Summer is in full swing! I am lucky enough to live minutes from the Atlantic Ocean, so beach going is one of my favorite summer outings. For many people, summer activities include spending long periods of time outdoors. One of the things we need to be mindful of is this. If you’re going to be in the sun for long periods, you must use sunscreen! Who hasn’t gotten a sunburn before and said, “I will never let this happen again!” I know I have! We also must remember the sun isn’t bad for us and provides our bodies with Vitamin D.
Many people slather on commercial sunscreen with a high sun protection factor (spf) thinking they’re protecting their skin. In reality, they’re exposing themselves to chemicals 1000 times more harmful than the sun. Studies show many “commercial” sunscreen ingredients contribute more to skin cancer than the sun itself. Here are the top 5 poisonous sunscreen ingredients to look out for and avoid like the plague!
Some may be familiar to you, while a few may open your eyes.
1. Oxybenzone a.k.a. benzophenone-3 is a chemical added to most sunscreens to guard the skin from UVA rays. It also prevents other sunscreen ingredients from deteriorating. Sunlight causes oxybenzone to form free radical chemicals linked to cell damage. A 2008 Center for Disease Control study, showed oxybenzone is readily absorbed in the body and is present in 97% of Americans tested. More women had this toxin in their bodies, mainly because oxybenzone is used in personal care products such as, lotions, creams, and body washes.
Studies have shown it’s a likely carcinogen and is linked with:
▪ Allergies, hormone disruption, and cell damage
▪ Low birth weight in babies whose mothers are exposed during pregnancy
2. Nanoparticles are extremely tiny particles added to sunscreen because they are easily absorbed by the skin. However, not enough research has been done on these particles. It is known that due to their small size, they act differently in the body.
“Spray Sunscreens” frequently contain nano particles and are more dangerous. This is because the particles can be inhaled. Safe metals such as zinc and titanium dioxide occurring in most sunscreens are safe as long as they aren’t put in nano particle form. Most sunscreens will not list nanoparticles as one of the ingredients, but sunscreens which don’t have nanos will say this on the label.
Studies show “nano” zinc oxide can kill colon and brain stem cells, penetrate the skin, and travel through blood and urine. In addition, one study linked “nano” titanium dioxide to genetic changes, alzheimer’s, autism, and epilepsy. So, while zinc and titanium dioxide are excellent choices for safe sunscreen, they must be in non-nano form.
3. Retinyl Palmitate [RP] received a lot of press a few years ago. I posted about this on Toxic Beauty Blog in June of 2010 and again a year later. RP is a form of vitamin A added to 41% of the sunscreens on the market and to other skin care products. In a National Toxicology Program (NTP) study, it was found when skin is treated with a mix of retinyl palmitate and skin cream and is exposed to ultraviolet light, the cream with retinyl palmitate stimulated lesion and tumor growth. While Vitamin A is a wonderful skin care ingredient when in it’s natural state, it obviously has no business being in a sunscreen when your skin is in direct sunlight.
4. Octyl methoxycinnamate, also known as Octinoxate, Eusolex 2292 and Uvinul MC80, creates free radicals inside the skin which post significant threat to DNA. Like oxybenzone, it works with other penetration enhancers to penetrate skin and accumulates in the body. Also, similarly to retinyl palmitate, it has phototoxic effects (toxic reaction provoked by light and often linked to photosensitivity!) In addition, it has been shown to have estrogenic effects and disrupt thyroid hormones.
5. Another ingredient used to block UVA rays is Padimate O, paraminobenzoic acid, or PABA. According to the EWG’s Skin Deep database, “Research shows this chemical releases free radicals, damages DNA, has estrogenic activity, and causes allergic reactions in some people.” A report done by the FDA a few years ago implicated padimate O as a nitrosamine, a class of compounds known to be carcinogenic. Many people avoid this because it is irritating to the skin.
[Another negative effect of all these ingredients…is they are also damaging to the environment. Some of these toxins have been found in lakes, rivers, and oceans and this in turn harms wildlife, including coral reefs.]
So while you should be on the lookout and avoid sunscreens with the preceding ingredients, know there are many non-chemical sunscreens available that do the job safely with no impact to your body or the environment.