Safer Sunscreen Options During Pregnancy

Safer Sunscreen Options for Pregnancy

There are three different types of sunscreen available on the market: mineral, chemical and combination sunscreens. I favor mineral based sunscreens that contain zinc during pregnancy, particularly if you are applying to large parts of your body where you will have increased absorption of whatever is being used on the skin. Don’t forget it is equally important to supplement sunscreen with sun protective (UPF) clothing, hats, sunglasses and to seek shade during the hottest hours of the day. If you can afford it, pay for the cabana or find an umbrella, it is cheaper than paying to fix your skin. More on this here.

Chemical Sunscreen Concerns

There are a large number of animal studies showing the endocrine system can be disrupted by the chemical UV-filters in sunscreens, but human studies have not confirmed these findings. To help minimize the risk of possible side effects, the FDA limits on how much of these ingredients can be used in a formulation of sunscreen. The current chemical sunscreens regulated in the US include azobenzene, octisalate, octocrylene, oxybenzone, and octinoxate.  Concerns reported with each of these ingredients are outlined below. 

Benzophenone derivatives (e.g. Oxybenzone, Avobenzone, Benzophenone): These chemicals are often used in sunscreens to absorb UV radiation. Some research suggests that benzophenone derivatives may have hormone-disrupting effects, particularly on thyroid hormone activity. There is also concern it is contributing to the bleaching of coral reefs

Octinoxate (Ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate): Another common ingredient in sunscreens, octinoxate has been found to have estrogenic activity in some studies, raising concerns about its potential impact on hormonal balance and possibly contributing to the bleaching of coral reefs

Octocrylene has been found to accumulate in our blood, urine and breast milk. In animal studies, it showed neurotoxicity and progesterone mimicking effects.

Octisalate has been identified as an endocrine disruptor in studies on human sperm cells. 

Here is a snippet from a recent review article in the International Journal of Dermatology on the topic:

Recent evidence of high systemic absorption of sunscreen ingredients has raised concerns regarding the safety of sunscreen products. Oxybenzone (BP-3) and octinoxate (OMC), two common sunscreens.  Their impact on human health requires a careful assessment.
There are 29 studies that address the impact of these ingredients on human health. Studies show that elevated systemic level of BP-3 has no adverse effect on male and female fertility, female reproductive hormone level, adiposity, fetal growth, child’s neurodevelopment and sexual maturation.  However, the association of BP-3 level on thyroid hormone, testosterone level, kidney function and pubertal timing has been reported and prompts further investigations to validate a true association.  The systemic absorption of OMC has no reported effect on thyroid and reproductive hormone levels. 

My take way: the risk is low from using chemical sunscreens, but I still choose to use mineral based sunscreens. 

Recent Controversy Regarding “Doping” Mineral Sunscreens

Historically, both types of UV blockers (chemical and physical) were highlighted on the active ingredient list, but more recently, a somewhat controversial step of sunscreen "doping" is happening where chemical blockers are being included in mineral sunscreens that are nearly identical to the regulated chemical filters but are not being disclosed because they are not regulated in the US and do not have to be highlighted as an active ingredient. On most occasions, it allows lower percentages of mineral UV blockers (zinc and titanium) to be in the formulation, which has the appeal of making them more cosmetically elegant while still being marketed under the guise as a 100% mineral sunscreen. Many of these chemical ingredients are nearly identical to ones that are classified as chemical UV filters in chemical sunscreens. Many are also being regulated in the EU, but not the US.    

In addition to being sneaky, this behavior could increase the risks associated with sunscreen because the amount of these chemical UV blockers being used is not regulated. For example, as of June 2022 the FDA only allowed octisalate to be present at 5% in a chemical sunscreen.  However, the chemical butyloctyl salicylate, which is nearly identical, can be used at whatever percentage because it isn’t regulated.  

The most common ingredients to look for in this ‘doping’ process include butyloctyl salicylate (nearly identical to octisalate), ethyl ferulate (similar to octocrylene), diethylhexyl syringylidenemalonate (similar to octinoxate) and tridecyl salicylate (similar to octisalate). 

The take home point is that if you are trying to avoid chemical sunscreens, you have to read the labels and look for these ingredients even if the sunscreen says it is 100% mineral! Mineral sunscreens are safe during pregnancy but also for rosacea patients and those with sensitive skin. Zinc is anti-inflammatory and a natural skin protectant so it often helps with these conditions. 

You can read more on “sunscreen doping” at Lab Muffin Beauty Science

Okay, now with all that background, see below for my safer for pregnancy sunscreen recommendations.

100% Mineral Sunscreens

  • DermaQuest SheerZinc SPF 30: It comes in sheer, as well as in tinted in multiple different shades, so it does blend with most skin coloring. It is very cosmetically elegant, but it does have silicone in it. 
  • Kinship Self Reflect: This is also 100% mineral, but doesn't have the silicone in it and is also a very cosmetically elegant option. 
  • Kinfield: Only mineral UV filters, made without parabens, sulfates, phthalates, PEGs or phenoxyethanol. 
  • Vanicream Facial Moisturizer:  It is 19% Zinc Oxide and tolerated by  sensitive skin. I use on my body, neck and chest as it is not tinted. 
  • Isdin Eryfotona Actinica: It comes in two forms - the tinted and the white. It is also easy to apply to your body because it's quite milky. I like the tinted one for my legs. It's a little bit expensive for that, but it does make your legs look nice a when you're as pale as I am and it's very easy to use. 
  • Supergoop Play Mineral: This is 100% mineral. It's 16% zinc and water-resistant for 80 minutes. 
  • Tizo Ultra Zinc: Non-tinted, great for face and body and water resistant for 40 minutes.
  • Supergoop Mineral Matte Screen: Great mineral option for oily skin. 
  • Colorescience Total Eye 3-In-1 Renewal Therapy: A nice eye sunscreen that's 100% mineral and brightens your under eyes.
  • Supergoop Poof 100% Mineral Part Powder:  A scalp powder sunscreen to protect your part lines.

These recommendations are not sponsored. They are the result of Dr. Heather D. Rogers, MD evidence-based research and extensive clinical experience. 

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The information on and our social media channels, including articles, newsletters, videos, blogs and related links, are provided for general information and educational purposes only. There is no doctor-patient relationship implied and it is not a substitute for obtaining medical advice from your physician. Use of this information and recommended products on this site is at your own risk. Further, their use indicates your agreement with the Terms and Conditions of There is no intent to diagnose or treat any specific medical problem through any of the information shared. Additionally, information shared here is not an extension of the medical care Dr. Rogers provides at her practice.


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