The 4 Ingredients That Shouldn't Be In Your Sunscreen

It’s a given that you can’t go a day without protecting your skin from the sun with sunscreen. But what if your SPF does more harm than good? It’s actually more of a problem than you may think.

“By now, almost everyone has been warned about the damage the sun can cause to your skin. UV exposure is accumulative, meaning you shouldn’t skimp on applying sunscreen,” says Santa Clarita, CA, dermatologist Bernard Raskin, MD. “And, not all sunscreens are the same. There are two types: physical blocks and chemical blocks, which use different ingredients.”

So many people wear sunscreen, but they’re often wearing the wrong types. They put it on every day and constantly battle itching skin, breakouts, rashes and other skin issues and irritations. Look for formulations that are gentle on skin and use zinc oxide. 

Here’s what you need to make sure your sunscreen is completely free of:

  • PABA: This UV blocker isn’t as popular today as it once was because most people were found to be sensitive to it. However, it was one of the first ingredients used in sunscreen. You’re more likely to find products that contain PABA esters in it.
  • Salicylates: “It’s best to avoid these,” says Dr. Raskin. “Especially look out for octyl salicylate.”
  • Cinnamates: Another commonly used UVB protector, if you’re sensitive to sunscreen, make sure to look for products without this.
  • Avobenzone: “It’s one of the best UVA sunscreen ingredients approved by the FDA, but it’s highly unstable when exposed to sunlight,” says Dr. Raskin. “Some sunscreens use a variety of other chemicals to stabilize it.”