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The EWG’s Best and Worst of Sunscreens


For health-conscious people like you, summertime presents a tricky, Catch-22 type of situation.

You want to get outdoors so you can enjoy the season, and you’ll also need to protect your skin from the sun. But you don’t want to spread potentially harmful ingredients all over your body or on any member of your family.

It’s a bit of a predicament. Sun damage is dangerous and sunburn is painful. Yet, slathering any old SPF Whatever on your skin could cause free radical damage (oxidation), allergic reactions – and perhaps scariest of all – lead to hormone disruption…especially in children.

Dr. Josh Axe made an interesting observation in one of his articles on sunscreen. He points out that while sunscreen use has increased dramatically in recent years, cases of skin cancer (melanoma), which are typically thought to be the result of sun damage, have actually gone up. He explains…

“…4 different studies conducted in the 1990’s indicated a higher risk of malignant melanoma among individuals who used the most sunscreen!”

When you hear something like that, you have to ask yourself, could sunscreen be doing more harm to us than good? And you start to wonder, how can you choose a sunscreen that is safe for you and your family?

Thankfully, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has done a lot of the research for you. Each year, they take a close look at many different types of popular sunscreens – from the stuff on all the store shelves to the specialty products. The EWG reviews the ingredients for negative health impacts, and checks for a balance of protection between UVA and UVB rays.

The experts at EWG examined hundreds and hundreds of sunscreens, but we’ve filtered it down to 5 of the Best and 5 of the Worst Sunscreens and put them all together in an easy-to-understand infographic.

EWG rates sunscreens on a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 = the best score and 10 = a horrible score. So keep in mind that lower scores mean safer and more trustworthy products.

Check it out below and then read more about the products you should consider using when needed – after the graphic.


The Big Problems with the Worst Sunscreens

Oh, where to begin. While none of the products EWG reviewed scored worse than a “7,” those sunscreens certainly have their fair share of issues.

For example, some sunscreen brands can be pretty deceptive about how much protection you’re getting. Experts say anything above an SPF 50 isn’t going to provide you with very much more sun protection. Beyond SPF 50 – it’s essentially a marketing ploy. SPF 100 is not twice as powerful as SPF 50. People don’t realize that, and they think they can spend longer in the sun with higher SPF sunscreen. Big mistake.

Another major concern is the presence of Oxybenzone in sunscreen. EWG gives it a hazard rating of 8/10. Oxybenzone seems to act like estrogen in the body, which can mess up kids’ hormones, cause sperm count decreases in men and is associated with endometriosis in women. Plus, a 2006 study found more than a quarter of people had photoallergic reactions to oxybenzone.

If you’ve got any of the bad guys in your beach bag, consider throwing them out and getting something new. We featured some selection from the EWG’s Hall of Shame on our infographic, but there are many more. Unfortunately, the bad guys greatly outnumber the good. EWG’s 2015 report states that 80% of the 1,700 products they reviewed had inferior sun protection or contained ingredients that could be cause for concern.

More About 5 of the Best Natural Sunscreens

If you are shopping for better sunscreen, here’s more info on the five natural products we’ve featured in this article. You can get all of them from Natural Healthy Concepts with free shipping.

You want a safer sunscreen? Then you want a mineral sunscreen like the ones below. Those are the products EWG considers the safest. Non-mineral sunscreens penetrate the skin and usually contain oxybenzone. But mineral sunscreen is less-easily absorbed, better for kids and does not breakdown in sunlight. It’s more like a protective layer.

goddess-garden_sunny-body-lotion-sunscreen-8oz_main_21. Everyday Natural Sunscreen – Goddess Garden

One of the nice things about the high-quality natural sunscreens on EWG’s list is they often include organic ingredients to help nourish your skin in addition to protecting it from the sun.

Goddess Garden Organics’ Everyday Natural Sunscreen has aloe vera, coconut oil, green tea and sunflower oil.

Dermatologists often recommend this sunscreen, and Everyday Natural Sunscreen from Goddess Garden is made in the U.S.A.

It’s also water resistant for up to 40 minutes. So go ahead and splash around!

 2. Everywhere Sunstick – 100% Pure

100-percent-pure_sun-stick-spf30-100_main_225x225There are some unique benefits to using a stick to apply sunscreen. It’s a good way to get protection right where you need it. On the other hand, spray sunscreen may give good coverage, but it also gets in the air and potentially in your lungs. Consumer Reports has strongly advised parents not to use aerosol spray sunscreen on children.

Everywhere Sunstick from 100% Pure got EWG’s best-possible rating. It is water resistant for up to 80 minutes and is even gentle enough to use on babies.

The stick might have you imagining a waxy, sticky substance. But this sunscreen is somewhat creamy and easy to apply.

It is vegetarian-friendly (does contain beeswax so is not a vegan product) and it is gluten-free. Did you know gluten in cosmetics and skin care products matters? It does.

Read Kerri’s personal horror story in her article – Why Gluten-Free Cosmetics are Important.

aubrey_natural-sun-SPF45-unscented-AUB4_main_225x2253. Natural Sun (Unscented) – Aubrey Organics

Smelling like a pina colada does not improve your sun protection. Those artificial fragrances of coconut and banana only serve to make you feel all tropical and summery when you use them. It’s smell marketing, and it could also be harmful to your health.

Aubrey Organics Natural Sun SPF 45 (Unscented) has ingredients you can truly feel good about putting on your skin. In addition to being a sunscreen, this product is also a moisturizer.

For instance, you’ll find Shea butter, which has antioxidant properties and is great for improving dry skin. Zinc oxide is the ingredient in this and other sunscreens that can actually provide protection. Look at the ingredients for all of these natural sunscreens and you’ll see zinc oxide listed as at least one of the active ingredients.

all-terrain_terrasport-face-stick-SPF28_main_225x2254. TerraSport Face Stick – All Terrain

Outdoor adventurers of all types trust the natural brand All Terrain, not only for sunscreen, but also for insect repellent.

The TerraSport Face Stick is great for camping, hiking and backpacking. In those situations, you may be mostly clothed, but you’re face will be exposed to sunlight all day long.

This product is an excellent choice. It’s non-greasy, won’t sting if you get a little bit in your eye, and it won’t leave white residue either. There’s also a non-aerosol spray bottle TerraSport sunscreen, which you can use on the rest of your body.

There’s no toxic oxybenzone and EWG gives this sunscreen a high rating for balance between UVA and UVB protection. TerraSport Face Stick is also made with ingredients to nourish and protect your skin from other elements, like wind and cold weather.

5. Very Emolient Mineral Sunscreen – Alba Botanical

alba_very-emollient-sunscreen-mineral-ff-spf30_main_225x225The final product on our list of “good guys” is the only sunscreen we’ve featured that did not get a “1” for its score.

EWG still considers Very Emolient Mineral Sunsceen from Alba Botanical, which received a rating of “2,” to be an acceptable choice. However, there are some things you should know before you use it.

The ingredient that probably brought this Alba Botanical product down one notch is dimethicone. It’s something that’s found in a lot of beauty products, but it’s not exactly natural. Dimethicone is a man-made silicon-based oil. In some rare cases, people have allergic reactions to it. According to the EWG, dimethicone may not be the best for the environment either.

The good ingredients far outweigh the not-so-good in this sunscreen. You’ll find organic extracts of aloe vera, green tea and chamomile. Those things can soothe and repair, protecting sensitive skin against the free radical damage that often results from exposure to the sun.

There are many other great sunscreens at Natural Healthy Concepts, you’ll find a selection of products to choose in our Sun & Sport Care section.

How Do You Protect Yourself?

Don’t forget! There are health benefits to absorbing sunlight too – not just health risks. Most importantly, the sun is our main source of Vitamin D3. Exposure to the sun can also boost your mood, help skin conditions improve and could even normalize your sleeping patterns. Just keep in mind, about 20 minutes (per day) of full-exposure to the sun on your skin is all you really need for Vitamin D absorption.

There are ways to avoid sun damage other than wearing sunscreen, too. You can start by wearing clothes that keep you covered, yet still keep you cool. A hat and sunglasses are also good ideas.

You could choose to stay out of the sunlight when the sun is high in the sky, which is when it can cause the most damage. The catch is that between 10am and 2pm is also believed to be the best time for your body to absorb Vitamin D. So there’s no reason to completely avoid sun during the midday, just be mindful of how long you’re being exposed.

You can even eat certain foods with nutrients that can help protect your skin from the inside out. Read more about that in our article – 8 Nutrients that Can Protect You from the Sun.

What do you do in summertime to keep skin damage from the sun at bay? Leave us a comment and share your tips with everyone!