How to Stay Safe in the Sun and Choose the Right Sunscreen

by | May 13, 2022 | Articles, Optimal Health

While we should use sunscreen throughout the year, it is the summer months that we should be particularly cautious about our sun exposure! Just in time, EWG has published the up to date Guide to Sunscreens that provides information on sunscreens that offer adequate protection with ingredients that are safe.


Sunscreen ingredients can be detected in blood for up to 21 days after last application of sunscreen. This is why we recommend using sunscreens with ingredients generally recognized as safe (GRAS), as designated by the FDA. 

  • Commonly used sunscreen ingredients that are generally recognized as safe are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.
  • There is insufficient safety data for other common ingredients including: avobenzone, homosalate, octinoxate, octisalate, octocrylene and oxybenzone.
  • PABA and trolamine salicylate, which are rarely used in sunscreens, are considered unsafe based on available scientific literature.

The good news is that the FDA is proposing further testing of some of the ingredients. I recommend cross-referencing the new sunscreen guide, EWG’s Skin Deep database or EWG’s Healthy Living app, before purchasing your sunscreen.

Additionally, follow these safety tips to reduce your risk of skin cancer, sunburn and premature skin aging:


  • Avoid going out in the sun between 10am and 2pm.
  • When you go out, apply sunscreen generously to all sun-exposed areas at least 15 minutes before going outside to allow enough time for your skin to absorb the sunscreen.
  • Choose a sunscreen that has an SPF of 30 or higher and provides coverage from UVA and UVB.
  • Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours while outdoors and immediately after swimming or sweating.
  • Wear a hat, and/or consider going in the shade, particularly if you are spending a long period of time outdoors.
  • If you work near a window, wear sunscreen! While UVB is mostly blocked by glass, >50% of UVA can penetrate glass (UVA is the main cause of premature skin aging, but also contributes to skin cancer risk).
  • Wear sunglasses and clothes to protect your eyes and skin.

Adapted from the American Academy of Dermatology Association

How Do You Choose Clean Skin Products?

  • Look for known toxic ingredients and avoid products that contain them: e.g., parabens
  • Just because a product claims to be “all natural” doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have toxic chemicals
  • “Fragrance” is a red flag – companies are not required to disclose what is in the fragrance, and this combination of ingredients often includes chemicals that can be toxic to our body
  • Healthy living app, Skin Deep, EWG Verified and other EWG resources such as EWG Sunscreen Guide

Additional references


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