What’s In Your Sunscreen?

By Erin Hueffner | Styled and Photographed by Shanna Wolf

When I was a kid, sunscreen was seen as an option. Nowadays, I don’t dare go outside without sunscreen on my pale Irish skin. It’s an essential in the battle against skin cancer. But is there reason to worry about the chemicals in my sunscreen?

Dr. Apple Bodemer, a dermatologist and faculty member at the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health, explains there are two main types of sunscreen: chemical blockers and physical blockers. Chemical blockers work by absorbing the sun’s radiation and converting it to heat. These chemicals also need to be absorbed into the skin in order to do their job. But there is real concern about the chemicals in many traditional sunscreens—particularly Oxybenzone and Octinoxate. These have been linked to allergic reactions, endocrine disruption and decreased sperm count, Bodemer says.

Sunscreens with physical blockers tend to be the natural and/or organic options, such as Badger Sunscreen or Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen, with active ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. “I recommend the physical blockers with an SPF of 30 or above,” says Bodemer. “They sit on the skin and deflect the radiation, so it’s basically like a force shield surrounding you. But I really stress that sunscreen is only part of the UV protection plan, and it’s not the most important, because most people don’t apply enough sunscreen.” She advises avoiding the midday sun and wearing protective items including wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses and sun-blocking clothing like those pictured.


  • Pink Pacifica Wrap Front Top, $69, Athleta
  • Blue Aqualuxe Back Scrunchtank Rashguard, $69, Athleta
  • Water Bound Hoodie, $88; Lululemon
  • Navy Sun Lover HiLO UPF Dress, $79, Athleta
  • Mint Sun Lover UPF Tank, $49, Athleta
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