Sunscreens: Which ones are Safe and Effective?

With the sun making its comeback for the summer and outdoor activities to look forward to, there’s one aspect we’re all concerned about: overexposure to the sun. From picnics, to park days, and camping to cottage weekends, many are concerned about the amount of sun exposure and its effect on our skin. In the constant chase for bright, clear, healthy skin, it is widely known that prolonged sun exposure can lead to damaged skin, wrinkles, and age spots, and of course, an increased risk of skin cancer. To combat this, many people turn to the highest SPF sunscreen they can find.

However, did you know that most Canadians are deficient in vitamin D? UV-B rays from the sun are a great way to fill your vitamin D needs, but the best hours to optimize your vitamin D intake are also the hours with the most dangerous levels of UV exposure. Sunscreen and clothing prevent your skin from absorbing the UV-B rays to synthesize an active form of vitamin D.

Why do you use sunscreen? If it’s to protect your skin quality and decrease the risk of skin cancer, you may be better off tossing your Oxybenzone containing sunscreens into the trash and opting for more natural alternatives. Here's why...

Oxybenzone, highly present in sunscreens and personal care products, is a contaminant to both humans and the environment. It has been shown to be phototoxic, a toxic response that worsens with UV exposure – not something we would want in a topical sunscreen! It causes a pro-inflammatory response in your skin cells, leading to skin reactions and breakouts. Oxybenzone absorbs into your skin and has been linked to various endocrine-disrupting properties, potentially causing hormone imbalances. You might also see an abundance of tyrosine inhibitors in sunscreens, such as Uvinul D50/M40/MS40. These tyrosine inhibitors affect the production of melanin, a pigment protective of carcinogenic effects of UV rays. Studies have shown that sunscreen users can even have a higher incidence of malignant melanoma due to these toxic factors.

What will be your solution to enjoy the sun this summer? Here are some tips from us to optimize your time in the sun while protecting your skin:

  • Spend 10 minutes per day between 11am to 1pm in shorts or a sleeveless shirt without sunscreen to get your fix of vitamin D

  • Find some shade at the family picnic

  • Bring a hat and a light cover-up to the cottage

  • Use high quality sunglasses with UV protection

  • Use a natural sunscreen with zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide as the active ingredient – these act as a non-absorbable healthy physical barriers for your skin (Coola Suncare or Mad Hippie are two of my favorite brands for natural sunscreens)


DiNardo, J.C. and Downs, C.A., 2018. Dermatological and environmental toxicological impact of the sunscreen ingredient oxybenzone/benzophenone‐3. Journal of cosmetic dermatology, 17(1), pp.15-19.

Green, A.C., Williams, G.M., Logan, V. and Strutton, G.M., 2011. Reduced melanoma after regular sunscreen use: randomized trial follow-up. Journal of clinical oncology, 29(3), pp.257-263.

Kim, H.J., Lee, E., Lee, M., Ahn, S., Kim, J., Liu, J., Jin, S.H., Ha, J., Bae, I.H., Lee, T.R. and Noh, M., 2018. phosphodiesterase 4b plays a role in benzophenone-3-induced phototoxicity in normal human keratinocytes. Toxicology and applied pharmacology, 338, pp.174-181.

Morpurgo, G., Catacuzzeno, L., Peruzzi, S., Blasi, P. and Fioretti, B., 2015. Are tyrosinase inhibitors in sunscreens and cosmetics enhancing UV carcinogenicity?. Experimental dermatology, 24(7), pp.546-547.

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