Sunscreens to AVOID

With summer around the corner, I thought it would be nice to get a head start and talk about sunscreen before you run out and purchase some.  At Happy Food, all aspects of health are important including nutrition, exercise, food politics, mental health, work/life balance, relationships, and of course, skin care/cancer prevention.  I hope this helps.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) published a Sunscreen Guide and here are some guidelines:

  1. Don’t be fooled by high SPF. Anything higher than “SPF 50+” can tempt you to stay in the sun too long, suppressing sunburn but not other skin damage. FDA says these numbers are misleading. Avoid SPF 50+ and reapply often.
  2. Some sunscreens cause skin cancer. Eating vitamin A-laden vegetables is good for you, but spreading vitamin A on the skin may not be. New data show that tumors and lesions develop sooner on skin coated with vitamin A-laced creams. Vitamin A, listed as “retinyl palmitate” on ingredient labels, is in 41% of sunscreens.
  3. Avoid toxic ingredients. Avoid the sunscreen chemical oxybenzone, a synthetic estrogen that penetrates skin and contaminates the body. Look for zinc, titanium, avobenzone or Mexoryl SX. These substances protect you from harmful UVA radiation and remain on the skin, with little if any penetration. Also, skip sunscreens containing insect repellent – if you need bug spray, buy it separately and apply it first.
  4. Pick a good sunscreen. The best protection from the sun is shade, hat, and clothes. Check out EWG’s sunscreen ratings which include best children’s sunscreen, worst children’s sunscreen, and best sports/beach sunscreen:
  5. Cream, spray or powder – and how often? Sprays and powders cloud the air with tiny particles that may not be safe to breathe. Choose creams instead. Reapply them often, because sunscreen chemicals break apart in the sun, wash off and rub off.
  6. Message for men: Wear sunscreens. Surveys show that 34 percent of men wear sunscreens, compared to 78 percent of women. Start now to reduce your cumulative lifetime exposure to UV radiation. Also, wear sunglasses to prevent cataracts. 
  7. We need sunlight. Many people don’t get enough vitamin D, which skin manufactures in the presence of sunlight. Vitamin D has been shown to help joint pain, depression, and even fit some cancers.  So get 10-20 minutes of sunshine on bare skin a day (without sunscreen) ideally early or late in the day when UV rays are weakest. 

The thought of lathering cancer-causing chemicals to prevent skin cancer is ironic.  More than three-fourths of the 750 sunscreens evaluated by EWG offer inferior protection or have worrisome ingredients.  The FDA started their sunscreen regulations back in August 1978.  It took until 2011, and they came up with something but it’s unsubstantial.  Our sunscreen can be much better especially with melanoma on the rise.

Enjoy your summer but follow the guidelines above.

If there are changes you’d like to make in your stress level, eating habits, exercise, and overall health and happiness, start with a free health consultation at or (619) 876-2655. See if this is the right match for you. I do things very differently to make health a natural lifestyle and this is not for everyone. Check out Yelp for other people’s opinion of Happy Food.

~ Samantha Hua, Nutrition & Holistic Health Coach, San Diego, CA