Summer has arrived and everyone is moving outside.  My outdoor bootcamp and yoga classes are booming and clients are requesting to workout in the park.  The fresh air and sunshine is great for mental clarity and it just feels so good.  You know to protect your skin from the harmful UV rays by slathering on the sunscreen, but have you ever checked the label to see what you are smearing all over your body?  

Products that you put directly on your skin are absorbed within seconds into your bloodstream.  26 seconds to be exact. Wow!  This is how those nicotine and birth control patches work.  Being conscious of what you put on your skin should really have you thinking.  Especially since the FDA does little to regulate the assurance of safe products going onto the shelf in your local store. You can get food with red #5 dye and trans fats.  Trust me, this isn’t any different.

Hiker sunscreen


Now what?  You are convinced that you want to avoid overloading your skin with harmful chemicals just like you avoid processed food, but you aren’t sure what to look for.  According to the EWG (Environmental Working Group), here are the top ingredients that are commonly listed on sunscreen that you want to avoid.  Go check your beach bag for the following:

  • Oxybenzone and Octinoxate– These chemicals can act like estrogen in the body.  High levels of estrogen have been linked to thyroid dysfunction, weight gain, low sex drive, fluid retention and breast cancer.  Both have been detected in mother’s milk and have also been associated with endometriosis (a painful disorder where the uterine lining grows outside the uterus).  For men, signs in sperm count reduction and erectile dysfunction have occurred.   Please, please, please avoid these chemicals!
  • Homosalate – This toxin has mostly been found to disrupt your normal levels of estrogen, androgen and progesterone. The side effects of altered estrogen levels have been previously addressed, however, excess androgen can cause acne, excess hair growth, infertility, and premature baldness. Extra progesterone has a whole slew of things you probably don’t want like cardiovascular, respiratory and gastrointestinal complications.

So now that you know what to avoid, here are some things you can do protect yourself safely this summer:

1. Sunscreen made from zinc oxide

Studies on zinc oxide show no signs of hormone disruption.  This sunscreen shields your delicate skin by reflecting away the harmful UV rays so they don’t ever penetrate your skin.  Make sure you reapply after swimming or sunbathing every hour so you stay protected.

2. Protective clothing and accessories

Using items that will shield you from the sun like hats, sunglasses, swim shirts and beach umbrellas can keep your skin from burning to a crisp.  Combine these with sunscreen for added protection.  You wouldn’t disregard your seatbelt just because you have airbags in your car right?

3. Avoid peak hours

The sun is at it’s strongest generally from the hours of 11a-2p.  Participating in activities before or after these times allows you to avoid prime time sun.

Absorb more sunny goodness: 5 Tips for Working out in the Summer Heat

Christine Oakes

Christine Oakes is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, Health Coach, NASM Corrective Exercise Specialist and 200RYT certified yoga instructor . She currently operates her own fitness company offering personal training, bootcamp and yoga classes in the Mountain View, CA area. Christine has had a love for being active since childhood and believes that true fitness comes from a balance of strength, nutrition, flexibility and a dose of fun. Learn more about Christine at