August 10th, 2018

Sunscreen Safety – 5 Things You Need to Know

Sunscreen is one of those things we are supposed to apply liberally to our arms, legs, face and kids. … so what’s actually IN it? How does it work? Are some sunscreens ‘greener’ than others? Here’s a little summertime reading for anyone planning to protect themselves from the sun.

1. How sunscreen works: There are 2 types:

MINERAL sunscreen creates a layer of particles (zinc or titanium oxide) that deflect the sun’s rays.
• Effective immediately
• Does not degrade from UV exposure
• Does not penetrate the skin
• Also effective against UVA rays
• Safe for use in coral areas

CHEMICAL sunscreen uses compounds that absorb the sun’s rays and turn them into non-damaging wavelengths.
• Easy to apply, non-whitening
• Requires wait time to be effective
• Chemicals can penetrate skin
Chemicals degrade when exposed to UV
May harm coral reefs

2. Chemical Sunscreen Ingredients
Chemical sunscreens typically contain a combination of two to six of the following active ingredients:

Recently, concerns have been raised about long-term safety of some of these ingredients, particularly oxybenzone (benzophenone-3 ) which, in addition to sun protection, acts as a penetration enhancer. This chemical has been linked to allergies, hormone disruption, and cellular damage.
(Oxybenzone is present in over 500 other North American cosmetic items.)  (1)

Watch the Spray!
Spray sunscreens have increased in popularity, but some experts don’t recommend them, because of the hazard of inhaling chemicals and particles. (2)

3.Look for Broad Spectrum Protection
The suns rays come in different lengths, and it’s a good idea to protect against them all.

UVA radiation
• Goes deeper into the skin (dermis).
• Causes premature aging and wrinkles.
• Causes tanning.

UVB radiation
• Affects the skin’s surface (epidermis).
• Contributes most to burning of skin.
• Damages your eyes. (5)

4. Is Higher SPF Better?

People assume that they get twice as much protection from SPF 100 sunscreen as from SPF 50. In reality, the extra protection may be negligible. Used correctly, sunscreen with SPF values in the range of 30 to 50 will offer adequate protection, even for people most sensitive to sunburn. (6)

UV protection does not follow a linear relationship, meaning that if you apply half of the recommended amount you get LESS than half of the labeled SPF protection.

5. Protect ecosystems and coral too – with biodegradable and Reef Safe options

25 to 60 million bottles worth of sunscreen wash off into coral reef areas each year, and researchers have found that common sunscreen chemicals can be toxic to coral health. (3)
Now Hawaii has passed a law that will ban the sale of sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate. Sunscreens with titanium oxide or zinc oxide, (natural mineral ingredients), have not been found harmful to corals. (4) If you are swimming in nature, choose one of these options.

Great Green Sunscreen Options
London Drugs is pleased to offer a range of sunscreen options. Here are some choices that protect as sustainably as possible:

Attitude Mineral Sunscreens
Mineral- based protection: Non-nano Zinc Oxide
Ecologo Certified™
Vegan, not tested on animals
UVA, UVB protection
Made in Canada

Aveeno Mineral & Aveeno Baby
Mineral based protection
UVA, UVB protection

Badger Sunscreens
Non-Nano Zinc Oxide Mineral Protection
87% organic ingredients
UVA, UVB protection

Boo Bamboo Natural Sunscreen
Active ingredient: Zinc Oxide, Titanium Oxide
UVA, UVB protection
Made in Canada

Goddess Garden
Certified organic
Non-Nano, Reef Safe, Non-GMO, Biodegradable
Vegan, Cruelty Free, Paraben and Phthalate Free
UVA, UVB protection

Green Beaver
Non-nano zinc oxide and titanium oxide mineral protection
100% natural, biodegradable and reef friendly
Made in Canada
UVA, UVB protection

Neutrogena Sheer Zinc
Active ingredient: Zinc Oxide
UVA, UVB protection

Blogs, videos, articles & products to help you live a little greener.


(1) Source: London Drugs Health Blog 2014 –
(2) Source: Environmental Working Group Sunscreen Report 2017 –
(3) Environmental Working Group – Do the Chemicals in your sunscreen damage fragile coral reefs? –
(4) US National Park Service Bulletin – Protect Yourself, Protect the Reef! –
(5) Canadian Skin Cancer Foundation -
(6) Environmental Working Group – What’s wrong with high SPF? –

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