Summer is here, the pools are open, the lakes are ready, the yards need tending… and you need sunscreen to safely explore all that Arkansas has to offer. Great news! You have already recognized the need to navigate time in the sun safely; the next step is figuring out what the best sunscreen option is for you.

When it comes to sunscreen there are two choices: chemical sunscreen and physical sunscreen. Chemical sunscreens are absorbed into the skin and work by converting UV rays into heat and then releasing it from the skin. Physical sunscreens have active mineral ingredients that sit on top of the skin to block UVA and UVB rays. Both are effective at protecting skin from harmful sun rays; however, data is continually being released regarding the safety (or lack thereof) of chemical sunscreens. 

The list of problem ingredients in chemical sunscreens can be very long and include human safety as well as safety to the environment. According to the Environmental Working Group’s website, “The ingredients oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and avobenzone are all systemically absorbed into the body after one use, according to studies published by the FDA, which also found that they could be detected on the skin and in the blood weeks after no longer being used. Previous studies detected many sunscreen ingredients in breast milk and urine samples.” Another concern with sunscreen sprays involves inhalation of these chemicals, affecting the lungs and other internal organs. 

Sunscreen products are meant to be used on a daily basis, and many chemical sunscreens are loaded with hormone disrupting chemicals. These build up in our systems, which leads to a very high toxic load from one product alone. Add in other problematic ingredients (phthalates, fragrance and more), and the load gets exponentially bigger. The good news is that there are fantastic alternatives.

First, physical sunscreens that don’t make you look like a ghost are exploding onto the market and are available at almost every retailer imaginable. The sunscreen I love uses non-nano zinc, although other options can include titanium dioxide. As always, I recommend using fragrance free if you can find it. 

Other options are to wear sun-protective clothing, hats, spending time in the shade when possible and trying to avoid the harsh midday sun. When coupled with a great physical sunscreen, all of those options are sure to keep your skin safe.

At the end of the day, every little step counts. Choosing a safer sunscreen will yield benefits far beyond the summer of 2021, and those benefits will be worth it!


Heather Disarro is the author and creator of Heather’s Dish, a clean beauty educator, a health coach and social media boss. She loves spending time with her family doing almost anything outdoors, eating great food, reading and enjoying everything Arkansas has to offer.