Sunscreens are a must if you will be in the sun long enough to potentially burn. See other blogs on Vitamin D and sun exposure, in which I outline the importance of some sun exposure (just less than what would cause a little redness). This is nature’s way to build vitamin D and numerous other health benefits (contrary to the message of the sun-phobic dermatologists and sunscreen industry experts who would have you afraid of stepping outdoors without your SPF protection).
There are many chemicals that may be in some sun screens that have health risks.
The main ones are:
1) Avoid super high SPF numbers. I recommend SPF 30 as the highest you need – it protects you against 99% of the suns damaging rays. The challenge with the very high SPF sun screens is that they completely block UVB (the burning rays) while leaving you vulnerable to the UVA rays – the ones that cause most of the deeper skin cancer, like melanoma (that’s the most dangerous kind). Since you’ll never burn, you’ll never realize you are exposing yourself to too much UVA radiation.
2) Avoid oxybenzone – this ingredient acts like estrogen in the body. We are already exposed to way too many estrogen mimickers.
3) Avoid powders – just as I discourage baby powder as it can irritate lungs if accidentally inhaled, the same goes for sun screen powders
4) Avoid sunscreen combined with bug repellents. Most bug repellents have toxicity that we should avoid anyway.
For other recommendations and access to complete information on ingredients and toxicity of them, see the Environmental Working Group web site: