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Which Sunscreen Ingredients to Avoid: Tips from Mid-County Dermatology

A woman applying sunscreen to her face.
Sunscreen Tips St. Louis

As Spring approaches, many of us are preparing for fun in the sun. Whether you're planning a beach vacation or just enjoying the warmer weather, it's important to protect your skin from harmful UV rays. Sunscreen is a vital tool for safeguarding your skin, but not all sunscreens are created equal. In this article, we'll discuss which sunscreen ingredients to avoid and why, with tips from the dermatology experts at Mid-County Dermatology in St. Louis, MO.

Why Choose a Safe Sunscreen?

Before we dive into specific ingredients to avoid, let's first understand why it's important to choose a safe sunscreen. While it's true that sunscreen can protect your skin from sunburn and skin cancer, some sunscreen ingredients have been linked to negative health effects. For example, oxybenzone has been shown to disrupt hormone function and damage coral reefs. In addition, some people may experience skin irritation or allergic reactions to certain sunscreen ingredients. By choosing a safe sunscreen, you can protect your health and the environment.

Sunscreen Ingredients to Avoid

When selecting a sunscreen, it's important to read the label carefully and look for ingredients that may be harmful. Here are some sunscreen ingredients to avoid:


Oxybenzone is a common ingredient in many sunscreens, but it has been linked to hormone disruption and allergic reactions. In addition, oxybenzone is toxic to coral reefs and can contribute to their decline.

Retinyl Palmitate

Retinyl palmitate is a form of vitamin A that is often added to sunscreen as an anti-aging ingredient. However, studies have shown that it can increase the risk of skin cancer when exposed to sunlight.

Safe Sunscreen Alternatives

Now that we know which sunscreen ingredients to avoid, let's explore some safe sunscreen alternatives. Here are some options recommended by Mid-County Dermatology:

Mineral Sunscreens

Mineral sunscreens use zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to block UV rays, rather than absorbing them like chemical sunscreens. Mineral sunscreens are generally considered safe and effective, and they don't harm coral reefs. However, they can sometimes leave a white or chalky residue on the skin.

Chemical-Free Sunscreens

Chemical-free sunscreens use natural ingredients like shea butter and coconut oil to moisturize and protect the skin. While these sunscreens may not offer as much UV protection as mineral or chemical sunscreens, they are a good choice for those with sensitive skin.

Sun-Protective Clothing

In addition to sunscreen, you can also protect your skin from UV rays by wearing sun-protective clothing. Look for clothing with a UPF rating, which indicates how much UV radiation it blocks.


Choosing a safe sunscreen is an important part of protecting your skin from the sun's harmful rays. By avoiding harmful ingredients like oxybenzone and opting for safe alternatives like mineral sunscreen or sun-protective clothing, you can keep your skin healthy and safe. If you have any questions about sun safety or skincare, be sure to consult the experts at Mid-County Dermatology in St. Louis, MO.

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