This story was shared by our wellness contributor Michelle Calarco.
Those beloved summer days are upon us and we all agree that it’s about time! It’s no secret that sunscreen helps prevent skin cancer, skin damage and sunburns but it’s not always easy to decode the labels to find a good, clean product to protect your skin. We talked to Dr. Sarah Dolder, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Greenwich Point Dermatology to get some tips on how to track down a non-toxic sunscreen you can feel good about slathering on.
The Well: What should you look for when purchasing a non-toxic sunscreen?
Dr. Sarah Dolder: I advise my patients to always first look at the “active ingredients,” which tells us whether the sunscreen is mineral (my preference) vs chemical. A mineral sunscreen is safer, using only titanium and zinc particles to physically block UVA and UVB. Chemical sunscreens employ a potent combination of chemicals like oxybenzone, octinoxate, homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene, and avobenzone, many of which are endocrine disruptors. These molecules, when absorbed through the skin, can mimic our endogenous hormones and interfere with our reproductive and metabolic systems. In addition, these molecules potentially affect reef ecosystems and remain under intense investigation for their environmental safety.
A recent study has found a known carcinogen, Benzene, to be found in popular chemical sunscreens. Although benzene is not an ingredient listed in the affected sunscreens, it’s considered a contaminant, meaning it was introduced during the manufacturing process. Benzene has been linked to lymphoma and leukemia. Brands included in the report that have been found to contain benzene include Neutrogena, La Roche Posay, Sun Bum, Banana Boat and Babyganics. To see the full list, see the link here:
The Well: Are organic or natural labels important?
Dr. Sarah Dolder: It doesn’t matter if the product is “organic” or not organic, “natural” or not. What matters is that it is a physical sunscreen without any nasty additives. Red flags include anything ending in -paraben, phthalates, sodium laureth sulfate, and some fragrance.
The Well: What are your top 3 picks for clean sunscreen?
Dr. Sarah Dolder: In my practice, I carry the following physical sunscreen lines which I believe to be highly effective in protecting our skin against the damaging UV rays of the sun, yet safe for our bodies and the earth.
MD Solar Sciences: Mineral Creme and Beauty Balm
Elta MD: Physical SPF and Elements
The Well: Any other tips to keep in mind?
Dr. Sarah Dolder: Sunscreen is important to protect against skin cancer, so the best sunscreen is the one you will wear every day. But hopefully these tips help you choose the safest option. Skin cancer risk can also be reduced by wearing a hat, sunglasses, and seeking the shade when possible.
About Michelle Calarco: Michelle is a communications expert and a wellness enthusiast. After honing her storytelling craft in media and television, Michelle went on to elevate the profiles of premier brands across the hospitality, healthy living, and better-for-you food spaces. She has always been passionate about living and eating well and became even more immersed in health when she became a mom. On weekends you can find her squeezing in a barre class (during Paw Patrol) and baking healthyish desserts with her little one. Michelle has a consulting business and resides in Greenwich with her husband and 2-year-old son.
Have an idea for something you want to see in the column? Write to Michelle at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her @michelle.calarco