactions, including photosensitivity and dermatitis. Its environmental impact, particularly in water ecosystems, has also been questioned.

9. Fragrance

Fragrances in sunscreens can contain numerous chemicals, some of which may cause allergies, dermatitis, or respiratory issues. They can also contain phthalates or other hidden ingredients that may have additional health risks, including endocrine disruption.

10. Parabens

Parabens are used as preservatives in many cosmetics, including sunscreens. They can mimic estrogen and disrupt hormone function, potentially leading to reproductive issues and increased cancer risk. Environmental and health concerns also arise as parabens can persist in water and soil, affecting wildlife and ecosystems.

Popular Sunscreens to Avoid

Avoid spray sunscreens, says the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

They’re tricky to apply right, and there’s a chance they could harm your lungs. Plus, we don’t fully know how their ingredients affect us long-term, similar to many other chemicals we use.

In 2021, a scare happened when benzene, a cancer-causing chemical, was found in spray sunscreens, leading to the recall of 14 big-name products. Turns out, this wasn’t a one-off issue.

For safe sun care, watch out for products rated poorly by EWG, especially those in the ‘Red Zone’ for safety. They’re just not worth the risk.

Here’s a list of sunscreens that have raised red flags (but it’s not the whole picture):

  • Banana Boat Kids MAX Clear Sunscreen Spray, SPF 100
  • Banana Boat Kids Clear Sunscreen Spray, SPF 65
  • Banana Boat Ultra Defense Clear Sunscreen Spray, SPF 100
  • Banana Boat Ultra Sport Clear Sunscreen Spray, SPF 100
  • Banana Boat Ultra Sport Clear Sunscreen Spray, SPF 65
  • Banana Boat Ultra Sport Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 100
  • Bare Republic Clearscreen Sunscreen Spray, SPF 100
  • COOLA Classic Body Sunscreen Spray, Peach Blossom, SPF 70
  • CVS Health Ultra Sheer Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 100
  • Equate Beauty Ultra Light Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 100
  • Hawaiian Tropic Weightless Hydration Sunscreen Clear Spray, SPF 70
  • La Roche-Posay Anthelios Ultra Light Sunscreen Lotion Spray, SPF 60
  • Neutrogena Beach Defense Water + Sun Protection Sunscreen Spray, SPF 70
  • Panama Jack Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 100
  • The Seaweed Bath Co. Sport+ Cooling Mist, Peppermint & Aloe, SPF 60
  • Alba Botanica Hawaiian Sunscreen Spray, Fragrance Free, SPF 70
  • Australian Gold Botanical Natural Sunscreen Spray, SPF 70

To get a clear understanding of your sunscreen, head over to and check their safety ratings.

Key Considerations For Successfully Choosing Safe Sunscreen

Choose Physical Blockers: Look for sunscreens containing Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide. These minerals act as physical barriers to UV radiation, reflecting it away from the skin, rather than absorbing it. They are less likely to cause skin irritation or hormonal disruption and are considered safe for coral reefs and aquatic life.

Read Labels Carefully: Beyond the active ingredients, scrutinise the entire ingredient list. 

Avoid products containing the harmful chemicals mentioned earlier, like oxybenzone, octinoxate, homosalate, octocrylene, avobenzone, octisalate, parabens, retinyl palmitate, PABA, fragrances, and phthalates.

Broad Spectrum Protection: Ensure the sunscreen offers broad spectrum protection, which shields skin from both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays penetrate deep into the skin and contribute to premature aging, while UVB rays cause sunburn and play a significant role in developing skin cancer.

SPF Value: Choose a sunscreen with an appropriate Sun Protection Factor (SPF). An SPF of 30 or higher is generally recommended, providing 97% protection against UVB rays, which is sufficient for most people under normal sun exposure.

Sensitive Skin Considerations: If you have sensitive skin, look for sunscreens that are fragrance free, hypoallergenic, and formulated for sensitive skin. These products are less likely to contain irritating ingredients.

Natural Sunscreen Ingredients

Enhancing Safe Sun Protection with Natural Ingredients

Seek natural sunscreen products offering additional skin benefits beyond basic UV defense. Here’s how you can find mineral sunscreen products that not only shield your skin from harmful rays but also enhance its health and appearance:

  1. Antioxidant Enrichment: Look for sunscreens that contain antioxidants like Vitamin C, Vitamin E, or Botanicals like Kakadu Plum that are high in these vitamins. These ingredients help neutralise free radicals generated by UV exposure, reducing oxidative stress and preventing signs of aging.
  2. Hydrating Agents: Choose sunscreens with hydrating ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, glycerin, aloe vera, or ceramides. These components help maintain the skin’s moisture balance, preventing dryness and enhancing the skin’s natural barrier function.
  3. Anti-Aging Components: Products that include anti-aging ingredients like niacinamide, peptides, or growth factors. These can help stimulate collagen production, improve skin elasticity, and reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.
  4. Natural and Organic Formulas: Look for sunscreens made with natural and organic ingredients, free from synthetic chemicals and preservatives. These formulas are often gentler on the skin and better for the environment.
  5. Broad Spectrum and Mineral Based: Ensure the sunscreen provides broad spectrum protection with mineral based ingredients like Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide. These minerals offer strong UV protection and are less likely to irritate the skin or cause environmental damage.

By selecting sunscreens that incorporate these beneficial ingredients, you can provide your skin with comprehensive protection against UV rays while also nourishing and enhancing its overall health and appearance.

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

Zinc Oxide Skin Health Benefits: The Best Natural Alternative to Chemical Sunscreen

Zinc Oxide stands out as a stellar alternative to chemical sunscreens, offering a myriad of benefits for skin health while ensuring effective sun protection. Here’s why Zinc Oxide is the go-to choice for those seeking a natural, skin-friendly sunscreen option:

  1. Broad-Spectrum Protection: Zinc Oxide provides extensive coverage against both UVA and UVB rays, preventing sunburn, photoaging, and the risk of skin cancer. Unlike chemical filters that absorb UV radiation, Zinc Oxide acts as a physical barrier, reflecting and scattering the sun’s rays away from the skin.
  2. Suitable for Sensitive Skin: Known for its gentle nature, Zinc Oxide is ideal for people with sensitive, reactive, or acne prone skin. It is non-irritating and less likely to cause redness or dermatitis, making it a safe choice even for those with conditions like rosacea, eczema, and contact dermatitis.
  3. Non Comedogenic: Zinc Oxide doesn’t clog pores, which is crucial for maintaining clear skin and preventing acne outbreaks. It’s an excellent option for those struggling with oily or acne-prone skin, as it helps manage sebum production and reduce inflammation.
  4. Natural Anti-Inflammatory Properties: This mineral has inherent anti inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, helping to soothe irritated skin, reduce redness, and combat acne causing bacteria.
  5. Supports Skin Healing: Zinc Oxide is not just for sun protection; it also promotes skin healing. It’s often used in treatments for minor skin irritations, wounds, and burns because it aids tissue repair and regeneration.
  6. Safe for the Environment: Zinc Oxide is environmentally friendly, unlike chemical sunscreen ingredients that can harm marine life and coral reefs. It doesn’t degrade into harmful byproducts, making it a preferable choice for eco-conscious consumers.

In conclusion, Zinc Oxide is more than just a sunscreen ingredient; it’s a comprehensive skin care powerhouse that offers protection, healing, and maintenance of healthy skin. Its broad-spectrum UV coverage, compatibility with sensitive skin, and environmental safety make it the superior natural alternative to chemical sunscreens, aligning perfectly with a holistic approach to skin health and wellness.

Read more about the skin health benefits of zinc oxide.

Wrapping Up and My Experience Learning About Which Sunscreen Ingredients to Avoid

In my journey with Skorcha, understanding and avoiding harmful sunscreen ingredients has been pivotal. 

My experience in metal roofing exposed me to intense sun exposure and highlighted the importance of effective and safe sun protection. I advocate for sunscreens that are not only effective but also safe for both our health and the environment. Choose wisely to protect your skin and our planet.

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 taking care of your skin under the sun. If we haven’t tried it ourselves, we have researched it thoroughly.
  • Continuous Learning: Always learn about the power of natural ingredients for suncare and our skin health.

Want to know more? Visit our store


What is the bad ingredient in sunscreen?

Many experts advise steering clear of sunscreens that contain oxybenzone. Studies indicate that this chemical can be absorbed into the body through the skin, potentially disrupting hormone functions and endocrine activities, with concerns particularly highlighted for children and pregnant women.

What is the safest sunscreen?

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), mineral sunscreens are deemed safer and more effective than many chemical sunscreens available, posing less risk to human health and marine ecosystems. Modern mineral sunscreens have improved significantly, offering options that minimize or eliminate the once-common issues of chalky texture and white residue.

Which sunscreen ingredient was banned?

Recent sunscreen regulations in places like Key West and Hawaii have led to the ban of oxybenzone (BP-3) and octinoxate (OMC), two frequently used sunscreen ingredients, because of their harmful impact on marine environments.

What substances in sunscreen can disrupt hormones?

Aminobenzoic acid, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, and oxybenzone are common hormone-disrupting chemicals in sunscreens in the United States. Oxybenzone, in particular, has been heavily scrutinized for its potential role as an endocrine disruptor.

Is oxybenzone in all sunscreens?

Oxybenzone is an ingredient in approximately 80% of chemical sunscreens, as the Environmental Working Group (EWG) reported. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found oxybenzone in over 96% of Americans, noting increased levels during the summer.

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.