2 min|Dr. Maya Kuczma

Integrative's Guide to SPF

Wellness, Health, Education

We’re big fans of sun protection, but we don’t love the overwhelm that can come from trying to pick a healthy sunscreen. 

We believe choosing sun protection should be easy - here are tips to keep in mind the next time you head to the store:

Avoid Potentially Harmful Chemicals

  • Oxybenzone: has been linked to damage to the coral reef and fish; may also be a hormonal disruptor in humans (1)

  • Avobenzone: this petrochemical, similar in structure to oxybenzone, degrades in the sun, and can become toxic to liver and kidneys when exposed to chlorine, a common ingredient in pools and tap water (2,3)

  • Octinoxate: harmful to coral reef and other aquatic organisms; suspected to also act as a hormonal disruptor in humans (4, 5)

  • Homosalate: research linking homosalate to hormonal disruption led the European Commission to recommend usage at a maximum concentration of 1.4%; the FDA has continued to allow up to 15% within sunscreens (6)

  • Octocrylene: studies have linked octocrylene to high rates of skin allergies, aquatic toxicity, as well as contamination with benzophenone, a known carcinogen (7)

Consider Your Skin Type

  • Acne prone skin may benefit from an oil-free formula
  • Sensitive skin may benefit from a zinc-based, unscented formula
  • Darker skin tones can benefit from formulas specifically made for melanin-rich skin, as they are less likely to leave a white residue
  • Mature skin may benefit from a moisturizing sunscreen

Keep An Eye on Protection Level

  • Look for a ‘broad-spectrum’ formula, as it protects against both UVA and UVB rays
  • Aim for SPF 30-50; an SPF rating above 50 offers marginal improvements in protection and can provide a false sense of security while in the sun (8)
  • If you planning on swimming, seek out a waterproof formula
  • Reapply every 2-4 hours - or more, especially if you’re sweating or in and out of the water
  • If in doubt, check out the EWG’s Guide to Sunscreen, where you can search their database for the health and safety information of hundreds of sunscreens

  1. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.co...
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27258620/
  3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019325656
  4. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Lydia-Ouchene/publication/337303921_Hawaii_and_Other_Jurisdictions_Ban_Oxybenzone_or_Octinoxate_Sunscreens_Based_on_the_Confirmed_Adverse_Environmental_Effects_of_Sunscreen_Ingredients_on_Aquatic_Environments/links/603c43bf4585158939d98151/Hawaii-and-Other-Jurisdictions-Ban-Oxybenzone-or-Octinoxate-Sunscreens-Based-on-the-Confirmed-Adverse-Environmental-Effects-of-Sunscreen-Ingredients-on-Aquatic-Environments.pdf
  5. https://assets.researchsquare.com/files/rs-1242496/v1/33633f28-3f38-47d7-8d58-586444d25778.pdf?c=1643387495
  6. https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/report/the-trouble-with-sunscreen-chemicals/
  7. https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/report/the-trouble-with-sunscreen-chemicals/
  8. https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/report/whats-wrong-with-high-spf/
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