Look out for oxybenzone.
Oxybenzone is by far the most common UV-absorbing chemical used in sunscreens. The EWG reports that more than 80 percent of Neutrogena’s sun-protection products contain it. Although oxybenzone effectively protects against deep-penetrating UVA rays — the kind that cause melanoma and age your skin — it may mess with hormones and has been shown in animal studies to hinder sperm production. Oxybenzone can also irritate skin and trigger allergic reactions, and because it’s highly reactive when it comes in contact with UV, it churns up free radicals that can damage skin cells.
Look for instead: Your other chemical choice would be avobenzone, which offers decent UVA protection and has not been linked with hormone disruption. The knock against avobenzone, however, is it breaks down easily when sunlight hits it, so it needs to be stabilized with another chemical, usually oxybenzone or octocrylene or octisalate (which EWG labels as safer). But your best bet is to skip chemical sunscreens altogether and choose a mineral-based product made with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Rather than absorb UV rays like oxybenzone or avobenzone, these minerals sit atop your skin and physically block them. Yes, they tend to be thicker and more difficult to spread than chemical screens, but formulations have vastly improved over the past few years. Many mineral blockers today are much sheerer and don’t leave behind as much of a white pallor.
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