Sun Care | Ingredients

How safe really is our sun lotion

The worldwide sunscreen market is a billion-dollar industry.

Whilst the financial cost may be staggering,

Surely this is nothing compared to the cost to our health?

Especially with all the bad press around sun lotion.

Join us, as the Naked Chemist investigates.

The controversy

Lately here at The Naked Chemist, we have been researching ingredients that provide natural sun protection.

After writing the article on the natural and organic skincare standards, we were surprised to learn that there is little regulation around sun lotion.

Even more worrying than that, studies carried out by the FDA, found that many of the chemicals in sunscreens such as oxybenzone and avobenzone, substances shown to protect skin from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays, are actually being absorbed directly into our bloodstream at levels higher than previously believed. This can lead to skin inflammation, hormonal disruption and increasing the risk of skin cancer, and even some of the most tried and trusted sun lotion ingredients, are coming into question.

The confusion

Adding to the confusion, the American Academy of Dermatology says sunscreen is safe? They say there are around 5 million skin cancer cases diagnosed each year — with more than 90 per cent of those attributed to UV exposure, so they don’t want people to stop using their sunscreens. They feel consumers should continue to use it, while more research is carried out on sunscreen ingredients’ safety.

Manufacturers of sun lotion brands are also quick to combat these harmful messages, suggesting that such statements are ill-informed.

However, the reality is that there is a lot of controversy surrounding suntan lotion, and in the last year, many absorbers are now being put under review.

Controversial ingredients

In 2019, the FDA reported on a pilot study showing that four chemical sunscreen actives – avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, and ecamsule can be absorbed into the bloodstream

  • the ingredient PABA has now been banned in most countries
  • camphor benzalkonium methosulfate has had its maximum concentration reduced from 6% to 3%
  • benzophenone-3 has also been reduced from 10% to 6%
  • the ingredient 4-methyl benzylidene camphor is allowed up to 4% in any concentration

This is a subject we discuss in greater detail in the article about the dangers of suntan lotion.


The reality is that these key ingredients found in our sun lotions are actually dangerous chemicals, which could potentially be doing more harm than good!

So much damage in fact, that many of them have been taken off the market, or had their levels significantly reduced, due to possible health concerns.

This is extremely worrying, so what is the answer? Not all manufacturers are just concerned about the bottom line – some companies are doing an excellent job creating natural formulas that offer sun protection.

As it always is when we research controversial ingredients, our advice is to become your own label detective, use physical sunscreens containing Zinc and Titanium that the FDA considers safe to use after carrying out their study.

Only then will you have peace of mind, that what you’re actually putting on your skin is safe to use.


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