CLEAN SWAP: Sunscreen Sprays

Welcome to my weekly featured CLEAN SWAP! This week we are taking a closer look at sunscreen sprays and mists.

I’m always fielding questions from clients and friends about how they can swap out some of their favorite products for safer, toxin-free options without a loss in quality, taste, or performance (depending on the product). Every week, I cover food, cosmetics, personal care, cleaning and laundry products, and even behavior, so if you enjoy these Clean Swaps, please follow me on Instagram and sign up for my 360° OF WELLNESS Newsletter (⬅️by clicking on this link to the left) so that you never miss a new one.

Let’s talk sunscreen SPRAYS☀️

You finally got some time off from work and are lounging at the beach, drink in hand, sand between your toes, and that aromatic sea air in your nose. Aaah, summer!

Suddenly the air becomes thick with the noxious smell of aerosol sunscreen. You can feel it in your lungs, you can taste it in your mouth, and you know that it's definitely settling in that cocktail you're holding.

You glance around and notice a mom dousing her poor kid with toxic chemicals and it occurs to you, if you’re affected by the smell of these chemicals from 40 feet away, how much of this stuff are these people inhaling? And why isn't it even a passing consideration?


Sunscreen is one of the most health-damaging products you put your skin (Learn More). Not only does it contain dangerously toxic ingredients, but you’re slathering it thickly ALL OVER your body, sometimes several times a day, and ALL SUMMER LONG! Moreover, if you're using a mist or spray, you aren't just absorbing these toxic chemicals through your skin, but you're also breathing them in (and forcing everyone around you to do the same). 😱

Some controversial research suggests that sunscreens may even contribute to cancer by forming potentially harmful breakdown products when absorbed into the skin and enter the bloodstream. Whether or not a link actually exists, we can't deny that most sunscreens contain many dangerous chemicals that are harmful to our health or that as the use of sunscreens has doubled in the last 30 years, so have skin cancer rates (Learn More).

On a scale of 1-10 (with 1 being the safest, and 10 being the most harmful), EWG rates the Neutrogena Sheer Body Mist a 7, with it’s first three ingredients at 8 and 9. Are these types of toxic chemicals that you really want to put on your body, much less breathe into your lungs?

So let's look at some of the most toxic chemicals in that sunscreen spray.

🚫 RETINYL PALMITATE (VITAMIN A PALMITATE) may speed the development of skin tumors and lesions when applied to the skin in the presence of sunlight (so why in the world would they put this in sunscreen???!!!). Vitamin A can spur excess skin growth (a.k.a. hyperplasia), and retinyl palmitate can form free radicals that damage DNA when exposed to sunlight.

🚫 OXYBENZONE has been rated an 8 (on a scale from 1-10, with 1 being the safest and 10 being the most harmful) on the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) toxicity rating scale. This means that it is one of the most toxic ingredients found in cosmetic and personal care products. Oxybenzone has been linked to hormone disruption and has the potential to damage cells that may lead to skin cancer. Because it may mimic hormones, oxybenzone can cause endometriosis and can pose a risk to reproductive systems. It has also been increasingly linked to early puberty in girls, low sperm count and male infertility, and an increase in hormone-related cancers. Researchers state that oxybenzone may be even more estrogenic than BPA, and it was named “Allergen of the Year” by the American Contact Dermatitis Society in 2014. And don’t forget that oxybenzone is not only toxic to our bodies, but it destroys coral reefs, which is why it has been banned in places like Hawaii and Key West.

🚫 FRAGRANCE or PARFUM (which should just be listed on the ingredients label as “hidden toxins”) is packed with dangerous, synthetic chemicals, such as phthalates, which are powerful hormone disruptors linked to pre-term births, birth defects, decreased sperm counts, reduced female fertility, and a worsening of allergy and asthma symptoms. However, this innocuous but misleading term is meant to hide hundreds of these ingredients because they are considered “trade secrets” in the eyes of the government, which obviously places the interests of the corporation above the safety of us, the consumers.

🚫 AVOBENZONE is one of the most popular UV filters but when exposed to chlorine, it can break down into hazardous chemical compounds right on the skin. Moreover, according to the EWG, “Sunlight can cause this ingredient to break down and lose its effectiveness for skin protection.” Kind of counterintuitive, don’t you think?

🚫 ISOBUTANE is a compressed gas that‘s used as aerosol propellants. It is in the propane family.  It is flammable.  It is industrial.  It is not good for our lungs!.

🚫 NANOPARTICLES are minute ingredients that can cross the blood-brain barrier. They are used in sunscreen because they penetrate easily and don’t leave behind a chalky, white finish on the skin.  Nanoparticles are so small they can enter individual cells, even DNA.  When applied to the skin, they can cause gene damage, bioaccumulate in the body (i.e., they can’t be metabolized or flushed out by our organs, and just keep piling up until they make us sick), and they can be carcinogenic.  The consequences are even more dangerous when they are inhaled. Just think of how many poor kids you’ve seen being doused with this stuff by one of their parents. 🙈

For more information about the sun, how much exposure is good for you vs harmful, and what to look for when choosing the right sunscreen for you and your family, read my blog: The Not So Sunny Side of Sunscreen.


Safest Sunscreen Spray - Beautycounter Countersun Sunscreen Mist SPF 30


Countersun Mineral Sunscreen Mist SPF 30

This best-selling, award-winning, water-resistant, never streaky mineral sunscreen mist also comes in a travel size and TINTED version.

Check out Beautycounter’s Countersun Mineral Sunscreen Mist SPF30. It is water resistant and unlike many zinc-based sunscreens, it feels super lightweight and blends into the skin quickly without leaving white streaks or milky residue. It also helps hydrate your skin while providing an effective shield against damaging UVA, UVB and Blue Light.

I love it because it is so easy to apply and blend, and provides safe, broad spectrum protection from the sun. It also comes in a travel size (which I can just throw in my purse) and now in a TINTED mist, which is my new favorite thing ever! The tinted mist is great for those of us who are “melanin-challenged,” because it makes us look like we have already been in the sun, and also for those of us who have been blessed with darker skin, because it blends even better than the regular mist.

Do you have a favorite clean brand? 

Send me a message or leave a comment below and share what it is. If I feature it, I’ll give you credit and may even send you a free gift!

If you enjoyed this weeks’s Clean Swap, share it with a friend and sign up for my 360° OF WELLNESS Newsletter (below) so you never miss a new one.e.

Victoria Malin Gregory, Integrative Nutritionist and founder of NEWTRITION NEW YOU

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Victoria Gregory is an Integrative Nutritionist and founder of NEWTRITION NEWYOU. Her focus—whether with private clients, readers of her blog, or her followers on social media— is whole body wellness, incorporating whole-food nutrition, supplementation, exercise, toxin-free living, and mindset coaching. Victoria’s personal mission is to help make the world a healthier place, one person at a time, and she has helped thousands of people find joy and self-love through better eating habits and mindfulness. Learn more about Victoria.

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