Is Your Sunscreen Doing You More Harm Than Good? – Natural Sunscreen Options

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Is Your Sunscreen Doing You More Harm Than Good? – Natural Sunscreen Options

A version of this article originally appeared in Village Living Magazine, where Kate regularly contributes articles about health, wellness and holistic living.

Is Your Sunscreen Doing You More Harm Than Good?

Did you know your skin laid flat takes up almost 20 square feet and makes up about 15% of your body weight? That’s a lot of skin! It’s your largest organ so it’s no surprise that whatever you put on your skin is quickly absorbed into your body.


Toxins in creams and lotions enter our blood stream more quickly than if we ate them!


It’s a good thing many people are becoming aware of the things they put on their bodies. Sunscreen, a summer staple, deserves a closer look. We generously slather this sun protective cream all over ourselves, infants and children on hot summer days. It’s important to consider what’s actually in our sunscreen and whether it’s doing us more harm than good.

Firstly, it’s important to acknowledge the therapeutic benefits of regular sun exposure. Our bodies make vitamin D when our skin is exposed to the sun’s rays without a sunscreen filter. Vitamin D promotes the absorption of calcium from our food in the digestive system. It also promotes proper cell growth and regeneration, neuromuscular and immune function, and is vital for the reduction of inflammation. Plus vitamin D is linked to boosting positive mood and increasing happiness.

For these reasons, it is important to expose large parts of your body like your legs, torso or chest to the sun regularly. Be sure to do this during the early morning or late in the afternoon. Remember to practice safe sun habits and avoid getting a sunburn by staying out of the sun during the hottest time of day, wearing a hat, enjoying time in the shade and of course, using sunscreen.


The average drugstore sunscreen uses a combination of two to six of these toxic chemicals: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate.

According to the Environmental Working Group, these toxins mimic hormones in the body and disrupt the endocrine system, leading to hormone imbalances; as well as, allergies, rashes and skin sensitivities.

Based on independent studies, some experts caution the unintentional exposure and toxicity of active ingredients in sunscreen erode the benefits (Krause 2012, Schlumpf 2010). This is especially important for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers as these toxins have been found in the fetus of expecting mothers and in breastmilk. While some experts suggest that more sensitive testing is needed, there is a natural and effective alternative.

Chemical-free sunscreen is made with zinc oxide or titanium oxide. And unlike commercial sunscreens that soak into the skin, the protective compounds in natural sunscreens sit on the surface of the skin and provide protection that way. For this reason, reapplying regularly, especially if you are swimming or sweating, is important. A small price to pay to avoid toxins.

Things to look for when selecting a natural sunscreen:

  • Read the ingredient label to ensure that it does not contain any of the above mentioned toxins.
  • Natural protection should be provided by zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.
  • SPF can be deceiving. Choose a mid-range SPF 20-30 and apply regularly and liberally.
  • Plastic packaging may cause chemicals to leach into the lotion so opt for non-plastic alternatives, if possible.

Some of my favourite tried and tested brands:

Dare to be Bare, 90ml, $17.99

All-natural sunscreen, handmade by Kate (that’s me!), and available in reusable glass or aluminum bottles.

Green Beaver, 90ml, $21.99

Certified organic sunscreen with several options including a handy spray.

Badger, 87ml, $15.99

Zinc oxide and organic plant oils provide sun protection and moisturizing nourishment.

Goddess Garden Organics, 105ml, $12.99

Combination sunscreen using zinc oxide and titanium dioxide with several specialty options.

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2017-07-06T11:53:45+00:00

About the Author:

Kate Ortak is Certified Holistic Nutritionist and health writer. She is the founder of KO Nutrition Wellness. She focuses on clean living, healthy eating and detoxifying naturally through the Slim Down Detox program, her hands-on cooking classes, private nutritional counselling and her all-natural beauty line.

2 Comments

  1. Tia July 13, 2017 at 6:53 pm - Reply

    Hi Kate,

    I enjoyed your article and learning about some toxic free sunscreen. I was only concerned that during your article, you didn’t provide a time length to the healthy amount of sun needed and didn’t mention Melanoma. I worry that by the study that you cited that states that “the exposure to toxicity in the active ingredients of sunscreen erode the benefits in using it”, may cause people to avoid the use of sunscreen at all. I only mention this because Melanoma is consistently on the rise in Canada and many people are already drastically unaware of the risks of the sun. While I completely agree that people need some (albeit limited) amounts of sun exposure, and that there could be natural sunscreens available, I think it could have been effective to also stress the importance of sun safety and Melanoma, which is mainly preventable with sun safe practices, including sunscreen.

    • Kate August 7, 2017 at 6:09 pm - Reply

      Hi Tia,

      Thank you for your thoughtful response! And thank you for taking the time to read my article.
      I do provide guidelines on length of sun exposure in my article on vitamin D, however, I did not cover it here but did provide a link to it. You can view that article here:

      http://konutritionwellness.com/2016/06/its-summer-but-are-you-getting-enough-vitamin-d/

      “In order to get enough vitamin D, it is important to expose large parts of your body such as arms, legs and torso to sunlight two to three times a week for about one quarter of the time it would take you to develop a mild sunburn.

      This will vary from person to person based on age, skin type, the season and time of day so this is a good rough estimate to help you calculate how much you need.”

      I agree with you that melanoma is a serious concern, however most Canadians struggle to get adequate sunshine to produce sufficient amounts of vitamin D. So much so, that the Government of Canada no longer tests vitamin D levels (individuals must pay should they want the test). Instead, they simply recommend that everyone supplements a minimum of 1000IUs daily. This is because the vast majority of people were testing deficient so rather than wasting government funds and resources, it was simply cheaper and easier to have doctors recommend supplementation in general.

      I do mention the importance of practicing sun safety and stress that even when wearing sunscreen, it is always important to stay out of the sun and wear a sun hat, not just for serious conditions like melanoma but also simply for dehydration and heat and sun stroke.

      I hope that answers some of your questions.
      Thanks for taking the time to comment!
      Kate

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