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Beauty & Skincare

Everything You Need to Know About Safe Sunscreen

*Today is the final day to get the free Summer Sun Set at Beautycounter. Spend $125 and get a free 3oz. Countersun mist and 1oz. Countersun lotion. Not sure what to add to your cart? Read this post for all of my favorites and how to use them!

Summer is officially upon us, which means lots of sunshine at the pool, park, and lake for our family. Summer is easily one of my favorite times of year in Chicago! The whole city comes to life after being stuck inside for 5+ months of cold winter weather.

By the time we can all go outside, we’re all terribly pale. Both Rob and Owen have fair skin, so there’s no surprise there, but I have darker skin and even I’m ghostly by the time winter is over.

To keep us from all getting burnt to a crisp, we liberally apply sunscreen (and go through it in record time) during the summer months. A big part of that is also comign to terms with the fact that for many years of my life, I did not properly protect my skin from the sun and I’m now paying the price—sun damage on my forehead and aging skin.

It stops here! I now apply sunscreen to my face every single day, even when it’s rainy and gross, and apply it all over when I know I’ll be outdoors for longer. I might be a little late, but I’d rather be late than never!

I’ve learned a lot about sunscreen in the past year as I learn more about the toxic ingredients in sunscreen and other beauty products, so I thought it’d be helpful to breakdown everything you need to know about safe sunscreen!

Let’s get to it!

What Is Safe Sunscreen?

When it comes to sunscreen, there’s really two different types. One—chemical sunscreen, and two, mineral-based sunscreen. Which one is safer?

Mineral sunscreen! Unlike chemical sunscreens which can quickly be absorbed into your body, mineral-based sunscreens sit on top of your skin to create a physical barrier from the sun.

Mineral sunscreens do tend to leave a white residue on your skin, but it’s pretty much the only little annoyance in making a healthier decision.

And, if that really irks you, I highly suggest you try out Beautycounter’s new tinted Countersun mist that comes in two shades. It not only protects you from the sun, but gives you a glowing tan in the meantime. It is not however a sunless tanner and won’t leave you with that tan.

Toxic Chemicals In Sunscreen

So, which chemicals should you be looking to avoid in your sunscreen? Here’s a quick list of the most common toxic ingredients in sunscreen.


This is one of the most common ingredients found in chemical sunscreens. According to the EWG (Environmental Working Group), 56% of beach and sport sunscreens contain the chemical oxybenzone, a known endocrine disruptor.


This filters UV rays, but is also quickly absorbed by your skin. It has been shown to increase the estrogen in your body and has a negative impact on your endocrine system.

Retinyl Palmitate

This is a version of Vitamin A, which can speed up the growth of cancerous cells. Meaning it can speed up the growth or tumors or lesions when used and then exposed to sunlight. Another reason your dermatologist will tell you to avoid the sun if you’re using a product with retinol in it. In my opinion, it’s best to just avoid it all together. Did you know it’s banned in Europe?

When we’re using sunscreen to prevent skin cancer, it seems crazy that this ingredient which speeds up growth would be included.


This is the propellant in most spray sunscreens. It might be easier to use, but you don’t want to inhale it. It can cause irritation to your lungs and throat, and can easily be absorbed into your bloodstream.

If you like the convenience of spray-on sunscreens, look into Beautycounter’s Countersun mist which is powered with air instead of aerosols which makes it a safer option.


Used as a preservative to extend shelf-life, parabens can act as estrogen in our bodies and cause endocrine disruption. They’re so common—just check any of your personal care ingredient lists—you’re bound to find them in at least one product. Look out for methylparaben, propylparabens—anything that ends in paraben is something you want to avoid.

The Negative Side Effects Of Toxic Sunscreen

Collapse of Coral Reefs: In recent years, it’s come to light that toxic chemicals from sunscreens are actually killing coral reefs. How scary is that? It also makes me so sad because I spent so many years as a kid snorkeling the most beautiful reefs and I can’t imagine them being gone!

Many beaches have taken measures to not allow these toxic ingredients to be used. In Hawaii, any sunscreens with oxybenzone and octinoxate have been banned from sale because of their effects on coral reefs.

Endocrine & Hormone Disruption: These chemicals can be quickly absorbed into our bodies and can be found in our bloodstream after just one day of use—read this article for more.

Some of these ingredients can mimic estrogen in the body causing hormone and endocrine disruption that can contribute to more healthy problems like infertility, cancer, adrenal fatigue, brain fog, and so much more.

Allergic Reactions: allergic reactions can’t be totally ruled out with mineral sunscreens, but they’re greatly reduced when using mineral ingredients versus chemicals. If you have sensitive skin, always test an area of your skin with a sunscreen to see if you have any reaction before applying it to your whole body.

Safe Sunscreen Brands

When looking for a safe mineral sunscreen, look for zinc oxide under the active ingredients. Zinc sunscreens sit on top of your skin creating a physical barrier, instead of being absorbed into your skin.

With any brand, make sure you’re applying sunscreen every 2 hours and make sure the sunscreen’s SPF 30 or higher.


When it comes to total body SPF, Beautycounter’s Countersun lotion is our family’s go-to. We used it like crazy during our trip to Naples and I just stocked up on a few more bottles for summer.

It’s water resistant for up to 80 minutes, goes on smoothly and is totally free of toxic ingredients. Personally, I prefer the sunscreen lotion, but the mist is also really popular! I do want to snag a bottle of the tinted spray (which I’ll probably do today!) because it’s so amazing—I got to try it out at the conference back in March.

I also love the sunscreen stick for Owen. I keep one in his diaper bag so I can rub it on his legs and arms in a pinch when we head to the park.


Supergoop! makes so many great sunscreen products, but make sure to check the ingredients when buying from here. Their sunscreens all seem to be free of oxybenzone, but some include avobenzone and octinoxate, which I’d prefer to not have.

They’re mineral sunscreens don’t though! I swear by their Smooth & Poreless 100% Mineral Matte Sunscreen. I use it as a primer under makeup and it is amazing! I haven’t tried their body sunscreen, but I would happily try their mineral sunscreen.


Coola was actually one of the very first mineral sunscreens I ever tried. I bought their primer several years ago and loved it. I had a hard time finding it after that, which is really the only reason I stopped using it.

But, like Supergoop!, not all of their sunscreens are mineral, so make sure to click on the mineral option to get the safest version.

Coconut Oil

Okay, so this isn’t a brand, but I’ve been hearing a lot about people wearing coconut oil as SPF, so I wanted to touch on it. Personally, I would not suggest this. Coconut oil does have a natural SPF or 4-5, but it’s not enough to fully protect you from being in the sun all day.

Another way to practice safe sun protection is to limit your overall sun exposure. I’ve started wearing baseball hats and floppy hats just about every time I go outside and know I’ll be out for a while. I have sun damage on my forehead already and I don’t want to make it any worse.

Do you use safer sunscreen? Mineral sunscreen? I’d love to hear any brands you love as well because I know there’s so many good ones out there!

BTW, what to pack for a beach getaway, and skincare ingredients to avoid.

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Artist, creative, Designer, entrepreneur, educator, green-smoothie lover, short-order cook and mama to two wild boys

Hi, I'm Blair Staky

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