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. (Use MIFree15 for 15% discount.)
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.
JASON (US / UK)
Very good and affordable products, with SPF up to 45. For UK information, click here. For US, try Vitacost here. To browse selection on Amazon, click here.
Kiss My Face (US)
Products for face, kids / baby, lotions, lips, an organics range, a mineral range and several sprays too.
Lavera (US / UK)
German natural skincare brand, free from MI / MCI. Their sun range includes sun cream, after sun care and self-tanning products. Browse here.
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.
Confirm their MI free status in their FAQ. Wide range of SPF50+ products — including for children, sport, sensitive skin and anti-ageing.
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.
THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! I appreciate your research and your help so much! It’s made the journey of finding safe products for my husband so much easier!!! I’d be lost without your help!
That’s a great thing to hear – thank you!
Thank you so much for your diligence. I don’t know how I would get along without you guys and SkinSafe. This allergy is challenging, to say the least.
Glad to help!
This is great, thank you! I recently did not read my labels well enough and put some Neutrogena Sport Face Oil-Free SFP 70 on my face and neck and broke out into a bad rash that lasted about 10 days! Of course, it had MI in it 🙁
Conversely, I’ve had good luck with a brand called Elta MD. They have a few types of sunscreens for sale, usually at dermatologists’ offices. If you could include that brand in future research I’d love it, just to be sure it’s good/safe. Thanks!
Thank you for the Neutrogena warning! I did contact Elta MD but haven’t received a response – I’ll maybe chase a few up in due course.
Great list! I use World Organics sunscreens for the whole family and love them. Did you know they are available in Australia and the US too – or anywhere in the world via online? Highly recommend
Thanks Belinda – will add a note to their entry!
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VERY HELPFUL research…Thank You!!
Sunscreen down, Now on to dishwashing liquid, make up And Everything else
Ah, thank you for taking the time to comment – you’re more than welcome. If you’re in the UK, leave-on make-up should all be safe now, and indeed throughout the EU.
Well it *should* be, but you can’t count on it. I live in the U.S. but spent all of June in Italy and shops were still selling shampoo, conditioner and soaps with MI in it. I think the manufacturers stopped making it with MI as an ingredient, but realistically it will be a while before all the product is off store shelves. You still need to check the labels.
Will be in Italy for a week in autumn. I will check – but bear in mind that MI is still permitted in the EU in rinse-off products – such has shampoo, conditioner, soap, shower gel, scrubs etc. It’s leave on – creams, sunscreen, make-up – in which it’s banned.
Hi, you have me confused here. “kiss my face” seems to be recommended, but then at the bottom it says “kiss my face” has not responded regarding their MI status. Can you please clarify. Also, have any of the others responded? I am most interested in blue lizard as that was my go-to sunscreen. Thanks!
So sorry, Cuz man! Well spotted …. They responded very late and I forgot to take them off the ‘not yet responded’ list. Here is their response in full: https://www.facebook.com/mifree/posts/2000694860206798
Blue Lizard didn’t respond, but I will chase now.
Hi, any chance that blue lizard responded? Thank you!
No, sorry – but I have chased yet again on Twitter. Here’s the link. I’m going to email them too. Thanks for the nudge. It’s poor customer care on their part. https://twitter.com/FreeFromMI/status/1023631873195560961
I believe Lume products also have mi in them but couldn’t get an answer from them. Thank you for your time effort and dedication. You have made my journey easier. I’ve battled this my entire life and was never able to get any answers. Now I have answers and alternatives. Better late than never.
I must try to update this article at some point, Cheryl. Thanks for the nudge, and sorry for the delay in responding.
Great info. Thank you! We discovered my daughters MI allergy after a severe reaction to CereVe sunblock in 2017.
You’re very welcome. I do need to update this article, and will get to it soon! I did think CereVe was MI-free though … Perhaps it wasn’t back then?
SuperGoop sunscreen products have MI listed on their “never used” ingredient list! 🙂
I’ve noticed a raised rash on my limbs a few days after vacation this spring and now summer… based on label comparisons between our various sunscreens (some of which we’ve always used and some “newer”) – I believe it is MI listed as the last ingredient in our Sun Bum spf 50 cream… my Alba products I usually use don’t have it. That would be a “new” sunscreen for me… their sprays don’t have it – but cream does. The Super Goop products are also new for me – but they don’t have MI… it’s hard to target exactly what causes this rash as it’s not an immediate reaction or everywhere that I put the sunscreen – and it lasts for a week or more afterwards – even through showers.
Thanks for the tip re: SuperGoop. You need to undergo patch testing to find out what causes any rash – it may not necessarily be an allergic reaction, it could be a more straightforward irritant one. A dermatologist can help.