Safe and Healthy Summer Skin: it’s more than just UV!

July 27, 2020

Are your summer skin care products safe?  Are you unknowingly exposing yourself to toxic chemicals with potentially serious side-effects? It is estimated that, on average, American women apply 168 chemicals on their skin daily in the form of products and cosmetics.  During the summer months, most of us regularly lather up with sunscreen and bug spray.  When choosing these products, many people focus on ultraviolet protection (UV) and percentage of DEET when choosing, but many people don’t realize that these common skin care products contain chemicals that are harmful to our health. As a skin care product, sunscreen predates some of the regulations put in place for safety testing, which means that minimal safety research was done on the most common ingredients in sunscreen. Unfortunately, it’s up to the consumer to educate themselves about safety and choose accordingly.  Fortunately, there are some great resources available to make this task less daunting!

Chemical sunscreens and bug sprays have endocrine disrupting properties (in other words, they mess with your hormones!) and can affect our nervous systems in not-so-positive ways with repeated use.   A healthier choice is to turn to more natural options, such as essential oil bug sprays and zinc-based sunscreens but then many people wonder, “Will they be as effective?”   Thankfully, consumer demand for higher quality and effective natural options has led to the production of some great natural products.  Personally, I have found “Ticks N’ All” Essential oil based insect repellent to be very effective and it’s one I usually recommend to my patients.

According to the FDA, only two active ingredients allowed in U.S. sunscreens, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, are considered safe and effective. The agency has insufficient data to determine the safety of 12 chemical-based active ingredients that are found in the vast majority sunscreens. So, when shopping for sunscreen, look for non-chemical options that use zinc or titanium.  Nowadays, that doesn’t have to mean that you look like a pasty-white, Casper the Ghost impression while enjoying some beach time!  Because personal preference of SPF levels vary, I refer people to the Environmental Working Group “Skin Deep” site: to choose a product based on specifications and reviews.  The EWG tests thousands of products to ensure they contain ingredients that are safe and don’t negatively affect our health (such as messing with our hormones, nervous system, and immune system). The Skin Deep section of their website is a great resource for just about every skin care product to ensure that you are using a product that won’t have a negative impact in the long term. After you choose your sunscreen, I challenge you to go through your skin care and cosmetic stash and look them up on the Skin Deep site to make sure the rest of your products are safe.  What you learn may surprise you!

Keep in mind that most of the ingredients we put on our skin end up in our blood stream, so ingredients matter.  And YOU matter!  For this reason, be mindful of what ends up in your body, whether it’s food, drink, or skin care.  Enjoy this beautiful (and HOT!) summer, and stay safe!

Dr. Laura Chan is a Naturopathic Doctor and Licensed Acupuncturist with a passion for helping people lead healthier, happier lives.  Her practice is located at the NH Health & Wellness Center at 60 Main St, Nashua NH.  To read more about Dr. Chan and her services, visit   To schedule an appointment, call 603-402-9134, or email at  

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