To protect yourself against the rays of the sun, it is important that you use sunscreen lotion or spray. But some sunscreens contain substances that are allergenic, damaging to the environment or suspected endocrine disruptors.
If you are looking for a new sun lotion or spray, we recommend that you buy a product without these problematic chemicals to lower your overall exposure to unwanted chemicals.
In this test we have rated the sunscreens A, B or C depending on their chemical content. But regardless of the rating in our test, we always recommend that you use any sun protection before going out in the sun. In this test, we give you options to choose a sunscreen without unwanted chemicals.
These sunscreens are without unwanted chemicals
We have tested 27 sunscreen lotions and sprays.
In the test, 12 sunscreens get the A-rating since they do not contain unwanted chemicals. Here are the A-rated choices:
- Apotekets Solspray SPF 30
- Avivir Aloe vera sun lotion SPF 30
- Derma Sun lotion SPF 30
- Ecooking Solcreme til kroppen SPF 30
- Grøn Balance Sun lotion SPF 30
- Lille Kanin Solspray SPF 30
- Matas Sollotion uden parfume SPF 30
- Nilens Jord Body sun protection SPF 30
- P20 Riemann Sensitive skin cream SPF 30
- Rema 1000 Sun Circle sollotion SPF 30
- Salling FRI vandfast sollotion SPF 30
- Änglamark Sun spray water resistant spf 30
Nearly half of the sunscreens contain suspected endocrine disruptors
In the test, 12 of 27 sunscreens receive the lowest chemical rating, the C-rating, because they contain suspected endocrine disrupting sunlight filters.
Some of the substances are on the Endocrine Disrupter Lists from the Danish Environmental Protection Agency and other national authorities from Belgium, France, The Netherlands, Spain and Sweden.
In addition, one tested sunscreen gets the lowest rating because it contains a sunlight filter that is suspected of damaging the endocrine system as well as the environment.
The cocktail effect is the problem – not the individual sunscreen
Suspected endocrine disrupting substances can be problematic in products because of the so-called cocktail effect.
The cocktail effect means that you are exposed to problematic chemicals from many sources every day. This overall exposure can be a potential health risk.
It is safe and important to use sunscreen as sun protection. However, it is generally a good idea to lower your overall exposure to suspected endocrine disrupting substances when you can. For example by choosing a sunscreen without the problematic chemicals.
If you wish to limit your exposure to unwanted chemicals, we recommend choosing one of the many sunscreens that receive the A-rating or a sunscreen with an ecolabel and/or allergy label. No matter the substances in your sunscreen, it is important to use sunscreen during the summer.
Find sunscreens with SPF 50, 20 and 15 in Kemiluppen
Do you want a sunscreen with another SPF? Are you looking for sunscreens with SPF 15 for the Danish summer or SPF 50 for sensitive skin?
You can search for these sunscreens in the app Kemiluppen.
Enter the desired SPF in the search bar under “Søg” and write SPF 15 for example. Then you can find many good choices without unwanted chemicals with the desired SPF.
The app Kemiluppen is only available in Denmark.
Sun protection was not tested
The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals’ test of sunscreens is a declaration test. This means that our test team has examined the declaration of contents on the products for ingredients that are suspected endocrine disruptors, allergenic or problematic for the environment.
The sunscreens’ actual protection against UVA and UVB rays are tested in the lab regularly by the Danish Consumer Council THINK. To see this test, you need to log in or become a member (only available for Danish consumers).
Eight tips for better sun protection
- Avoid the sun between noon and 3 PM when it is most intense.
- Shadow, clothes and sun hats are good sun protection without problematic chemicals.
- Children are particularly sensitive to the sun. Children under the age of one should be in shadow. Older kids should also use another main sun protection besides sunscreen.
- Use the right SPF. No less than SPF 15 in Denmark and at least SPF 30 in countries where the sun is stronger. Remember more SPF if you are on/by the water.
- Use a full handful of sunscreen for the whole body, distribute it evenly and apply in several sittings to achieve sufficient protection.
- Remember to reapply regularly, especially if you are sweating, bathing, drying off in a towel or other things that take the sunscreen off.
- It is always better to use a sunscreen with unwanted chemicals than getting sunburned.
- Check your sunscreen for unwanted chemicals with the app Kemiluppen. Here you can find information on more than 500 sunscreens, sun sprays, and other toiletries.
About the test
The test of sunscreens is a declaration test. This means that it is a review of the ingredients that appear on the products’ lists of ingredients.
The products have not been tested with chemical analysis in a lab or tested for how well they protect against the sun.
All the tested sunscreens and sun sprays are SPF 30 and were bought in the spring of 2023.
We assessed the ingredients according to whether they are categorized as for example suspected endocrine disrupting, allergenic or environmentally damaging.
We have sent the products’ lists of ingredients to the manufacturers for comments to ensure that the listed ingredients are correct.
This is how the 27 tested sunscreens are distributed:
- 12 sunscreens get the best chemical rating, the A-rating. They are free from a number of problematic substances.
- Three sunscreens get a medium chemical rating, the B-rating. This is due to their contents of perfume or environmentally problematic substances, among other things.
- 12 sunscreens get the lowest chemical rating, the C-rating. They contain one or more substances that are suspected endocrine disruptors or problematic for the environment.
These problematic substances result in the C-rating:
- Ethylhexyl salicylate. The substance is a UV-filter that is a suspected endocrine disruptor. We found this substance in eight sunscreens.
- Octocrylene. The substance is a UV-filter that is a suspected endocrine disruptor. We found the substance in three sunscreens.
- Homosalate. The substance is a UV-filter that is a suspected endocrine disruptor. We found the substance in two sunscreens.
- Benzyl salicylate. The substance is a UV-filter and a fragrance substance. It is a suspected endocrine disruptor and an allergen. We found the substance in three sunscreens.
- Ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate. The substance is a UV-filter that is suspected of being harmful to the environment and endocrine disrupting. We found the substance in one sunscreen.
- Methylene bis-benzotriazolyl tetramethylbutylphenol (nano). The substance is a UV-filter that is problematic for the environment. We found the substance in three sunscreens.
- Isoamyl p-methoxycinnamate. The substance is a UV-filter that is a suspected endocrine disruptor. We found the substance in two sunscreens.
- Benzophenone-3. The substance is a UV-filter that is suspected of being harmful to the environment and endocrine disrupting. We found the substance in two sunscreens.
- BHA. The substance is an antioxidant that is a suspected endocrine disruptor. We found the substance in one sunscreen.
- Diazolidinyl urea. The substance is a preservative that can cause allergic reactions. We found the substance in one sunscreen.
- Parabens in the form of Methylparaben, Butylparaben, Ethylparaben and Propylparaben. The substances are preservatives that are suspected of being endocrine disrupting. We found the substance in one sunscreen.
These substances result in the B-rating:
- Perfume and fragrance substances that must be declared can cause allergies. Therefore, it can be a good idea to limit your overall exposure to perfumes. The same applies to certain allergenic plant extracts. Some of the fragrance substances can also be problematic for the environment. We found perfume in 13 sunscreens and allergenic plant extracts in three sunscreens.
- EDTA compounds can contribute to the release of heavy metals that are bound in nature. We found EDTA compounds in six sunscreens.
Several UV-filters are suspected endocrine disruptors
In all, we found seven different suspected endocrine disrupting UV-filters in the 27 sunscreens.
Some of the substances are on the Danish Environmental Agency and other countries’ common authority list from June 2020 of suspected endocrine disruptors. Others are on the EU list of possible endocrine disruptors in cosmetics and care products.
Nano sun filters have not been assessed
Nano particles are not a part of the assessments in the test. The EU has approved the use of certain nano particles in personal care products.
It has been deemed safe as long as the product is used on undamaged skin and not as an aerosol spray. Under the individual products in the test, you can see whether they contain nano.
If you have eczema or other skin damage, it may be a good idea to avoid sunscreen with nano.
If you want to avoid nano, you can choose Swan-labelled sunscreen, which does not allow nano. You can also check the list of ingredients to see if "nano" appears after the substance’s name.
What the companies say
ACO never compromises the safety and efficiency of our products as consumer safety is our biggest goal.
Even though we appreciate that the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals point to the environmental aspects of UV-filters, a list of ingredients is not sufficient to assess the environmental impact of a specific product.
Sunscreens are an important part of the necessary protection against sun damage such as sunburns, skin aging, and skin cancer. This is underlined by health authorities time and time again. Sunscreens are generally among the safest and most regulated products on the European market since the safety of UV-filters is first of all evaluated by SCCS (Scientific Committee for Consumer Safety) and secondly, a thorough safety evaluation of the specific products is a prerequisite in the cosmetic regulation.
No authorities are currently suspecting ethylhexyl salicylate of being endocrine disrupting in humans and the Norwegian scientific committee for food and environment published a report in 2022 on the advantages of sunscreens wherein no safety concerns were raised on the use of ethylhexyl salicylate even though this is one of the most widely used UV-filters in Norway. For that reason, we do not agree with the health and safety evaluation that the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals has made.
ACO Sun Spray SPF 30, including the content of ethylhexyl salicylate, has been assessed as safe when used as instructed on the packaging. We encourage a healthy approach to sun protection by primarily seeking shadow, staying indoors in the middle of the day and using clothes and sun glasses as well as sunscreen as a supplement.
Comment from the Danish Consumer Council THINK:
Like many other salicylates, Ethylhexyl salicylate is decomposed to salicylic acid, which is suspected of being endocrine disrupting and affecting our reproductive abilities. Therefore, the substance is still considered a suspected endocrine disruptor in the test.