The only surefire sun protection is a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, and a hat, but that’s not always practical or fashionable. So most experts recommend slathering on sunscreen every day of the year as a preemptive measure. Problem is, most sunscreens are loaded with chemicals that research has suggested may be linked to an increased risk of infertility and hormone-related cancers.
Of course, many of those chemicals are also what make sunscreens so effective—by dispersing and ab-sorbing the sun’s rays before they can harm your skin. Fortunately, it’s possible to find chemical-free sunscreens that still provide full protection from UVA and UVB rays. Look for products with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as their active ingredients, advises Washington-based naturopath Alicia Capsey, who specializes in women’s health and hormone balance. You’ll know them by the whitish tint the minerals give your skin, an effect manufacturers are working to reduce.
But before you pick up the first “all-natural” sunscreen you see, be sure to read the label; many of these products contain chemicals too. “They put a lot of natural things in there, but they also use chemical ingredients,” warns Capsey, who suggests avoiding products that contain paraben derivatives, benzophenone-3, homosalate, 4-methylbenzylidene camphor (4-MBC), octyl-methoxycinnamate, and octyl dimethyl PABA.
Capsey also recommends choosing products that contain sesame, olive, coconut, cottonseed, or peanut oil—all of which have been found to resist UVB rays—and antioxidant vitamins C, A, and E, green tea, beta-carotene, and soy.
“A natural sunscreen containing antioxidants should stay viable up to two years without paraben derivatives or other artificial preservatives,” Capsey says. Look for brands such as Dr. Hauschka, MyChelle, UV Natural, Jason Natural Cosmetics, and Kiss My Face.