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When it comes to finding safer sunscreen, it can be difficult navigating the many options out there. In this post, we highlight some of the active ingredients to avoid, and offer better alternatives. We’ve also listed MADE SAFE® certified sunscreen options to help you shop with confidence. If you just want the product recommendations, skip to the bottom!


Active Ingredients

Active ingredients are what make sunscreen sunscreen. They shield you from the sun’s rays.

Active Ingredients to Avoid 

  • Homosalate – Linked to hormone disruption. Not biodegradable.
  • Octinoxate – Linked to reproductive toxicity. Also labeled as methoxy-cinnamate, ethylhexyl-cinnamate, or OMC.
  • Oxybenzone – Linked to contact allergies, organ system toxicity, and photoallergies (an allergic response caused by the interaction of this ingredient with light). Occasionally labeled as benzophenone-3.
  • Nanomaterial zinc oxide and titanium dioxide – Not properly assessed for safety. Unless a product is labeled as “non-nano,” we recommend exercising caution because it could contain nanomaterials.

Better Active Ingredients

  • Titanium Dioxide (Non-nanomaterial) – A naturally occurring mineral compound that provides full coverage against UVB rays and partial coverage against UVA rays (it is less effective at protecting against long-wave UVA rays).
  • Zinc Oxide (Non-nanomaterial) – Another naturally occurring mineral compound that provides broad spectrum coverage.

Inactive Ingredients In addition to active ingredients, sunscreens contain other ingredients listed under the “Inactive Ingredients” portion of the product label. There are dozens of inactive ingredients used in sunscreens – some good, some not so good. We can’t cover them all here, but if you’ve been following our posts for a while, you probably know to look out for “fragrance.”


Additional Resources

  • Visit our Hazard List and Chemical Profiles to learn more about ingredients to avoid in personal care products.
  • If you have a question about a specific ingredient listed on the back of your sunscreen, you can also search our MADE SAFE Banned List of over 6,500 substances banned from use in MADE SAFE certified products. This list is an excellent resource for shoppers, but do keep in mind that the Banned List is only the first step towards MADE SAFE certification. Our certification process involves multiple subsequent steps in which additional toxic substances – not included on the Banned List – are ruled out.
  • For the full scoop, check out our product profile on Sunscreen and our Tips for Choosing a Safer Sunscreen, a visual guide to safe sun.

MADE SAFE® Certified Sunscreen

Annmarie Skin Care

Babo Botanicals

For International Shoppers:
Anumati Skincare

Mamaearth