Sunscreen Safety

Who is looking forward to long summer days by the pool or at the beach or lake? mmm, ME!

A self-professed sun worshiper, I know just about everything there is so know about enjoying the sun safely — and to be honest, I know all about living dangerously with the sun; sans sunscreen, baby oil tanning sessions as a teenager, and beach days with that good old Tropicana 8 SPF! I was a brave little babe back in the day.

Even with the sun’s dangerous rays, you can be sure we won’t be avoiding it this summer! I got smart about sun protection as I got older — especially for my face and chest.

Did you know that an estimated 90% of the signs of aging are caused by the sun? and that more people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the U.S. than all other cancers combined?

I’ve got some exciting news and tons of information to share with you today on safer sunscreen and sun exposure.

Now that I’m more knowledgeable on healthy and harmful sun exposure, I wanted to pass along some of this info to you all. And there are TWO new product launches this week! (scroll if you can’t wait!)

So Many Rays

Broad-spectrum chemical and mineral sunscreens both provide broad-spectrum protection which means they protect against UVA and UVB rays. Beautycounter goes the extra step by also protecting from Blue Light – another type of ray that damages cellular DNA and leads to aging and cancer.

  • UVA = Aging Rays These are present all year round. Penetrates glass and clouds and deeper into the skin to cause free-radical damage that contribute to premature aging.
  • UVB = Burning Rays These are the primary causes of sunburn, easier to recognize as we can see and feel the damage as it occurs.

Higher than SPF 30 is unnecessary + a marketing ploy

  • SPF 15 – Blocks 93% of UVB rays
  • SPF 30 – Blocks 97% of UVB rays
  • SPF 50 – Blocks 98% of UVB rays

There is no such thing as Waterproof Sunscreen

There is a difference between water-resistant and waterproof (no sunscreen is technically waterproof so beware of that labeling). All sunscreens that resist removal while in water are specifically labeled water-resistant (40 or 80 minutes).

Chemicals vs. Minerals and how they protect us

Chemical sunscreens filter the sun (and are skin irritants, linked to hormone disruption as well as the destruction of our coral reef ecosystem). You’ll see them on labels in the form of: oxybenzone, avobenzone, and octinoxate most commonly.

Mineral sunscreens reflect the sun. The safest forms are non-nano zinc oxide and non-nano titanium dioxide. When searching for mineral sunscreen, ensure it says NON-NANO. The particle size matters here as larger particles are easily inhaled and can damage the lungs.

There is absolutely no additional benefit to using chemical sunscreens… they are linked to health and environmental harm as well as skin allergies.

Skip ’em this summer for a simple solution with the Countersun Mineral Sunscreen line.

Sunscreen Green-washing is Everywhere, Especially the Baby Products

Beware of green-washing in the sunscreen industry! The following products contain chemical sunscreen filters as well as a slew of other harmful chemicals. Don’t be fooled by their packaging claims, marketing or product design.

  • SuperGoop! sunscreen gets the “Clean Seal” at Sephora yet it contains 4 different chemical sunscreen filters.
  • Babyganics Baby Sunscreen contains chemical sunscreen in addition to mineral sunscreen (but not the non-nano recommended form).
  • Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Sunscreen contains zinc oxide (but not the non-nano form) and toluene-based BHT among other questionable ingredients.
  • Neutrogena Dry Touch SPF100 sunscreen isn’t necessarily green-washing but it’s the one my mom used for years… and it contains FIVE chemical sunscreen filters! Plus… SPF100 provides negligible additional protection. It’s simply a marketing tactic to get unaware consumers to buy into higher SPF being “better for them”.
  • Goddess Garden Spray Sunscreen does not contain the non-nano version of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. It’s particularly vital for these ingredients to be in the non-nano form in a mist application as they can be easily inhaled when sprayed near the body and face.


ALL ABOUT THE COUNTERSUN LINE + NEW PRODUCTS!

Beautycounter’s Countersun line is formulated without gluten and now contains FIVE products meeting all your sun safety and after sun needs.

Countersun Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF30

(Allure Best of Beauty Winner) 3-ounce and 6.7-ounce available

I love this body sunscreen – it provides excellent protection (I’ve never gotten a burn while using it – same for my extended family) and rubs in clear on light to medium-deep skin tones.
Bonus: It rubs in much easier and is less greasy/oily than Badger brand as well which we used to use before we switched to Beautycounter.

Countersun Mineral Sunscreen Mist SPF30

(TSA-friendly 3oz and 6oz available)

Sunscreen mist provides a quick application and easier to rub-in consistency. I prefer to still spray this product in my hands and rub it quickly into my arms, legs and chest. Much less waste than spraying onto the body and inevitably missing! Great choice for kids who can’t sit still when you need a quick application. Reapply every 80 minutes when sweating or in the water or after towel drying.


P.S. This is an aerosol-free mist… no chemical air propellants needed in this innovative, environmentally-friendly packaging design! Yes, I’ve traveled on an airplane with it too.

Countersun Mineral Face Stick Sunscreen SPF30

My husband and I love this face stick because we use it as a body stick, really. Quick reapplication or a quick couple swipes before a hike or bike ride and we are good to go. I keep a couple in all our hiking gear and my purse.

NEW! Countersun Mineral Tinted Sunscreen Mist SPF30

Who knew tinted body sunscreen is a thing? I didn’t until Beautycounter launched this new product and holy cow it SMELLS GOOD! Think: jasmine, coconut, vanilla, orange, ylang-ylang. Since this is a tinted product, I recommend spraying into hands and rubbing into skin to prevent the particles from getting on your bathing suit or clothing. It’ll wash off in the laundry if it does, but this is an easy way to avoid that issue.

NEW! Countersun Aftersun Cooling Gel

Well… have you ever turned over a bottle of drugstore “aloe” gel and looked at the ingredients? Aloe is WAY down the list and those products also contain harmful PEGs and Fragrance. If you’re prone to over-exposure, grab this real aloe gel that also contains sea kelp to relieve and moisturize skin. It also has the naturally-derived Monoi scent like the new Tinted Sunscreen!

Want an SPF Day Lotion too?

Grab the Dew Skin Tinted Moisturizer (SPF20). I use this instead of foundation on summer morning when I know I will be driving a lot or walking outside. It’s important to keep my face protected throughout my day! It provides light coverage, hydration and a slightly glow-y finish to skin. You can mix it into your foundation to get the benefits of additional coverage plus SPF! It’s also now an option in the 20% off Flawless in Five!

Let me know if you have questions! Which sunscreen are you currently using? I would love to hear!

My (personal) Beef with Chemicals

A quick tip for reading this blog: when there is a linkclick it!

Read the research/article then or bookmark it for later. My research is linked throughout this blog and I made sure to include resources you could read and use. I also encourage you to do your own research on sites like PubMed with keywords like (“phthalate“, “paraben“, “triclosan” “personal care products”). THEN, research your current products — use the EWG (Environmental Working Group) and Think Dirty apps to scan your products and see what’s in them. This will help guide you if you decide to take action after reading all of this!


Let’s start with how I got here — writing a blog about the not so joyous topic that is chemical safety.

As many of you know, I have been on a dedicated mission over the past 5 years to rid my household and my beauty products of harmful chemicals and toxins. I initially started down this road because I was breaking out with contact dermatitis and dermatographia — two condition that cause welts to form on your skin — your skin itches, you itch it, and then welts start to form wherever you scratched or made “contact.” This prompted me to switch out my laundry detergent to Seventh Generation and from there it all began.

To be honest, at first, I thought it was just me and the fact that I have sensitive skin. I figured that chemicals are cool for everyone to use unless you had sensitive skin. But after going down the rabbit hole that is chemical safety research — I found the absolute opposite to be true.

Slowly but surely I began switching to safer products. I was doing pretty well and I was content with where I was at. I figured you can’t protect yourself from everything and I became complacent, to be honest.

THEN, Last year, after falling ill and spending hundreds of dollars of testing to figure out what was happening in my body, I discovered I have autoimmune issues. I struggled for months to get everything under control, I could not believe with how conscious I was with my health, that this was happening. During this time, any products that remained in my home with harmful chemicals were out — some of them literally went down the drain. I again dove into the research — I wanted facts on what was true, data-based, and proven about what was in my products and what they were doing to my body.


Here’s a summary of what my research found:

How Environmental Toxins Can Impact Our Health

Not all chemicals are bad… In fact, the human body is made up of many chemicals – it’s the toxic or harmful chemicals that we need to be educated on.

These are substances that can cause neurological, immune, and biological toxicity, altering how our body functions in a biological manner potentially causing numerous conditions from autoimmune disorders, endocrine disruption, hormone imbalances to cancer and issues with fertility.

Personal Care Products Enter our Bloodstream

through our skin + the air

Our skin is our largest organ and is accepts whatever we put on it! This includes everything you put on your skin, eyes, nails, etc.

Chemicals can also enter through the air and can be as toxic as second-hand smoke. (Don’t get me started on Bath & Body Works and Yankee Candle, it gets ugly — but read more about it here — there are research articles linked throughout). Candles are a great example of airborne chemicals, so are face (makeup) and baby powders — when you apply it you naturally inhale it.

This is NOT About Skin Irritation

Most products will not cause an immediate allergic reaction unless you are allergic to a specific chemical.

It’s about the chronic long-term exposure of using multiple products each with dozens of chemicals that add up and cause biological harm on our systems.

Some statistics about our current health:

Our Government and the FDA look out for these things, right?

WELL! you would think… but here are some not so fun facts;

There is Regulation

(but don’t get too excited…)

Current Regulation in the United States

  • It is currently completely legal for companies to use thousands of harmful chemicals in our personal care, cosmetics products and home cleaning products. Even if the ingredient is linked to cancer or autoimmunity or reproductive harm – there are no repercussions from the government for selling these chemicals to consumers.
  • The last time a major federal law was passed governing safety regulation was 1938 for this modern day $60 Billion industry.
  • Over 80,000 chemicals have been introduced into the marketplace since then, the vast majority of them have had no or very limited safety testing
    • Less than 1/3 have publicly available safety data
    • Less than 2% are verified safe for use on children
    • The current regulation is only 1 ½ pages long and only bans or restricts the use of 30 chemicals (1 ½ pages of regulation for over 80,000 chemicals… what?)
    • FDA is unable to verify safety before a product hits the market
    • FDA is unable to issue product recall for known harmful products – you read correctly — if LEAD IS FOUND in a batch of children’s lotions or in women’s lipsticks, the company is not required to recall the product and the FDA cannot call for the products to be recalled either — SO who is in charge here?

What to Look For in Products

  • Supplier screening and consistent quality audits – the supplier needs to be screening their own final products because if they are not, no one else is. 
  • Heavy metal testing
  • EWG Skin Deep Database Verification (Download the App or visit their website)
  • B Corp certified companies
  • Safe Packaging – BPA (bisphenol-A) free and safer plastics, FSC certified paper, and glass

With 80,000 unregulated chemicals, where do I start?

Here are chemicals that are easy to check for on labels and are some of the most harmful:

Phthalates

(Most often found hiding in “Fragrance”)

Endocrine and reproductive hormone disruptors. Commonly found in personal care products like lotions, moisturizers, body wash, hair care, and nail polish. They are one of the more toxic ingredients in PVC plastics which you find in shower curtains.

Parabens

Parabens are used to prevent the formation of bacteria and mold. Brands source seemingly innocuous ingredients such as grapefruit seed extract or aloe vera that have been preserved using parabens. The ingredient label does not have to disclose this, and it can still legally state the product as preservative and paraben free

Fragrance

Fragrance goes by many names — Parfum, Perfume, Scent — listing “Fragrance” as an ingredient is an industry secret. This works because the industry can currently legally list thousands of undisclosed and untested chemicals under the term “fragrance”. It’s best to source products that contain natural fruit or plant extracts as the scent and have them clearly disclosed on the label.

Heavy Metals

Heavy metals are most prominent in makeup, face paint, and children’s toys. They are often found in cosmetics like mineral makeup which is likely to pick up heavy metals during the sourcing process.

WHOA – so much.

If you just need to process all of that for now, I get it. It took me weeks to process and it made it hard to use anything in my home or on my body for a long time — I was truly paranoid checking labels and just felt so overwhelmed. It took a while before I could act.

If you would like to make some safer switches, head over the Clean + Conscious Products blog to start the process. It was a slow process for me at first because of the cost. But I’ve got some great ideas on where to start and some amazing product recommendations to make it easy for you.

Resources

Infertility

Human infertility: are endocrine disruptors to blame?

Endocrine and Hormone Disruptors

BPA + Endocrine/Hormone Disruption

EU’s Ban on Phthalates

Little Ones

Exposure to Environmental Endocrine Disruptors and Child Development

Childhood Cancer – More Evidence Points to Chemical Exposure

Cancer

Breast cancer + Personal Care Products

Chemical Safety in the Mainstream Press

CBS: Phthalates: Are They Safe?

TIME Magazine: The Hidden Dangers of Makeup and Shampoo

TIME Magazine: How the Government Can Help Prevent Your Makeup From Harming You

COSMO: 10 American Beauty Ingredients That Are Banned in Other Countries

Clean + Conscious Products

If you have not yet read the  My Beef With Chemicals Blog – start there first. It will guide you through my research on chemical product safety, safe products and give you an idea on why all of this is so important.

One more thing — I am doing a weekly giveaway (January 6th-March 28th) where you can win many of these products! Sign-up here for the giveaway and message me with questions!


After finding all of the research (and then processing it all) I began my journey to start making a safer switch to chemically safe products. BUT, I didn’t do it all at once because I could not afford it. Quality products come at a little bit of a higher cost. I would have liked to throw everything I was using out and replace it with safe products, but this had the potential to cost me hundreds of dollars. So, I decided to make a gradual switch by using products until they were empty, then when I bought new, I bought safer.

THEN, last year — I was forced to go all in. Last year I discovered I have autoimmune issues and I struggled for months to get them under control. During this time, any products that remained in my home with harmful chemicals were out — some of them literally went down the drain.

Making the 100% safe switch proved difficult — navigating the world of chemicals in our country is hard! Information is hidden, and labels do not list everything because companies are legally not required to do so.

So — I had to do my own research on every single product every time I bought something. Not to mention I had to try the product to see if I liked it and it worked! I cannot tell you how many “chemical free/organic” deodorants, toothpaste, shampoos, candles, (ETC. ETC. ETC.)  my family and I have tried and how many I have thrown out because they just didn’t work, or the smelled horrible.

Since getting my autoimmune issues under control, I have become so passionate and inspired to help others reduce the chances of having these symptoms and issues. As an Occupational Therapist, I have seen the impact skin absorption of harmful chemicals and environmental toxins can have on kids’ and adults’ physical/mental health and behavior – and I am passionate to educate others about it. I have seen children’s neurological systems and behavior completely shift just from shifting which products they are using and their environments. As a friend, I have seen those close to me make changes to clean products, and the swap has changed their lives drastically — even getting rid of their eczema and balancing their hormones.

And all of this is not without hope, it only takes a few days for your body to process these chemicals out of your system! — great news!

Please let me know if you have questions or I can help. There are many efforts (some of which I have joined) to get safer product protection bills passed, but until then it’s up to us to keep ourselves safe.

Here are some of the brands/products I have found to be “clean/safe” and actually work. I am not sponsored by any means by any of these companies — I just want to share with you what works.

Full disclosure, because I believe being clear is being kind: I am a member of Young Living (which means you can order through me without signing up! score) and I am a “consultant” for Beautycounter because I love their company. They advocate in Congress for better chemical safety laws, and their products are 100% clean, and EWG certified — AND I get a huge product discount for signing up.

I’m not here to sell you anything, and if you ask me questions, I will not try to get you to sign-up for anything. I do not like being “sold to” and that is not what I’m here to do. I am here to share. Outside of YL and BC — I have no ties to these companies other than just being a big fan.

Body

Avalon Organics was one of the first “clean” products I found and we’ve been using them ever since. Their body washes and shampoo are great. I use Beautycounter for my hair products and B uses Avalon. For lotion, I love the Lotion from Everyone Products and the Beautycounter body butter is my go-to when we’re in Colorado (it’s very dry here!).

Nail Care

Detoxing my nail care products was one of the easier switches because it’s about the same price. I love everything Zoya, but the Karma Organics brand has my heart. Their Lavender Soybean Oil Polish Remover is fantastic — it’s moisturizing for cuticles instead of dehydrating, and the bottle I have now has lasted me 4 YEARS!

Make-up

I used to use whatever I got from Ulta/Sephora. I used all the brands; Tart, TooFaced, Urban Decay, etc. But with all of toxins I had to quit. Beautycounter is one of the brands I trust now for make-up, beauty, and things like lotion. They are EWG Verified  and they have the highest quality standards in the industry. I don’t have to research every product I buy from Beautycounter because I trust them as a company! They are B Corp certified, and they lobby in Congress for industry-wide changes. win win win.

I’ve also used and liked Juice Beauty and Honesty Beauty! You will need to research each individual product because not all are clean. I really like both of their foundations, though!

 Toothpaste

There are so many toxins in toothpaste — and we put it right in our mouths at least twice a day. Natures Gate is the best toothpaste we’ve found so far and we have tried many! Some were real grainy or they weren’t “minty enough” according to the husband (he’s my biggest quality control guy). So far this one is the best!

And while we’re on the topic of oral care… I started a search for BPA free toothbrushes and it ended with my finding these bamboo ones on amazon. To be completely honest, my husband hates these and it took me a week or so to get used to them. BUT! — once I did I love them now. They come in cute packs of 4 and I never feel bad about throwing out a toothbrush now because they are 100% biodegradable! yesss.

Deodorant

This, to me, is one of the most important and what I am relentless on with my family. You’ve gotta change the deodorant, at least! You put deodorant right over your lymph nodes every day! This one is important!

My husband and I have tried AT LEAST 17 different kinds of deodorant. It’s been an exhaustive search. He rashes really easily with certain ingredients, and well, he’s a man — it’s gotta work — the hippie make-your-own stuff doesn’t work on him. I, myself, can pretty much get away with any brand, but I wanted to find a brand that we both liked and could use — making shopping easier.

The brand we ended up loving after what felt like a year of searching is Schmidt’s Deodorant. The Rose Vanilla scent is my favorite and the Ylang-ylang sent is B’s favorite. He liked the Charcoal scent the best but its black and stained clothes, so, bye.

Wipes

People use wipes mostly for faces and bottoms — at least thats how I use them… Anyways I used to use Ponds make up remover wipes and Charmin for the restroom. But there are SO MANY chemicals in these. I am appalled they allow them for use on children but that sums up why we’re here.

Young Living Seedlings Wipes are by far my favorite general wipe (can be used for face or bottom) and there is a whole seedlings line for babes (linked below). But as far as makeup removing wipes go, HANDS DOWN — Beautycounter Make-up Removing Wipes are theee best — they are completely biodegradable! (my favorite phrase) — and they work well and smell amazing. Pampers Pure does a great job too! I was skeptical at first because I’m neurotic about all of this but I did the research and it’s a clean product!


Little Ones Need Safer (too)

I love all of these products not because I use them on my own family — don’t have any littles in my house just yet! — but I love them because I love these companies and my mama friends say they’re great products! Pampers also just came out with a Pampers Pure line, and after doing some checking on the ingredients, they’re clean! Very exciting to see a larger company begin to offer clean products. The companies and products I love; Young Living Seedlings line, Beautycounter Family (for infants + big kids too), Pampers Pure, and Honest Baby.

Be careful with Honest Baby though! — unfortunately, only some of their products are clean. Products like laundry detergent and some lotions are not, which is a bummer. I love the Honest Company because they are in all of the stores and they’re very accessible — you just have to do your own research with their products. Which is exhausting, but also the #1 reason why I’m so into companies that are 100% clean. (i.e. Young Living and BC)

Candles

When it comes to candles — if you don’t want to make your own at home — just don’t burn them. They are one of the worst culprits of chemical exposure inside our homes. I will use unscented soy candles when I can find them when I’m craving a hygee evening watching movies with B. Outside of that I diffuse everything. I have multiple in my house and usually, they’re all on. I’ve been through the gamut of diffusers on Amazon, this one is my favorite. But the Young Living diffusers are by far the best quality. A lot of the Amazon ones will break within a year of me buying them. Maybe it’s overuse? No idea. I love the Aria Diffuser because it has a remote and it’s pretty — I’ve had a lot of unsightly diffusers I try to hide and it’s more fun to have it out and about.

For Home

I was a Lysol ADDICT. I loved it. Everything got Lysol’ed before I found out how toxic it is. The first thing I tried from Young Living was The Thieves line and it’s SO good. The smell is phenomenal, and it works better than Lysol in experiments (see below for an experiment my friend did — fair warning, it is disgusting). The concentrate isn’t cheap, but it makes 20+ bottles of cleaner and then you use it to make things like stain sprays etc. I bought the bottle I have now 2 years ago and it’s still kickin’. Thieves has a laundry detergent that people love, but I haven’t tried it yet! The one we love and use is this one from Amazon — and it’s made in Ohio (our home state) which makes us happy.

For the Guys

My husband likes Every Man Jack products and I have heard amazing things about Beautycounter’s new Counter Man line but he’s yet to try it! I’ll update ya when he does.

images provided by: thrivemarket.com, beautycounter.com, amazon.com, honest.com, youngliving.com, livingspunky.com, eoproducts.com, @pamperspure instagram