Confused by sunscreen recommendations? Need yours to be methylisothiazolinone free? Here’s the lowdown — and a list of safe brands.
Sun cream: what you need to know
Most of us do not apply enough sunscreen to protect us from the sun’s damaging UV rays. We also don’t reapply regularly — particularly when sweating or exercising or after swimming.
Sun Protection Factor (SPF) indicates the level of protection from UVB rays, which are related to sunburn and skin cancer. You need a minimum SPF15 for everyday activity, and minimum SPF30 for lengthier exposure. Children at the beach should have SPF50.
We also need protection from UVA rays, which are more associated with wrinkles and ageing.
The usual recommendation is to go for products offering protection against UVA and UVB — these are often called ‘broad spectrum‘ sunscreens.
There are two types of sunscreen:
1/ inorganic / physical — these contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide and reflect and scatter UV rays away from the skin
2/ organic / chemical — these contain ingredients such as oxybenzone and methoxycinnamate that absorb the UV rays.
This FAQ from the American Academy of Dermatology is useful.
MI / MCI-Free Sunscreens
All products in the UK / EU should now be safe and MI-free: these countries have legislation excluding MI from leave-on products, which include suncreams.
The US and Australia / NZ don’t have such bans yet in force, so this selection of methylisothiazolinone / methylchloroisothiazolinone-free sun creams, sun lotions and other sun care products has a mostly American and Australian / New Zealand focus.
100% Pure (Worldwide)
Three ‘natural body sunscreen’ products at SPF30 from this totally natural brand — Yerba Mate Mist, Everywhere Body Stick, and Everywhere Sun Stick. All contain zinc oxide, and the Everywhere products also contain titanium dioxide.
Mostly natural mineral-based sunscreens from the US for young children. Use phenoxyethanol and ethylhexylglycerin preservatives instead of isothiazolinones or parabens. Browse here. (Warning: some of their household products contain MI)
A wide selection of non-nano zinc oxide-based sunscreens, with strong natural qualities. These include kids sunscreens, sporting sunscreens, daily sunscreens, active sunscreens and some unscented versions too. Mostly SPF25–35. Also an aftersun balm. Browse on Amazon here.
Beauty Counter (US)
A handful of products — broad spectrum SPF30 — including stick sunscreens for both face and body.
Cancer Council Sunscreen (Australia)
Told us that from 2016 onwards, no MI / MCI is used. Before that, MI was in some products, which should no longer be circulation. Broad spectrum between SPF30 and 50, and include products for kids, sports, ‘everyday’ and water sport.
Coola Suncare (US)
Re: MI / MCI they told us: “We confirmed with our lab that we do not use this preservative in any of our products, or in any trace amounts in our ingredients”. Classic, mineral and ‘beauty’ sunscreens — including for sport — in spray, stick or lotion, and for lips too. SPF30 and SPF50 products. Also some handy travel sets — and an after-sun lotion.
Derma E (US)
Known for their antioxidant sunscreens with vitamin C and green tea, for both face and body. Also have a unique Sun Protection Mineral Powder, which looks very innovative. SPF 30.
Green People (US / UK)
Wide selection of sun cream products — and SPF15 tinted moisturisers / mineral powders — as well as a children’s range, and after-sun care products too. In the UK, you can even buy a Sun Care Sample Pack for £1.00 direct from Green People’s online store, which a is terrific way of trialling it.
Kiss My Face (US)
Products for face, kids / baby, lotions, lips, an organics range, a mineral range and several sprays too.
Small collection of sun care products from this MI-free Australian brand — including SPF40 zinc oxide natural sunscreen.
Natural Instinct (Australia)
Free from 400+ synthetic and petrochemically derived ingredients — including MI / MCI — and which are all listed here. A trio of SPF30 products, with excellent natural qualities.
Nature’s Gate (US)
Includes some SPF50 broad spectrum products — some for sports and some for kids.
Skinnies (New Zealand)
Water-free and preservative-free SPF30 products.
High-tolerance skincare products for those with sensitive skin — free from not only the isothiazolinone preservatives, but fragrances, dyes / colors, parabens and other preservatives. Offer a quartet of high-spectrum sunscreen products, including a lip protector. Browse on Amazon US, or in Australia, try Fishpond.
World Organics (New Zealand)
A pair of broad spectrum SPF30 products in the River Veda brand from a wholly MI-free company. (Deliver internationally.)
At least one product — Aveeno Positively Radiant CC Cream Broad Spectrum SPF 30 — contains MI. Be alert for others.
Banana Boat / Hawaiian Tropic
Both by the same company — Edgewell. Told us via their Hawaiian Tropic Facebook page that: ” Because of scientific information suggesting that the use of MIT may lead to the induction of contact allergy, Edgewell has discontinued the use of MIT globally. As of March 2017 all Banana Boat products being produced will be MIT free, and we plan to have all MIT products completely phased out of market by October 2017.” When queried whether this applied to Hawaiian Tropic the baffling reply was: “We cannot speak for Hawaiian Tropic”. Proceed with caution.
Not checked and no response to our query, but it seems some do and some don’t contain MI. There’s an example in this thread on Facebook.
La Roche Posay
“We do not have prepared information for the ingredient information you requested for our entire product line”. Check labels.
No response to our query, but some (not all) of their sun products do contain MI. Here’s their Sensitive Skin Sunscreen SPF60+ and here’s their Age Shield Oil Free Sunscreen 110 — in both of which MI lurk.
Several of their creams contain MI.
The following were approached for their MI / MCI status in sun care, but either have not yet responded, or have told us they will look into it, and get back to us when they know. This page will be updated if and when they do.
Alba Botanica, Blue Lizard, Coppertone, Elta MD, Shiseido, Sun Laboratories, and Suntegrity.