Sunscreen 101

Photo of a beach promoting SPF

Now that summer is in full swing, summer activities have us spending more time outside. Protecting your family from the sun’s harmful rays is likely top of mind. Here are some things to consider before buying or applying sunscreen.

Mineral vs. Chemical Sunscreen

Traditional sunscreens are made with chemicals that penetrate the skin and make their way into your body. Two chemical additives in popular sunscreen brands are oxybenzone and oxtinoxate. These two UV filters cause the most concern in terms of toxicity, allergic reactions and hormone disruption. Additionally, you may have heard about Hawaii’s new law banning sunscreens that contain chemicals that are harming coral reefs. Those chemical cuprits have been named; oxybenzone and oxtinoxate.

Mineral sunscreens, on the other hand, use zinc oxide and titanium dioxide as UV filters. These ingredients have been shown to not penetrate the skin as highly as their chemical counterparts.


UVA rays are long rays that penetrate the skin and are less likely to result in immediate signs of exposure. UVB are shorter rays that affect the outer layer of skin and cause redness and sunburns.

Broad Spectrum & SPF

Broad Spectrum sunscreens offer some protection against UVA rays while Sun Protection Factor (SPF) protects skin from UVB rays. A higher SPF offers more protection than a lower number, as you would expect. It’s important to note that regardless of the number on your SPF, they all need to be reapplied regularly to ensure you’re protected.

In a nutshell, here’s what to look for when buying sunscreen this summer to ensure everyone is getting the protection they need.

  • A mineral sunscreen option is best
  • Avoid oxybenzone & oxtinoxate, as they cause the most concern health and environment wise
  • Choose broad spectrum SPF to protect from both UVA & UVB rays

Read more about sunscreen safety on the Environmental Working Groups website, ewg.org.

Companies that make environmentally safe sunscreen

Here are some small businesses making sunscreens that are family and reef safe. They’re also all available on Amazon!


Raw Elements

Goddess Garden

3rd Rock Sunblock


California Baby

Author Details

Jen Culler Liepis

Jen is the founder of Love Local.