Potentially Dangerous Chemicals in Sunscreen: Active Ingredients to Avoid

Potentially Dangerous Chemicals in Sunscreen: Active Ingredients to Avoid

June 17, 2019

One of the most important decisions we make when it comes to taking care of our skin is choosing how to protect ourselves from UVA and UVB rays. When it comes time to choose your sunscreen, there are tons of brands and formulations to pick from. Unfortunately, not all sunscreens are created equal. Read on to learn more about different types of sunscreen, some of the potentially dangerous chemicals in sunscreen and how to make the best choice for your skin.

The Different Types of Sunscreen

While there are some hybrids, in general, there are two major types of sunscreens – chemical and physical.

Chemical Sunscreens

Here’s how chemical sunscreens work: They have carbon based compounds like oxybenzone, octinoxate and avobenzone that prompt a chemical reaction when UV light hits them. The reaction takes the UV light and turns the rays into heat which then releases it from the skin.

Physical Sunscreens

Much like their name suggests, physical sunscreens work by physically blocking the UV rays with active minerals like titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. They sit on top of the skin and deflect UV rays. For all their benefits, there are a few drawbacks to physical sunscreens. Depending on the brand you choose, you may notice that physical sunscreen is harder to apply evenly or that a whitish or gray residue is left behind.

The Trouble with Chemical Sunscreens

A recent study found that using chemical sunscreens in either sprays, lotions or creams can lead to a potentially unsafe level of systemic absorption of sunscreen chemicals. The levels of the chemicals in plasma were found to exceed the FDA’s guidelines and levels of avobenzone were found to be particularly high. While the issue certainly needs to be studied more in depth, it’s safe to say that this level of absorption is concerning.

Skip the Chemicals in Sunscreen

To avoid the potentially dangerous chemicals in sunscreen while still having a simple application process, try Theoderma’s Mineral Shield Sunscreen. Our formulation is a physical sunscreen comprised of 25% zinc oxide. It’s completely free of nanoparticles, which means you don’t have to worry about any unnecessary skin absorption issues. And, our creamy and lightly tinted formulation ensures an easy application with no off-putting white residue.

Learn more about our guiding philosophy and skin care line.


Savy Guthrie has been a PA working in dermatology for 17 years and has worked in medicine for 20 years overall.  She has treated tens of thousands of patients, helping them achieve healthy, beautiful skin. 

Savy Guthrie is a dermatology PA with 17 years of patient care experience and is the founder of Theoderma Skin Care.

Savy with her dog

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