Covering your body with sunscreen every day – and about three times that for days at the beach – is a good habit. But all that lotion soaking into your pores may also carry harmful ingredients. Oxybenzone, the most common UV-absorbing chemical, is approved by the Food and Drug Administration, but some experts question its safety. Early studies have linked it to changes in hormone levels, and in high-enough quantities, it may pose cancer risks. More likely, oxybenzone, along with avobenzone (another anti-UV ingredient), can irritate skin or cause an allergic reaction, says Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank, a dermatologist in New York City. "And the higher the SPF, the higher the concentration of chemicals." While the studies of these risky ingredients are preliminary, you might as well avoid them. There are plenty of effective plant- and mineral-based sunscreens with active ingredients that sit safely atop the skin, rather than being absorbed into the bloodstream – the only disadvantage is they sometimes leave a white residue. Experts recommend an SPF of 30 – any higher and the effectiveness levels out. Seek out ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide or try one of the six quality sunscreens we tested.
These six sunscreens offer broad-spectrum protection without the toxins.
Elemental Herbs Sunscreen Sport SPF 30+
This silky lotion is the most transparent of the bunch. Shea butter and plant oils soften skin, but it's not sweat- or water-resistant. Best for lounging. [$16; elementalherbs.com]