Keeping Safe in the Summer Sun

With the summer approaching just around the corner, our minds begin to think about beaches, swimming, hiking, playing, and frolicking in the summer sun. With all of the outdoor activities, skin protection should be a priority, to prevent cancers, wrinkles and inflammatory sunburns. So what most cautious people do is lather up with some high SPF sunscreen from the pharmacy, or spray on some SPF spray and jump into the sun fun thinking they are protected and safe. However, contrary to expectations, some of these sunscreen products could potentially be harmful to your health!


The EWG (Environmental Workers Group), a non profit organization with the mission of providing research and education to promote environmental safety, has recently released their guide to sunscreens.

According to their annual report, there were “persistent problems with the ingredients and marketing of sunscreens for the American market. 80% of 1,700 products we examined this year offer inferior sun protection or contain worrisome ingredients.” Their worst offender was a shock, Neutrogena, as this particular brand’s marketing touts it to be the “#1 dermatologist recommended suncare brand”. It really goes to show you how marketing can strongly overshadow reality.


In their report, they highlight specific areas of safety concern. They suggest avoiding sunscreens with any of the following:


  • Spray sunscreens: inhalation can be toxic, often incomplete coverage


  • SPF greater than 50: according to the EWG, SPF protection tops out at 30-50. Higher SPF often give people a false sense of safety
    • SPF stands for “sun protection factor,” but that outdated term refers only to protection against UVB rays that burn the skin. It has little to do with a product’s ability to protect skin from UVA rays, which penetrate deep into the body, accelerate skin aging, may suppress the immune system and may cause skin cancer. The worst thing about high-SPF products is that they give people a false sense of security and tempt them to stay in the sun too long. They suppress sunburns but raise the risk of other kinds of skin damage. The FDA is considering barring SPF above 50+
    • Studies show that sunscreen with SPF of 15 block about 93% of all incoming UVB rays, SPF blocks 97%, and SPF 50 blocks 98%. It seems reasonable to say that the super high SPF’s protective value plateaus, where most people think that using an SPF of 85 means that they are completely safe from the damaging rays.
  • Oxybenzone: this is a hormone disrupter
    • Oxybenzone is often added to sunscreens as a filter. It is considered a xenoestrogen, where once it is absorbed through the skin and gets into the bloodstream it mimics estrogen and can interfere with hormone function. Xenoestrogens have been associated with numerous health conditions, much like BPA and other plastics that disrupt hormone function.
  • Retinyl palmitate: may be more harmful in promoting damage and cancer
    • This is a form of vitamin A, and is often included as an ingredient skin creams and chemical peels. According to the EWG, government studies suggest that Retinyl palmitate may speed the development of skin tumors and lesions. It is often added to sunscreens to reduce the signs of aging, but it has no UV filter or protection. However, there is enough worrisome research on this form of Vitamin A and its link to skin cancer to suggest that at very least, it is potentially dangerous, and with not additional skin protective value, it should be avoided.



And which products should you avoid? Below is the Sunscreen Hall of Shame:


11 Worst Spray Sunscreens

These sunscreens are aerosol sprays with SPFs above 50+ and the harmful additives oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate.

Banana Boat Clear UltraMist Ultra Defense MAX Skin Protect Continuous Spray Sunscreen, SPF 110
Coppertone Sport High Performance AccuSpray Sunscreen, SPF 70
Coppertone Sport High Performance Clear Continuous Spray Sunscreen, SPF 100+
CVS Clear Spray Sunscreen, SPF 100
CVS Sheer Mist Spray Sunscreen, SPF 70
CVS Sport Clear Spray Sunscreen, SPF 100+
CVS Wet & Dry Sunscreen Spray, SPF 85
Neutrogena Fresh Cooling Sunscreen Body Mist, SPF 70
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Body Mist Sunscreen Spray, SPF 100+
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Body Mist Sunscreen Spray, SPF 70
Neutrogena Wet Skin Sunscreen Spray, SPF 85+


12 Worst Sunscreen Lotions

These sunscreen lotions claim SPFs above 50+ and contain oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate.

Banana Boat Sport Performance Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 100
Coppertone Sport High Performance Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 100
Coppertone Sport High Performance Sunscreen, SPF 75
Coppertone Sport Sunscreen Stick, SPF 55
Coppertone Ultra Guard Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 70+
CVS Sport Sunstick Sunscreen, SPF 55
CVS Sun Lotion Sunscreen, SPF 100
CVS Sun Lotion Sunscreen, SPF 70
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Daily Liquid Sunscreen, SPF 70
NO-AD Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 60
NO-AD Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 85
Ocean Potion Protect & Nourish Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 70


So what should a health savvy shopper look for?

Check out the Best Sunscreen List at Some recommended brands include favorites like Aubrey Organics, Alba, Dr. Mercola, Jason’s, Yes to cucumbers, and The Honest Company.


–       MexiTan and Tropical Sands Sunscreens

–       Nature’s Gate Mineral Sportblock

–       Solbar Zinc Sun Protection Cream

–       Alba Botanica Mineral Sunscreen

–       Caribbean Solutions SolGuard Biodegradable Sunscreen

–       Jason Mineral Sunblock

–       Goddess Garden Natural Sunscreen

–       Aubrey Organics Natural Sun Saving Face Sunscreen

–       Badger All Natural Sunscreen


Dr. K’s Tips to Protect Skin From Sun Damage

Dr. Kupperman's sun safety tips

Staying safe can be fashionable too

  • Use a sunscreen that does not contain Retinyl Palmitate, Oxybenzene, and with an SPF between 15-50.
  • Use a sunscreen labeled “Broad Spectrum”. These sunscreens block both UVA radiation that can cause premature aging, skin damage and possibly cancer, and UVB radiation which can cause sunburns and skin damage.
  • Apply at least 2 ounces of lotion, and reapply often (every 2 hours)
  • Keep covered and shaded whenever possible
    • Parasols make a great accessory!
  • Spend most of outdoor time during the morning and late afternoon, as the UV radiation peaks midday
  • Wear a wide brimmed had for extra head, face and neck protection
  • If you burn, apply aloe vera gel liberally to the burned area, and drink lots and lots of water. Also aggressively moisturize with a natural moisturizer with vitamin E or aloe. Coconut oil can also be soothing burned skin and help accelerate healing
  • Consume high antioxidant green leafy vegetables, and/or consume supplements with antioxidant function such as alpha lipoic acid, green tea, vitamin E, resveratrol, and keep a balanced healthy lifestyle