Mama Gone Green is a blog dedicated to raising happy children and reducing our impact on the Earth. My name is Taryn and I am the mother of 2 young kids and an environmental studies instructor at a community college in Portland, Oregon. Please join me as I journey through life as a mama, teacher, knitter, photographer, gardener, and environmentalist!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Is Your Sunscreen Toxic?

Summer is just around the corner and sunscreen season is upon us. Choosing a sunscreen can be a difficult task, as most of them are loaded with chemicals and all sorts of things I can't pronounce. It always takes me forever to choose a sunscreen.. trying to weigh my choice between chemicals, sun protection and cost. Here is one more chemical to be on the lookout for when you are choosing a sunscreen: oxybenzone.
Oxybenzone is a chemical found in many cosmetic products such as lipsticks, moisturizers, fragrances, and especially sunblocks and other SPF-products. According to the Environmental Working Group, oxybenzones have been linked to hormone disruption, allergies, and cancer. So, using oxybenzone-containing sunscreen to reduce your risk of skin cancer may actually increase your risk of cancer! Oxybenzone is also a penetration-enhancer, which means that it will help all of the other chemicals in the sunscreen penetrate your skin. Eww.
Additionally, this chemical is poisoning our oceans. An estimated 6,000 tons of sunscreen ends up in the waters surrounding coral reefs. Sunscreen containing oxybenzones can cause viral infections in coral reef, resulting in coral bleaching (aka dead reef). When this chemical accumulates in fish, it has shown to actually change male fish into females (yikes!).
This chemical was last tested for safety by the FDA back in the 70's. In the past 30-plus years, a lot more information has been learned about this chemical, much of which shows that this chemical may not be safe for us or the environment . So.... when choosing a sunscreen this summer, look for products that are oxybenzone-free. Your natural health foods store is probably your best place to look, but I know that Trader Joe's also has a oxybenzone-free sunscreen that is affordable.
For some other factors to take into consideration when sunscreen shopping, check out an old post about how to choose a sunscreen. Pin It Now!


  1. man- I didn't take this into consideration yet- and we use a lot of sunscreen- am I a bad person that I usually chose by the scent? I'll get some at TJ's later today and try and forgive myself for slathering cancer on my family.

  2. Of course you are not a bad person! Honestly, there are so many toxins in everything, how is anyone ever supposed to keep track. Sometimes I feel like the more I know the harder life is!

  3. It's always something, isn't it? We've been using a couple of brands that are zinc or titanium based rather than chemical based. I liked that they sit on top of your skin rather than soak into it, although I recently read that you have to make sure the zin and titanium particles aren't micro or they actually can permiate the skin. It's enough to make you throw your hands in the air and go without!

  4. I've invested in some of the sun protective clothing so that I can go without sunscreen as much as possible. It's not a perfect solution for some of our very hot summer days, but most sunscreens don't really let the skin sweat/breathe anyway, so I'm not sure that clothing is that much worse.

    The hardest part is riding my bicycle, when I have to trade my fabulous wide-brimmed hat for a helmet. If I'll be riding for much longer than 15-20 minutes in the middle of the day, I usually force myself to put sunscreen on my face, neck, and ears.