You may be wondering about some of the ingredients used in store-bought sunscreen and the effects they might have on your body. But, by opting for something like coconut oil rather than the stuff sold at the drugstore, chances are, you’re doing yourself more harm than good.

Let’s get one thing straight: over-the-counter sunscreens are safe to use. The ingredients in these sunscreens are tested by the FDA to make sure they won’t cause harm when used appropriately. The FDA also confirms that they offer protection against harmful UV radiation. In fact, sunscreens are regulated just like any other over-the-counter drug. When an ingredient is approved for use by the FDA, information about safe doses and formulations gets published in the Federal Register¹. From there, sunscreen companies use this information to make their products. If you’re concerned about your kids’ health, don’t worry – sunscreens are safe to use on kids over the age of 6 months.

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The term “natural sunscreen” tends to mean that the product contains ingredients that deflect UV rays rather than absorb them, like titanium dioxide or zinc oxide². Check out our previous post to learn more about the different types of active ingredients in sunscreens. To some people, “natural” means homemade. The problem with making your own sunscreen is that the formulations haven’t been officially tested, so you really don’t know how much sun protection you’re getting, if any³. When the going recommendation is SPF 30, you shouldn’t risk it.

If you still haven’t warmed up to the idea of using an over-the-counter sunscreen, you can use UV protective clothing. Try to cover as much of your body as you can, and opt for tightly woven fabrics, since they let less sunlight (and therefore less UV radiation) through. Synthetic fabrics, like polyester, and darker clothing also offer more protection⁴.

  1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2015). Frequently Asked Questions about the FDA Drug Approval Process. Retrieved July 21, 2016
  2. Calvo, T. (2016). Shining a Light on ‘Natural’ Sunscreen. Retrieved July 21, 2016
  3. Wadyka, S. (2016). Homemade Sunscreen Is a Definite Don’t. Retrieved July 21, 2016
  4. Skin Cancer Foundation (2015). What Is Sun-Safe Clothing? Retrieved July 21, 2016