When many of the chemicals used in popular sunscreens are exposed to sunlight, reactions occur between the sunscreen’s active and inactive ingredients and the epidermis. Toxic reactions include inflammation, dermalogical effects, allergic reactions and photogenotoxic (DNA altering) effects. Chemical sunscreens have ingredients that actually promote cancer.
Natural sunscreens with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are safer alternatives.
P.S. Sunscreen does NOT allow the body to absorb any vitamin D from sunlight. So if you plan on being outside for a short period of time, skip the sunscreen and feed your body the vitamin D that will keep it healthy.
FDA last reviewed the safety of sunscreen ingredients in 1978. At that time, it announced plans to develop comprehensive standards for sunscreen safety and effectiveness. More than 30 years later, the agency has yet to publish any standards for sunscreen ingredients. As a result, manufacturers in the U.S. are free to market products containing ingredients that have not been proven safe.
According to the EWG, there are several suspected dangers associated with Oxybenzone. It has been shown to penetrate the skin and cause photo-sensitivity. As a photocarcinogen, it’s demonstrated an increase in the production of harmful free radicals and an ability to attack DNA cells; for this reason, it is believed to be a contributing factor in the recent rise of melanoma cases with sunscreen users. Some studies have shown it to behave similarly to the hormone estrogen, suggesting that it may cause breast cancer. It has also been linked to contact eczema.
In addition, there exist many concerns regarding the human body’s percutaneous absorption of Oxybenzone. In one study, individuals applied a sunscreen with 4% Oxybenzone and submitted urine samples 5 days after topical application. All the subject’s urine secretions were found to contain Oxybenzone, suggesting the body’s ability to store the substance. In 2008, the US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention conducted a similar experiment on a national scale, and found the chemical compound to be present in 96.8% of the human urine samples surveyed. As a result, it is recommended that parents keep their small children from using products containing the ingredient. This is based on the assertion that children under the age of 2 have not fully developed the enzymes that are required to break down derivatives of Oxybenzone. (Just don’t use it)
Octyl methoxycinnamate (OMC for short) is the main chemical used in sunscreens to filter out UVB light. OMC is present in almost ALL wide-spectrum sunscreen brands. Worse yet, OMC has been shown to be particularly toxic when exposed to sunshine. According to the Cosmetics Database, which rates Octyl Methoxycinnamate as 70% safe, there are many concerns regarding its use, including: biochemical changes that cause mutation and cell death upon exposure to sunlight (which is likely when used as a sunscreen ingredient); immunotoxicity and photoallergic effects; reproductive toxicity that leads to estrogenic effects; organ system toxicity, especially in the liver; and enhanced skin absorption. Octyl methoxycinnamate is relatively easily absorbed into the skin and has been shown in some studies to promote generation of potentially harmful free radicals.
The sunscreen industry uses vitamin A in its formulations because it is an anti-oxidant that is thought to slow skin aging. However, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) study found that a form of vitamin A, retinyl palmitate, when used in sunscreen and therefore exposed to sunlight may actually speed the development of skin lesions and tumors.
This conclusion came from EWG’s analysis of the findings released by the FDA and the National Toxicology Program. As EWG stated in the 2011 report: “EWG analysis of product labels finds retinoid ingredients in hundreds of sunscreens, skin lotions, lip sticks and lip sunscreens—all of which pose safety concerns for sun-exposed skin. At this point, the NTP [National Toxicology Program] and FDA have invested more than a decade in studying retinoids, concluding in January 2011 that both retinyl palmitate and retinoic acid speed the development of cancerous lesions and tumors. A year after EWG sounded the alarm about retinyl palmitate, there is still no FDA position on the safety of retinoids in cosmetics. Sunscreen industry trade groups continue to dispute EWG’s warning. Most cosmetics companies have not removed these ingredients from sunscreens and other skin and lip products. EWG recommends that consumers avoid products containing vitamin A, retinyl palmitate and retinol.”
Other potentially harmful ingredients found in sunscreen
Several studies show that many other sunscreen ingredients have toxic properties that are absorbed through the skin and end up circulating in your bloodstream. Here’s a list of some of the most common ones: avobenzone, benzophenone-3, butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane, cinoxate, dioxybenzone, homosalate, menthyl anthranilate, octocrylene, octyl salicyclate, octyl methoxycinnamate (OMC), oxybenzone, padimate O, para amino benzoic acid and PABA esters, phenylbenzimidazole, sulisobenzone, any type of salicylate.