Toxic Sunscreens – Why are They So Bad For You?
Do you dutifully apply sunscreen on all of your exposed skin every time you go out in the sun? There are a few reasons why this widely circulated advice is counter to reason, one of which is the sunscreen itself.
Every year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases their annual guide to sunscreens, and this year’s data again shows that you must be very cautious when choosing sunscreen to apply to your skin.
Two-thirds of the sunscreens analyzed by EWG did not work well or contained potentially hazardous ingredients. This included many of the most popular brands on the market.
If you use sunscreen purchased from a drug store, grocery store, or discount chain, there’s a high chance your sunscreen is on EWG’s worst sunscreens list. So do yourself (and your kids) a favor by getting up to speed which sunscreens are safe, and which are toxic, before slathering up again.
EWG Releases Toxic Sunscreens’ List
Top-selling sunscreen brands including Neutrogena, Rite Aid, Walgreens “Well” brand, “Up and Up” brand from Target, and Coppertone were among those that made the most toxic list. Most contained the following three “red flag” ingredients. If you see them listed on the label of your sunscreen, throw it away and choose another:
This is one of the most troublesome ingredients found in the majority of sunscreens. Its primary function is to absorb ultraviolet light. However, oxybenzone is also believed to cause hormone disruptions and cell damage that may provoke cancer. According to EWG:“…the chemical oxybenzone penetrates the skin, gets into the bloodstream and acts like estrogen in the body. It can trigger allergic reactions. Data are preliminary, but studies have found a link between higher concentrations of oxybenzone and health harms.
One study has linked oxybenzone to endometriosis in older women; another found that women with higher levels of oxybenzone during pregnancy had lower birth weight daughters.”
- Retinyl Palmitate (Vitamin A palmitate)
Sunscreen products may actually increase the speed at which malignant cells develop and spread skin cancer because they contain vitamin A and its derivatives, retinol, and retinyl palmitate.
The problem occurs when this form of vitamin A is exposed to the sun (as opposed to when it is used in night cream, for example), which is why sunscreens that contain it should be avoided.
I caution against using personal care products that contain synthetic fragrance, as this term describes any number of harmful chemicals that do not have to be listed individually on the label. Some common “fragrance” chemicals include:
- Parabens: Synthetic preservatives known to interfere with hormone production and release.
- Phthalates: Another synthetic preservative that’s carcinogenic and linked to reproductive effects (decreased sperm counts, early breast development, and birth defects) and liver and kidney damage.
- Synthetic musks: These are linked to hormone disruption and are thought to persist and accumulate in breast milk, body fat, umbilical cord blood, and the environment.
How to Choose a Safer Sunscreen
The safer sunscreens tended to use non-nanoparticle sized zinc- and titanium-based mineral ingredients, which block the sun’s rays without penetrating your skin. Additionally, here’s what to look for when choosing a safer sunscreen:
- Avoid Spray Sunscreens:These are incredibly popular, especially for kids, but the convenience comes at a price. When the sunscreen is sprayed, toxic particles are released into the air, making them easy to breathe in, with unknown health effects.
Spray-on sunscreens may also contain flammable ingredients, and there have been reports in which a person wearing the sunscreen received serious burns from coming close to an open flame.
Avoid Super-High SPFs: Higher SPF sunscreens (SPF 50+) are not intrinsically harmful. However, there’s evidence that the higher protection level gives people a misleading sense of security, encouraging them to stay in the sun longer than they should. In reality, research suggests that people using high-SPF sunscreens get the same or similar exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays as those using lower-SPF products.
- Avoid Sunscreen Towelettes or Powders:These offer dubious sun protection and the powder poses a risk of lung irritation if you inhale it.
- Protects Against Both UVA and UVB Rays:SPF only protects against UVB rays, which are the rays within the ultraviolet spectrum that allow your body to produce vitamin D in your skin.
But the most dangerous rays, in terms of causing skin damage and cancer, are the UVA rays. This is why you always want to make sure any sunscreen you buy protects against UVA as well as UVB.
Pure Sun Protection Cream does not contain any nasty chemicals and is safe for kids & adults. choose now for the health of your family!
5 Top Sunshine Tips
To sum up, do spend some time outdoors in the sun regularly (ideally daily), but do so with some commonsense precautions:
- Give your body a chance to produce vitamin D; expose large amounts of skin (at least 40 percent of your body) to sunlight for short periods daily
- When you’ll be in the sun for longer periods, cover up with clothing, a hat or shade (either natural or that you create using an umbrella, etc.). A safe sunscreen can be appliedafter you’ve optimized your daily vitamin D production.
- Shield your face from the sun daily using a safe sunscreen or a hat, as your facial skin is thin and more prone to sun damage like premature wrinkling.
- Consuming a healthy diet full of natural antioxidants is another incredibly useful strategy to help avoid sun damage to your skin. Fresh, raw, unprocessed foods deliver the nutrients that your body needs to maintain a healthy balance of omega-6 and omega-3 oils in your skin, which is your first line of defense against sunburn. Fresh, raw vegetables also provide your body with an abundance of powerful antioxidants that will help you fight the free radicals caused by sun damage that can lead to burns and cancer.