13 Bad Sunscreen Ingredients to Avoid in 2022

There is no denying that sunscreen is an essential part of our beauty regime. However, choosing one is not as easy as going to the store and grabbing any sunscreen that you can lay your hands on.

There are many factors you need to consider, such as whether the ingredients used in the product are safe or not.

So, if you want to know more about the worst sunscreen ingredients to avoid, keep on reading. I’ve included all you need to know in this article.

After long research, we found that Oxybenzone, Octinoxate, Homosalate, Cyclopentasiloxane, Parabens, Octisalate, Octocrylene, and Formaldehyde are the harmful sunscreen ingredients to avoid.

Related: Shampoo Ingredients to Avoid

List of Harmful Sunscreen Ingredients to Avoid

Apart from the above, there are a few more ingredients that you should stay away from. Let’s go through these ingredients one by one!

Sunscreen ingredients to avoid

1. Oxybenzone

Also known as benzophenone -3, oxybenzone is a common ingredient in FDA-approved sunscreens.

In addition to helping other chemicals permeate the skin, it penetrates deeply into the skin.

However, according to publicly available scientific research, it is the most problematic active ingredient in sunscreen.

The substance is considered a hazardous chemical for eye contact and slightly harmful when directly contacting the skin.

Moreover, researchers also found that adolescent boys who had a higher level of oxybenzone in their bodies had a lower testosterone level. 

Any woman who is exposed to oxybenzone has a higher risk of endometriosis,

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Hazardous for eye contact.
  • Harmful when it comes in direct contact with the skin.
  • Causes a lower level of testosterone in young boys.

2. Octinoxate

Octinoxate is a common ingredient used in sunscreens approved by the FDA.

The human body absorbs this chemical through the skin, and it is also found in blood, urine, and breast milk.

This shows that octinoxate is absorbed systematically in the body.

According to various studies, this chemical messes with hormones and the body’s metabolic system.

Other endocrine targets have also been linked to this. This includes progesterone signaling and androgen. 

Moreover, octinoxate also causes allergic reactions once exposed to ultraviolet light.

For this reason, many countries even banned the sale of sunscreens that had this ingredient in them.

I guess that makes it crystal why it is on our sunscreen ingredients to avoid list.

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Causes allergic reactions.
  • Messes with hormones.
  • Affects the metabolic system of the body.

3. Homosalate

Homosalate is another toxic ingredient found in sunscreens. It functions as a UV absorber that helps the other ingredients present in the sunscreen to penetrate your skin.

As per the recent opinion from the European Commission, homosalate disrupts hormones and produces toxic substances in the body.

Not only this, but it can also potentially cause allergic reactions and skin irritation.

So, if you have sensitive skin, we recommend switching to mineral sunscreen.

According to FDA, this chemical is not safe to use at a concentration above 15%.

Therefore, for the safety of the users, the commission has recommended a maximum concentration of only 1.4% of this chemical. 

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Causes allergic reactions.
  • This leads to skin irritation.
  • Disrupts the hormones.

4. Cyclopentasiloxane

Cyclopentasiloxane is among the most common ingredients used in personal care products these days.

Haircare products often include this ingredient, and it is made from silicone.

Recently, many ingredients have been restricted by the EU, and Cyclopentasiloxane is among those sunscreen ingredients to avoid.

That’s because this chemical is toxic to the human reproduction system. What’s more, it also accumulates in the environment with a long-term effect. 

In addition to this, Cyclopentasiloxane also causes mild eye and skin irritation to the users.

So, even though you might think that this chemical delivers a skin-softening effect, we would not advise you to use it.

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Causes mild skin irritation.
  • Leads to eye irritation.
  • Toxic to the human reproduction system.

5. Parabens

In sunscreens, parabens are used to inhibit the development of germs, yeasts, and molds.

Some common examples of the parabens include benzylparaben, butylparaben, propylparaben, and methylparaben.

Due to their bacteria-resistance property, these chemicals are also used in shampoos, conditioners, lotions, and other skincare products.

However, this ingredient is known to disrupt the hormone estrogen level, leading to breast cancer among women.

In addition to this, it might also mess with other hormones in your body.

On the brighter side, the majority of the brands have recognized how toxic parabens can be.

For this reason, they have introduced ‘paraben-free‘ sunscreens in the market. However, some of them still use it as an ingredient in their products. So, do not forget to read the label.

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Leads to breast cancer.
  • Messes with the hormones in your body.
  • Blocks the skin from receiving natural nutrients.

6. Octisalate

Octisalate is a colorless chemical whose main function is to absorb UV rays. However, it is also used to provide water-resistance properties to sunscreen.

Since it degrades when exposed to sunlight, you might need to apply it frequently. Apart from sunscreens, octisalate is also found in fragrances.

Even though this ingredient is less of a health concern than the other ingredients above, it is still harmful.

According to Japan’s Standards for Cosmetics, octisalate is associated with allergenic effects and disrupts your immune system.

Furthermore, the research conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency suggests that it might have endocrine effects too. As a result, the binding to the estrogen receptor becomes weak. 

The best way to avoid octisalate is to read product labels and avoid buying any product that indicates the presence of this chemical in it.

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Associated with allergenic effects.
  • Disrupts the immune system.
  • Makes the estrogen receptor weak.

7. Octocrylene

Octocrylene is a chemical ingredient in sunscreen known to protect the skin from both UVA and UVB rays.

Moreover, it is also known for increasing the stability and efficacy of other ingredients found in sunscreen. However, it is not as beneficial as it is made to look.

According to some experts, children and people with sensitive skin are more prone to having an allergy to this ingredient.

If you are someone who is breastfeeding, you should avoid it completely. Apart from being toxic to humans, octocrylene is linked to aquatic toxicity too.

Moreover, it is often contaminated with benzophenone which is a known carcinogen.

Therefore, only a 10% concentration is advised by the European Commission.

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Causes allergic reactions.
  • Messes with the endocrine system.
  • Linked to aquatic toxicity.
Worst Sunscreen Ingredients

8. Avobenzone

Introduced in 1990, avobenzone is a common chemical found in sunscreens.

Unlike other ingredients that just give protection from UVB rays, avobenzone also protects against UVA rays that cause skin cancer and premature aging.

This chemical is harmful because you only get 30 minutes of protection as it breaks down in the sun quickly.

Consequently, UVA rays will penetrate deep into the skin’s layers without your knowledge for many years to come.

Additionally, the breakdown products of avobenzone also cause allergic reactions to the skin.

Not only this, it might affect your endocrine system too and is also known to block the effects of testosterone. 

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Only lasts for 30 minutes.
  • Breakdown products cause allergic reactions.
  • Affects your endocrine system.

9. Formaldehyde

Even though formaldehyde is not present on the ingredients list of your sunscreen, it is found in many of the preservatives that are used in place of parabens.

For example, quaternium-15, hydroxymethyl glycinate, DMDM hydantoin, and Diazolidinyl urea release formaldehyde.

A lot of people are not aware of the fact that formaldehyde in skincare products can cause allergic contact dermatitis.

As a result, you might get red rashes and itchy skin which may develop into blisters later.

Talking about the side effects of this ingredient at lower levels, it can cause eyes, nose, and throat irritation.

So, even if it protects your skin from the sun’s harmful rays, it fails to protect your eyes, nose, and throat from irritation. Because of this, we urge you to avoid it.

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Causes allergic contact dermatitis.
  • Makes the skin itchy and red.
  • Leads to eye, nose, and throat irritation.

10. Methylisothiazolinone (MIT)

Also known as MIT, methylisothiazolinone is an extremely effective preservative. Because of this, it has become a common ingredient in sunscreens.

In addition to this, it is also found in detergents, cleaning products, lotions, shampoos, and conditioners. In short, MIT is found in various products that claim to be ‘natural.’

There are a variety of risks associated with this ingredient when it comes in contact with skin.

Common risks include skin sensitization, skin irritation, inhalation toxicity, painful rashes, neurotoxicity, and organ toxicity, so it will be among the sunscreen ingredients to avoid

So, make sure to avoid the products that contain the name MIT or any one of its alternatives like NEOLONE 950 or MICRO CARE MT preservative.

Reasons to Avoid:

  • This leads to skin irritation.
  • Associated with neurotoxicity and organ toxicity.
  • It might cause painful rashes.

11. Quaternium- 15

Quaternium- 15 is a known releaser of formaldehyde and is used in many cosmetics and pharmaceutical products.

There are several commercial and industrial goods that use it to preserve their products, as well.

Even though it is used in low concentrations in sunscreens, it is still known to cause skin and eye irritation. According to some studies, it is a known respiratory irritant too. 

So, if you want to steer clear of this ingredient, skip the product that has quaternium- 15 included in its ingredient list.

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Causes skin irritation.
  • Linked to eye irritation.
  • Known respiratory irritant. 

12. Retinyl Palmitate

Commonly found in sunscreens, retinyl palmitate is a known skin-conditioning agent.

However, what we fail to understand is that using sunscreens that contain this ingredient can lead to various problems. 

For example, people who apply retinyl palmitate on their skin might be increasing their exposure to skin cancer, melanoma, lesions, and tumor.

In addition to this, the FDA has claimed that this ingredient’s continuous application can lead to excessive Vitamin A intake in pregnant women.

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Increases exposure to skin cancer.
  • Linked to lesions and tumors.
  • Leads to excessive Vitamin A in pregnant women.

13. Zinc Oxide

Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are the most common ingredients in mineral sunscreens.

These ingredients are found in nanoparticles, and everyone considers this mineral completely safe to use. But, this is not entirely true.

Even though the FDA has declared this ingredient safe and effective, evidence shows something else.

If you are allergic to zinc, you might get itching or swelling, rashes, trouble breathing, and severe dizziness.

Moreover, it is also classified as a possible cause of cancer due to exposure by inhalation.

For this reason, we will not recommend sprayed or powdered formulations that contain zinc oxide.

Additionally, the powdered and spray forms also cause inhalation problems.

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Makes your skin itch and swell.
  • Classified as a possible carcinogen.
  • Powdered and sprayed form causes inhalation problems.

Similar Articles you may like:

Conclusion: Worst Sunscreen Ingredients

Even though sunscreens help us protect against the sun’s harmful rays, the ingredients present in them might do more harm than good.

For this reason, it is better to educate yourself about the toxic sunscreen ingredients to avoid.

So, make sure that you always read the label on the back of the bottle and see if it includes any harmful ingredients. If yes, then do not buy it. Simple!

Need to know more? Do not hesitate to reach out to us. We will be happy to assist you in any way we can.

2 thoughts on “13 Bad Sunscreen Ingredients to Avoid in 2022”

  1. It would be nice to have a list of sunscreens that do not contain any of these harmful ingredients. I looked at all my sunscreens and this stuff is in every one of them .

  2. Great and eye opening information. Thank you. Which sunscreen could you recommend that has none of these? If one does indeed exist! I’ve been looking with no find yet…


Leave a Comment