Alright, my fellow sun worshippers and SPF enthusiasts, it’s time to get real about that slathered-on shield of protection we call sunscreen. 

 But hold on tight to your beach hats, because we’re about to dive into the wild world of sun protection, where things aren’t always as sunny as they seem! 

Picture this: you’re lounging on a tropical beach, sipping a fruity drink, thinking you’ve got it all covered with your trusty sunscreen. But wait… could your beloved sunblock actually be doing more harm than good? 

Fear not, my sun-kissed comrades, for I’m here to shed some light on the top three sun secrets you need to know, and boy, are they going to make you raise an eyebrow (or two!).

So, grab your shades and let’s get sunscreen savvy! 

  1. When to wear sunscreen and when not to wear sunscreen
  2. Why your sunscreen is toxic; which to avoid and which to wear instead
  3. How often do you need to reapply for it to be effective


You might be wondering, “Do I really need to slather on sunscreen for my daily commute to work?” 

While sunscreen is crucial during long beach days in the sun, leisurely hikes without sun coverage or during peak sun hours (midday), on a regular workday spent mostly in the car or indoors, it may be largely unnecessary.

And this isn’t just about the convenience of skipping sunscreen. Believe it or not, it might actually be hindering your ability to soak up that delicious vitamin D! ☀️

Recent estimates suggest that around 40% of the population in the United States is vitamin D deficient. How did we end up in this sun-starved state? Well, think about it. We’re spending more time indoors than ever before, cooped up in offices, homes, and cars. Plus, the perfect storm of chronic stress and processed food diets has left us grappling with increased inflammation levels. 😱

So, why is this relevant to our discussion about sunscreen? Vitamin D plays a vital role in modulating inflammation within our bodies. The more inflamed we are, the more vitamin D we need to counteract that inflammation and maintain balance. It’s a delicate dance between our exposure to sunlight and the essential nutrient our bodies crave.

Your body needs those radiant rays of light to produce vitamin D, the superstar nutrient that supports your bones, immune system, and overall well-being. We don’t convert the D from food or supplements nearly as well as we do from the sun so it’s absolutely vital to get that sun on your skin and not depend on a supplement!

If you’re covering yourself in sunscreen prior to leaving the house for day-to-day activities like your commute to work, grocery runs or errands, you’re unnecessarily screening the sun. 

So, on short trips around town or when the sun’s intensity is lower, allow your skin to soak up some vitamin D sans sunscreen. But remember, moderation is key and you definitely don’t want to burn!

Morning and Late Afternoon Magic:

Now, let’s take a scientific peek into when the sun’s rays are playing nicer with your skin. 

Mornings and late afternoons tend to be kinder to your delicate epidermis. 


Well, during these times, the sun’s rays have to pass through more of the atmosphere, reducing their intensity and the potential for harm. So, schedule your outdoor activities accordingly and bask in the gentler sunlight, all while keeping your skin happy and healthy.


When to Seek Shade:

As much as we adore the sun’s warm embrace, there are times when it’s wise to seek some shade. High noon, when the sun is at its zenith, can be an intense affair for your skin. 

If possible, take a siesta indoors or find shelter under a shady tree. Wear a hat, long sleeves or use a non-toxic sunscreen at this time, especially if you’re at the beach or on a tropical vacation! Trust me, your skin will thank you for the break, and you’ll avoid the harsh rays when they’re at their peak.



Next, let’s uncover the not-so-sunny truth about many conventional sunscreens. Unfortunately, most contain toxic ingredients that can do more harm than good.

There are 2 main categories of sunscreens based on how they protect you from the sun:

1. Physical

Imagine having a tiny army of sun-shield warriors blocking the rays and protecting your skin. That’s what a physical block sunscreen does! Instead of absorbing the sun’s rays like chemical sunscreens, it acts like a shield, physically blocking those UV rays from reaching your skin. You’ll know it’s a “physical block” if it contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.

Another benefit of physical or “mineral-based” sunscreens is that their shields start working the moment you apply them, so you’re instantly protected while chemical sunscreens take awhile to kick it. They’re also great for sensitive skin because they don’t get absorbed like chemicals do, reducing the chances of irritation. Oh, and did we mention they’re reef-friendly too? So, if you want your skin to have the ultimate sun-defense squad, go for a physical block sunscreen and let those UV rays bounce right off you!

2. Chemical

Chemical sunscreens do a magic trick with UV rays by absorbing them and converting them into heat. But guess what? That heat can be a hot mess for your skin, leading to irritation and potential hormone havoc. Some of the popular ingredients in chemical sunscreens like oxybenzone and avobenzone (anything -benzone) are also associated with skin irritations and allergies.

But wait there’s more! When these chemical agents interact with sunlight, they generate free radicals, which causes oxidation to your cells. Think of it like rusting your cells from the inside out.  There’s also the environmental damage component. Oxybenzone and octinoxate have been linked to coral bleaching and damage to marine ecosystems.

So, if you’re looking for a more straightforward approach to sun protection without any hidden chemistry experiments, consider grabbing a physical block sunscreen instead. 

After all, why settle for a sunscreen that brings more drama than a daytime soap opera? 


Here’s a quick cheat sheet of ingredients to avoid like the plague: 

  • Oxybenzone (and any -benzones)
    • This ingredient has been associated with skin allergies, hormone disruption, and potential environmental damage, particularly to coral reefs.
  • Parabens (such as methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, -paraben): 
    • Parabens are preservatives that have been associated with hormone disruption and potential adverse effects on reproductive health.
  • Octinoxate
    • Octinoxate can trigger skin allergies and hormone disruption, and recent studies have suggested potential environmental impacts.
  • Homosalate
    • This chemical has been found to disrupt hormone function and can potentially accumulate in the body over time, leading to health concerns.
  • Nanoparticles: 
    • Certain sunscreens use nanoparticles of titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, which can penetrate the skin and potentially cause cellular damage. Look for non-nano formulations if you prefer to avoid this potential risk. Look for “non-nano” instead.
  • Retinyl Palmitate: 
    • This form of vitamin A, when exposed to sunlight, can potentially increase the production of harmful free radicals, which may contribute to skin damage.
  • Fragrance
    • The term “fragrance” or “parfum” on sunscreen labels often represents a blend of various chemicals, some of which may be allergenic or irritating to the skin. This is the “natural flavors” of the beauty world where they can include ingredients without disclosing what they actually are. Look for unscented or naturally scented options that use essential oils.

Always flip your sunscreen to the back and read the ingredient label. If it sounds like it was made in a lab, then it’s probably not the best out there. Start googling ingredients that you don’t know and overtime you’ll become much more label literate!  That’s how I learned and exactly how you can too. Nobody cares more about your health than you so it’s important to become and educated consumer. 

These chemicals can wreak havoc on your health AND coral reefs. Yikes! 

Here are some popular brands I ABSOLUTELY stay away from that leave your insides a little chemically “burned”:

  • Neutrogena
  • Banana Boat
  • Coppertone
  • Hawaiian Tropic
  • Aveeno


Now that we’ve escaped the toxic sunscreens’ clutches, it’s time to explore safer alternatives that will have your skin singing with joy. Choose ingredients that are made from essential oils and ingredients you recognize and can pronounce. 

Here are some of my favorites:

The rest of these aren’t 100% perfect but they are much better than your average sunscreen:


  • Badger


  • Native

These brands provide protection without the toxic chemicals. Go ahead, lather up with their natural goodness for when the sun is laying it on ya hot and heavy.




When it comes to sunscreen, understanding SPF is key. Most sunscreens require re-application after 1-2 hours.  That means that applying sunscreen once in the morning isn’t sufficient for all-day protection and will wear off in an hour or two. 

So, if you’re planning on outdoor activities like a long walk or run that lasts for an hour or two and you’re prone to sunburn, it’s probably a good idea to wear sunscreen. However, if you will be mostly indoors or only being outside between running errands or during your commute, applying sunscreen really isn’t necessary. Most people won’t burn in less than 15-30 minutes of ‘naked’ sun exposure, especially if it’s in the morning or afternoon. Plus, if the sunscreen you’re using contains the chemicals we mentioned above, you’re doing more harm than good by slathering it on your skin. 


The higher the SPF (Sun Protection Factor), the longer the sunscreen can theoretically provide protection. However, it’s important to note that higher SPF doesn’t mean you can apply it once and forget about it.

If you’re using a lower SPF like 15 or 30, it’s recommended to reapply every two hours for optimal protection. And don’t think you’re invincible if you level up to a higher SPF like 50 or 100. Those need touch-ups too, approximately every two hours. Why the regular reapplication? Well, sweat, water exposure, and even rubbing can cause sunscreen to wear off, reducing its effectiveness.

Plus,  sunscreens with higher SPF tend to contain more chemical ingredients to extend their effectiveness. While these chemicals can prolong protection, they can also increase the risk of sensitivity, allergies, and add to your overall toxic load. That’s why it’s crucial to choose a sunscreen with non-toxic ingredients, limiting your exposure to harmful chemicals that can be absorbed through your skin and burden your body’s detoxification process.

That’s why I recommend sticking to no higher than SPF 30. Going beyond that simply means you’re exposing yourself to more potentially harmful chemicals with very little added benefit. So, choose wisely, opt for non-toxic options, and be diligent about reapplying sunscreen regularly when seriously soaking up the sun to safeguard your skin without compromising your health.

Congratulations, sun-savvy souls! 

You’ve graduated from Sunscreen 101 with flying colors. 

Armed with this newfound knowledge, you can now protect your skin without compromising your health. 

Remember, opt for organic, physical/mineral-based sunscreens, steer clear of toxic ingredients, and make the most of the sun’s rays while still getting your daily (vitamin) D. 

And don’t forget, mornings and late afternoons are your golden hours, when the sun’s rays are gentler and kinder to your skin.

So go forth, my shining stars, lather up responsibly, and radiate with confidence and health!