2019 Sunscreen Update: How Safe is Yours?

I’m not a vampire but I avoid the sun like one. I’m fanatical about protecting my skin from the sun…now. Sadly, I baked, burned and blistered my way through much of my childhood which my skin is paying for today.

I had a melanoma removed from the back of my leg many years ago which was my wake up call to get serious about protecting my skin. In addition to large hats and parasols, I wear several sunscreens every day, rain or shine.

I’ve written about sunscreen multiple times because it’s important to me. Here’s how much we need to use here, and here are my favorites here.

Josie Maran and Australian Gold mineral sunscreen on A Well Styled Life
Colorscience Brightening Perfector same product, new label – Josie Maran Argan Daily MoisturizerAustralian Gold Tinted Mineral Lotion

Each year I read the reports published by the Environmental Workers Group because I want to know which sunscreens are the safest and most effective. The EWG is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment. They review existing data about exposure and toxicity for the most commonly used sunscreen chemicals and have found the most troubling is oxybenzone.

La Roche Posay and Australian Gold sunscreens
LaRoche Posay Anthelios Mineral 50Australian Gold Untitled Mineral

In 2008 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 97% of Americans are contaminated with oxybenzone that has been linked to allergies, hormone disruption, and cell damage. That’s disturbing because it continues to be a leading chemical in our sunscreens today. You might want to check yours.

Jennifer Connolly of A Well Styled Life wearing large blue hat and white shirt at a marina
sunhatno-iron white shirtearrings sunglasses

Sunscreen in America has been regulated by the FDA as an over-the-counter drug since 1978. When they began to consider sunscreen safety, they simply grandfathered in many active ingredients without reviewing their potential hazards. They’ve just recently decided the only sunscreens they can deem safe and effective for our use are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Isn’t that a little like shutting the barn door after the horse has escaped?

Considering skin cancer is the most common human cancer and more than one million are diagnosed with one form of it each year, we need access to reliable sunscreens that don’t pose a health risk themselves.Mineral sunscreens on A Well Styled Life

My holy grails of sunscreen haven’t changed much over the last few years. I stick with physical sunscreens which sit on the surface of my skin.


Mineral sunscreen options


Thanks for reading and have a great day.

What’s in your sunscreen?

Which is your favorite?




  1. Ginny Braun says:

    Wow, thanks for the information on Netrogena Ultra Sheer, as I’ve been using it underneath the the Elta MD tinted broad spectrum on my face for about two years. I’ve replaced liquid foundation with the Elta M.D and can’t say enough good things about this product. Have bought it at my dermatologist office, but it’s available now on Amazon.
    Getting ready for a trip to Hawaii, so I am looking for an environmentally conscientious and effective collection of sunscreens.
    Thanks for an excellent topic and information!!

    1. I love that Elta MD formulation! I use it as my foundation in the winter when my skin is dryer.

      1. Elizabeth says:

        I wish that the Elta MD came in a lighter tint, it is too dark for me..Is the Australian gold a lighter tint?

  2. Thanks Jennifer for this valuable information! Took a look at my Neutrogena Ultra Sheer and it has Oxybenzone so I just ordered Australian Gold .

  3. I too had skin cancer (once melanoma on nose and twice basal cell on nose) so sunscreen is mandatory and I purchase in bulk. As an avid snorkeler who spends in excess of 2 days per week for 2 hours in the ocean under 90+ degree Florida sun, an environmentally friendly yet highly effective sunscreen is a must.

    After playing around with many failed products and lotions my most successful routine is ThinkSport SPF 50 for the body, ThinkSport Everyday Face Sunscreen – Naturally Tinted for the face and Vanicream as a lip protectant. ThinkSport is stealth spf50, water resistant and has a solid 1 rating through the EWG. The naturally tinted facial lotion smooths on easily and the slight tint provides a healthy (not pancakey) glow without clogging pores or being greasy. I testify ThinkSport goes above and beyond to protect. Never had a single trace of burn for a full 2 hours of immersion. This past weekend, went on a 1.5 hour horseback ride in the blazing hot, full mid-afternoon exposure, Florida Sun. Zero pink despite applying the product only once at 9am (slathered heavily on my nose).

    Highly recommend ThinkSport (no, not a sales rep for the company lol) as it’s 100% mineral based, a 20% zinc oxide low molecular formula which stay’s put in the water and does not harm the ecosystem nor reefs. As a bonus, ThinkSport products have less impact on the wallet vs other sunscreens with similar ratings. Amazon has a great prices on a 3 pack.

    1. Thank you so much Kate! I have never heard of ThinkSport. It sounds amazing. I will order some to try. I want to get some for my grandson too!!

  4. Eva Sundene says:

    I am 77 retired chief editor of Shape-Up HealthBeauty Magazine in Norway. Now I am living in the Canary Islands with sunshine all year round. I cannot use sunscreens 7-24 as most of them contains so many dubious synthetic ingredients as well as mineral oil. It is a choice between the plague and cholera… I have ended up with using loads of natural Aloe Vera gel and products (I even have my own plants in the garden). My skin is really good – and it has become better, firmer and healthier since 2011 when I moved here. I avoid laying in the sun (unless protected by a parasol), and I put on a shirt or tunic and a straw hat to protect. I eat healthy foods with lots of antioxidants – and I take supplements every day. When I want extra sun kissed skin – I use self tanning… Welcome the sun, and spend a little time without protection to activate D-vitamins that are essential for your immune defence.

    1. Christine says:

      Eva – I’m 62, born in Denmark, and lived almost all of my life in Southern California. I’m fair, sensitive, freckle, with lots of gold/red in my hair. Thank you for the aloe vera recommendation! I do not lay in the sun or go to the beach during the summer days as I burn within 15 minutes. I use sunscreens, try to educate myself about ingredients. I share your style of dressing, and love straw hats!
      Jennifer – I have a bent for Australian brand sunscreens because as a nation they are chemical conscious, and they wear hats often due to the hole in the ozone layer there. Another brand I like is Pacifica, and use their tinted face sunscreen in place of foundation. I will be checking the ingredients listings on my current stock of products for oxybenzone. Thank you!

      1. I see Pacifica in my natural foods market s the time and have been curious about it. I’ll give them a closer look, thanks

  5. I’m also a fan of mineral sunscreens and have tried two by Paula’s Choice. I’ve used Hydralight Shine-Free Mineral Complex SPF 30 for years. It’s a good choice for use under a foundation that doesn’t include sunscreen. A recent addition to this line of products is Resist Super-Light Wrinkle Defense SPF 30 that is lightly tinted. I really like both of these, but will have to look for the Australian Gold the next time I visit Ulta.

    1. Paula’s Choice is a great line. I’ll have a peek at this one, thanks

  6. Thank you for addressing this very important topic, Jennifer. I use mineral sunblocks, a hat, and avoid the sun. This year I bought a few long-sleeved linen shirts. The more I can cover up, the better. That includes linen pants.

  7. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you for this! I will need to evaluate what I have been using!

  8. LaRoche Posay is my go to sunscreen. Thank you for this informative post.

    I hope you are enjoying your time on the Island.

  9. living in Southern Spain where sun is shining year round I use Roche Posay 50 for many years and think it’s one
    of the best and safest products. Actually the only one I don’t get burned . I am not a sun worshiper and avoid it
    as much as possible, which means I am not lying on the beach, wear always a hat and stay in the shadow.

  10. Thank you for a much-needed and informative post.

    I had malignant melanoma 26 years ago. It was on my toe, which the surgeon wanted to amputate. I said let’s try the skin graft first, and if it doesn’t take, then we’ll look at amputation. I still have my toe. And luckily have not had any type of skin cancer since.

    Right now I’m using Josh Rosebrook Nutrient Day Cream SPF 30 (non-nano zinc, which is imp. to me). I also do not go outside much during the day. When I do, I’m always covered up. If I want to swim, I wait for the sun to go down.

  11. When I use mineral sunscreens, it always ends up as white lines in my wrinkles. Any tips for application?

    1. I wait for it to dry, then buff it with my hand. The creamier the formula the easier I find it to rub in. That’s one of the reasons I like the Josie Maran so much.

  12. I am not sure if you have read this article (longer read), but would be interested in your thoughts if you would like to share….

    Is Sunscreen the New Margarine? | Outside Online

    I think there are some valid points so I try to expose some non facial/neck body parts during our sunny days (not possible daily as I am in Vancouver ). I use Elta MD on my face.
    I also prefer covering up with long sleeves (usually linen) instead of sunscreen. It’s easier when out and about for most of the day and probably better for me and the environment.

    Thanks for posting, very timely subject!
    Suz from Vancouver

    1. That’s an interesting read but I am not convinced. Some of his numbers seem off by the way he presents them.
      He says SSC is never fatal.
      The skin cancer foundation reports that 15,000 people die of Squamous Cell Carcinoma in the U.S. each year, which is more than twice as many as from melanoma. Regular daily use of an SPF 15 or higher sunscreen reduces the risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma by about 40 percent.
      More than two people die of skin cancer every hour. That may be a small percentage based on the population but it’s too many for me.
      I would expect a sedentary, indoor (sun avoiding) lifestyle to increase our death rate from lack of exercise, not sun avoidance.
      Based on most of what I know, I’m going to stick to my sun protocol and take my vitamin D.

      1. Laura Bratcher-Page says:

        I’ve heard that theory before. As a fellow blue-eyed blonde, I’ll allow myself about 10 minutes of sun exposure per day without sunscreen, but if I’m going to be out any longer, I slather it on–otherwise I fry! I take a vitamin D supplement also, but the consensus of what I’ve read is that sun/skin generated vitamin D is absorbed better than any supplement.

  13. I have used the Elta as well and like it. When I don’t have that I was using the Neutrogena that I just discovered has the oxybenzone. I saw the new Neutrogena with the zinc oxide, so I will try that. I would like a recommendation for the body, as I cycle and need something for my arms and legs.

  14. Laroche-Posay Anthelios 60 melt-in sunscreen milk is the best. Cell-ox Shield XL technology. Fast absorbing that doesn’t leave you looking white! We discovered this brand when we visited Italy a few years ago. Now available at the drug stores in the US.

    1. Ditto.
      Always hit the drugstore before coming home from Europe to replenish this stuff and the Nuxe products I love.

    2. Jody Mercier says:

      A Dermatologist recommended Anthelios to me 30 yrs ago. I guess there was less known about these chemicals of course. I just looked at the label on the small bottle of 60 face lotion and it has almost 4 % oxybenzone.

      1. Laura Bratcher-Page says:

        Anthelios used to have products with Mexoryl XL or SX. Those formulas worked better on my pale-blonde skin than anything else I’ve ever used, including other Anthelios product lines.

      2. Mexoyrl is amazing!! Ombrelle makes one with the XL which is very nice. I’d like to find one that has both the XL and XS.

  15. My friend just recently told me about oxybenzone, which turned out to be the active ingredient in my everyday face lotion: Neutrogena.
    She recommended Elta MD to use on my face (she got it from her dermatologist) and I really like it. It goes on sheer and doesn’t leave any white residue the way some of the others do. Which I don’t mind on my arms, but don’t really want on my face. I bought the Elta MD online. My friend likes Solbar for the body, but you have to be careful buying it online. I bought a bottle from Amazon and wasn’t able to enlarge the photo, and the one I got turned out to have oxybenzone in it and it wasn’t returnable. I have seen the Australian Botanical one in your photos at my local store. It doesn’t say whether it will go transparent, though, so I didn’t try it.
    Don’t forget about SPF lip gloss! I found this one that is also zinc based and I like it: All Good Lip Balm SPF 15

    1. I have used Elta MD Facial tinted sunscreen for years. Absolutely the best recommendation from my determatoligist. So sheer and never clogs my pores. SPF 46.

      1. I love the “Physical” tinted one too. That’s the one I use as a foundation in the winter when my skin is dryer. The sheer ones often contain Octinoxate which is second in toxicity to Oxybenzone. It is also shown to be detectable in mother’s milk (that can’t be good) and to be an endocrine disruptor.

    2. Elta MD is very nice. I just watch to be sure mine doesn’t contain Octinoxate which is on the higher toxicity scale.

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