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Coupon Abbreviations
  • SC = Store Coupon
  • MC = Manufacturer Coupon
  • SS = Smart Source
  • RMN = Retail Me Not
  • PG = Proctor and Gamble
Coupon Terms
  • WYB = When You Buy
  • B1G1 = Buy One Get One Free
  • .75/1 = 75 cents off one item
  • .75/3 = 75 cents off three items
  • EXP = Expiration Date

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Organic Living  What you need to know about sunscreen.

Dr. Oz says sunscreens might be poisoning you.

The CDC says sunscreen will reduce your risk of skin cancer.

Some studies say sunscreen chemicals pose a health risk.

Consumer Reports wants you to stop using spray sunscreen on kids.

So many opinions, and it seems like there is a lot of contradictory information about sunscreen. Personally, I just want to protect my skin, preferably without hurting the rest of my body in the process. We wrote a lot about sunscreens last year, but it’s always worth revisiting because research evolves, products change, and our priorities get revamped.

Are there any sunscreen chemicals we should avoid? What are our best bets?

How Sunburn (and Skin Cancer) Happens

The sun’s rays emit light, both visible sunshine and invisible UV rays. The invisible UV rays (UVA and UVB) are the villains behind sunburn and skin damage and hit your skin directly or indirectly, reflecting off water or sand. Unless your skin is protected with clothing or a sunblock, you’re getting a full-strength dose of these skin-damaging rays. UV rays strike your part of the world at different strengths throughout the day. Do you know the “high risk” times for your area? Check: http://www.uvawareness.com to see your hourly UV index. Here’s mine:

Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 6.10.49 PM.png

When your skin is exposed to sunlight, the UV radiation begins to damage your skin cell’s DNA. The damage ranges from tanning to painful sunburns. Your ever-vigilant cells are constantly monitoring their health, checking for damage. If the cell senses injury, it will either begin the repair process or trigger cell death, if the damage is too extensive. When a cell repairs damaged DNA, it’s usually fine, but sometimes things don’t go as planned. The DNA is put back together incorrectly, causing a formerly healthy cell to become precancerous or full-on cancerous.

How Sunscreen Helps

To prevent UV rays from causing sunburns or damaging your DNA, you need to block the UV rays. Sunscreens work by either reflecting or absorbing the UV rays hitting your skin, but there are two important things you need to know:

  1. No sunscreen will block 100% of the rays hitting your skin.

  2. Sunscreens don’t have to block UVA rays at all. Some only block UVB rays.

How do you know what kind of protection your sunscreen is offering? Check for the words “broad spectrum” on your bottle. Any sunscreen boasting broad spectrum protection from UVA and UVB rays must pass a “critical wavelength test” to back up its claims. Any critical wavelength test score above 370nm is considered excellent protection. (This information isn’t always on the bottle; check websites for this data.)


Why do some sunscreens only protect against UVB rays? Until fairly recently, we didn’t even know UVA rays affected our skin. UVB rays are the main cause of sunburn, while the effects of UVA rays are more subtle and long term (aging, wrinkles, sun spots, and free radical damage like cancerous cell growth), but they do affect your skin. A broad-spectrum sunscreen will block or absorb both UVA and UVB rays.

What Is in Sunscreen? Can It Cause Harm?

We know what’s effective, but is it safe? The skin is your body’s largest organ and easily absorbs chemicals straight into your bloodstream. When you ingest (eat) something with toxins, your digestive enzymes will break down some of the toxins, but your skin can’t do that. Any toxins absorbed through your skin go straight into your system. If you’re not already aware of what’s going on your skin, it’s time to give it some serious thought.

Here are some of the most popular active ingredients in sunscreen that offer UVA protection:

-Zinc oxide
-Titanium oxide

Grab your sunscreen bottle and read your ingredients. Any of these on your bottle? In addition to these, you may also see some other ingredients: octinoxate, homosalate, retinyl palmitate, fragrances, BHT, methylparabens. Are these ingredients safe? The FDA believes they are safe and allows their use, but some of these common sunscreen chemicals suggest low-level toxicity, allergies, carcinogenic potential, and endocrine disrupting behaviors. Studies are still being conducted to confirm their safety…or risk. The ball is in your court to protect yourself and your skin.

Fun in the Sun Safety Tips

  1. Avoid peak UV hours (and peak heat!): The sun emits light and UV rays, so naturally, the hours with less intense sun will have less UV rays. Avoid the peak sun hours (10am – 2pm) for less UV exposure. Check http://www.uvawareness.com for your peak hours and estimated risk.

  2. Cover up: Shield your face (and scalp) from the sun by wearing a hat. Chose a breezy, long-sleeve coverup for the beach. Seek the shade of trees or umbrellas. Please, please, please add on a large, sun-blocking canopy to baby strollers. What’s your favorite way to find some shade?

  3. Use a mineral sunscreen: Although some sunscreen chemicals are questionable, there are some that are flat-out low risk or totally safe! See our guidelines below to find the right sunscreen for you. You can get Badger sunscreen on Amazon.

Sunscreen Shopping Guide: Best Bets


Look For

Oxybenzoate, PABA, benzophenones

Uncoated, non-nano Zinc Oxide


Fragrance-free or essential oils

Vitamin A (retinyl palmitate),
BHT, parabens


Spray-on sunscreens

Lotion-based sunscreens


Want to skip the store-bought sunscreens altogether? No problem! You can make your own sunscreen using the same ingredients as the more expensive, organic sunscreen brands! I haven’t tried this myself, because I don’t have the ingredients on hand, but it’s on my to-do list. You’ll need to buy an uncoated, non-nanoparticle zinc oxide powder ($5), some beeswax ($16), a few oils or butters ($20-25), and some essential oils for fragrance (optional). As you can see, the initial investment is a little pricey but makes a really large quantity. You can easily share with a friend or have sunscreen FOR LIFE.

Don’t want to invest in a lot of ingredients? Try adding 5-20% zinc oxide to your existing body cream or lotion!


Here are a few DIY Sunscreen recipes you may want to try:

Scratch Mommy DIY Sunscreen
Homemade Sunscreen by DIY Natural
Natural Homemade Sunscreen by Wellness Mama
Non-toxic Homemade Sunscreen from Mommypotamus


The sun isn’t all bad. That same UV radiation that can cause cell damage also triggers the production of vitamin D. So getting a safe amount of sun (experts say about 20 minutes per day) is healthy for your body and your mood. Yet, too much exposure can damage your skin permanently. Sunscreen can help protect you, but it shouldn’t be your only defense. Always practice smart sun safety: seek shade, cover up, and avoid peak hours. Use sunscreen if you have to be out during peak sun hours. Even better- choose a mineral sunscreen with as few ingredients as possible, and skip anything with oxybenzoate, PABA, or parabens.

Is any sunscreen better than no sunscreen at all? Do you have any other natural suggestions for sunscreen?