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Sunscreens have repeatedly been under scrutiny lately, with scientists arguing that some types contain potential cancer-causing ingredients. While many people try to avoid ingredients like oxybenzone, there's now a new chemical to have on your radar: octocrylene.
A group of researchers filed a petition with the Food and Drug Administration, asking the agency to pull some sunscreens from the market. Included on the list are products from popular sunscreen makers like Coppertone, Banana Boat and Neutrogena, with researchers saying they've found evidence of a potential carcinogen.
Products made with octocrylene may contain benzophenone, a suspected carcinogen that can interfere with certain hormones and reproductive organs, according the nonprofit Haereticus Environmental Laboratory. About 2,400 sunscreens are made with octocrylene and “we don’t know what their safety is,” Downs told Bloomberg. “The FDA doesn’t know what their safety is and it’s unconscionable that the FDA would allow something that we don’t know if it’s safe or not.”
A study published in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology in March tested 16 octocrylene-based sunscreens, including Coppertone Water Babies spray, Banana Boat SPF 50 lotion and a Neutrogena Beach Defense spray — and all of them tested positive for benzophenone.
Still, "there is little detail on this so far," Dr. Jamie Alan, associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Michigan State University, tells Yahoo Life. "In humans, this has been shown to be safe in concentrations up to 10%," she continues. "There is recent evidence that it can cause DNA damage and hormone abnormalities in aquatic life."
It's a lot to take in and, if you've made shopping for safe sunscreen a priority, it's understandable that you might feel a little overwhelmed by all this. "There’s still ongoing research on the long-term effects of these ingredients," board-certified dermatologist Dr. Ife J. Rodney, founding director of Eternal Dermatology + Aesthetics in Maryland, tells Yahoo Life. "However, if you’re looking to avoid them, screen the ingredient list for benzophenone, octocrylene, oxybenzone, and benzene."
Rodney recommends looking for active ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium oxide instead, and avoiding synthetic fragrances or ingredients with parabens. But, in general, "mineral-based sunscreens are always a safe bet," Alan says.
Not sure where to start? Experts say these sunscreens are safe options.
Badger is well-known for repeatedly putting out safe sunscreens. This zinc-based option rubs in clear to blend in with most skin tones. It works by sitting on top of your skin and scattering and absorbing UVA and UVB rays to keep you from getting burned. It also won't absorb into your bloodstream. This sunscreen is water- and sweat-resistant for at least 40 minutes. "The only sunscreen I use for my family," one five-star fan said. "It’s a great mineral sunscreen for sensitive skin and the only one that keeps the sunburn away."
Shop it: Badger Sunscreen Cream, Unscented, $24 (was $29), amazon.com
Blue Lizard Sensitive Sunscreen Lotion has a lot going for it. It's free of active chemical ingredients and works by reflecting UV rays away from your skin. The zinc oxide–based sunscreen is also paraben- and fragrance-free, making it great for sensitive skin. It also contains no oxybenzone or octinoxate to help protect those precious coral reefs. "I tried a lot of different reef-safe sunscreens [i.e., products whose UVA and UVB filters don't employ chemicals known to damage coral reefs] before deciding that this one is the one for me," a happy customer said. "I didn't burn after using this...It was easy to spread, and the white cast disappeared if you rubbed it in for a while. It was one of the only physical sunscreens that didn't break me out when using it on my face."
Shop it: Blue Lizard Sensitive Sunscreen Lotion, $13 (was $14), amazon.com
La Roche-Posay's sunscreen is oil-free and uses the power of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to keep your skin safe from the sun. There's no greasy residue, and the sunscreen is free of harmful ingredients like oxybenzone. It's also paraben-free, fragrance-free and non-comedogenic, meaning it won't clog your pores. "New holy grail sunscreen for my face and body," a fan said. "I’ve tried lots of expensive mineral sunscreen in hopes of finding one that wouldn’t sting my eyes and make me break out. To my surprise, this sunscreen has turned out to be the best one. I originally bought it for my body and ended up loving it on my face."
Shop it: La Roche-Posay Anthelios Mineral Gentle Sunscreen Lotion, $23, amazon.com
This sunscreen set from Babyganics is reef-safe and specially formulated with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide to block the sun's harmful rays. It's also free of PABA, phthalates, parabens, fragrances or nano particles. This sunscreen is also specially formulated with a blend of tomato, sunflower, cranberry, black cumin and raspberry seed oils. "I adore this stuff," a satisfied customer said. "It works great for my kids. But I want to just say I've tried EVERY adult sunscreen out there and THEY NEVER WORKED. I would still get burned. I tried this with my kids and I've never gotten a burn since."
Shop it: Babyganics Kids Mineral Sunscreen Lotion, $17 (was $23), amazon.com
Many mineral sunscreens go on thick, but the Bare Republic Mineral Gel Sunscreen Lotion has a lightweight formula that easily smooths onto your skin. It's also free of chemical actives, parabens, dyes and synthetic fragrances. "This is my favorite sunscreen," a five-star fan said. "It has zinc oxide which offers the best protection, it is easy to apply and while you have a white sheen, you do not look like a ghost. I also have sensitive skin and allergies and I have not had any issues."
Shop it: Bare Republic Mineral Gel Sunscreen Lotion, $16 (was $17), amazon.com
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