How to Avoid Toxic Sunscreens
After many years of tanning and sun-worshipping, reports came to light that said almost any amount of exposure to the sun would, and had resulted in skin cancer. Since then (several decades) we’ve been told that the sun is dangerous and we should cover up our skin anytime we go out. It was decided by experts that the use of sunscreen would prevent skin cancer and protect your health. This was recommended despite of a lack of any adequate safety testing of the chemicals in sunscreens. Commercial sunscreens popped up everywhere and a new billion dollar industry was born.
Recently, a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) revealed that 97% of Americans are contaminated with a widely used sunscreen ingredient called oxybenzone that has been linked to allergies, hormone disruption, and cell damage. A companion study published just one day earlier revealed that this chemical is linked to low birth weight in baby girls whose mothers are exposed during pregnancy. Oxybenzone is also a penetration enhancer, a chemical that helps other chemicals penetrate the skin, which eventually make their way into the bloodstream.
Two University of California scientists believe that the rise in skin cancer is linked with increased use of chemical sunscreens. They say chemical sunscreens offer a false sense of security resulting in excessive sun exposure, which is risk #1. Now, it seems that risk #2 is the toxic chemicals in the sunscreens themselves.
Another factor to consider is that the application of sunscreens interfere with the skin’s ability to produce vitamin D and can cause a vitamin D deficiency that can greatly impact your health.
Ingredients in sunscreens are not regulated…
Sunscreens, like other cosmetics, are not regulated in a strict sense, but most companies display claims that assure you their products are safe. Testing may involve as little as testing the ingredients to determine if the chemicals cause swelling, rashes, or other acute reactions. Manufacturers are not required to test the ingredients in their products to determine if they cause long-term, negative health effects such as cancer, disruption of hormones or the inability to have a healthy child.
Over the past decade, many scientists studying cancer have come to the conclusion that the use of sunscreen chemicals may be increasing the incidence of cancer and that sunlight exposure may actually decrease human cancer rates and improve your health.
It now appears that many heavily-used chemical sunscreens may actually increase cancers by virtue of their free radical generating properties. And more insidiously, many commonly used sunscreen chemicals have strong estrogenic actions that may cause serious problems in sexual development and adult sexual function, and may further increase cancer risks.
Organic chemists have long been long aware of the dangers of compounds in chemical sunscreens, but this was ignored by the manufacturers of commercial sunscreens and most of the medical establishment.
Chemical Sunscreens Include:
- Benzophenones (dixoybenzone, oxybenzone)
- PABA and PABA esters (ethyl dihydroxy propyl PAB, glyceryl PABA, p-aminobenzoic acid, padimate-O or octyl dimethyl PABA)
- Cinnamates (cinoxate, ethylhexyl p-methoxycinnamate, octocrylene, octyl methoxycinnamate)
- Salicylates (ethylhexyl salicylate, homosalate, octyl salicylate)
- Digalloyl trioleate
- Menthyl anthranilate
- Avobenzone [butyl-methyoxydibenzoylmethane; Parsol 1789] – This is the only chemical sunscreen currently allowed by the European Community. However, its safety is still questionable since it easily penetrates the skin and is a strong free radical generator.
What do these chemicals do?
- These chemicals generate free radicals that increase cellular damage and changes that lead to cancer. An example is Psoralen, a compound that is used to treat psoriasis, increases skin cancer rates 83-fold.
- They often have strong estrogenic activity. Estrogenic – “Gender Bending” – chemicals interfere with normal sexual development – engendering a host of secondary medical problems.
- They are synthetic chemicals that are alien to the human body and accumulate in body fat stores. The human body is well adapted to de-toxify biologicals that it has been exposed to over tens of millions of years. But it has often has difficulty removing new and non-biological compounds such DDT, Dioxin, PCBs, and chemical sunscreens.
Cancer and sunscreens…
Worldwide, the greatest rise in melanoma (the deadliest form of skin cancer) has been experienced in countries where chemical sunscreens have been heavily promoted the rise in melanoma has been exceptionally high in Queensland, Australia where the medical establishment has vigorously promoted the use of sunscreens. Queensland now has more incidences of melanoma per capita than any other place on Earth.
Skin cancer increase NOT due to Ozone Depletion…
But what about ozone depletion and skin cancer? Could this be the cause of the increased skin cancer rates? Professor Johan Moan of the Norwegian Cancer Institute found that the yearly incidence of melanoma in Norway had increased by 350% for men and by 440% for women during the period 1957 to 1984. He also determined that there had been no change in the ozone layer over this period of time. He concludes his report in the British Journal of Cancer by stating “Ozone depletion is not the cause of the increase in skin cancers” (Moan, J. & Dahlback, A. The relationship between skin cancers, solar radiation and ozone depletion. British Journal of Cancer, Vol. 65, No. 6, June 1992, pp. 916-21).
Here’s an interesting fact:
Only 10 chemical ingredients are banned from cosmetics in the United States. 1,100+ chemical ingredients are banned from cosmetics in the European Union.
The best-known physical blocks are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, naturally occurring minerals more effective than some chemical sunscreens. They work as a barrier against sun damage. An alternative is to choose only products that are made from non-toxic natural or organic materials. Non-Toxic natural or organic products do not contain hazardous chemicals, so they are safe and healthy. One of the easiest ways to make a positive impact on your planet and your life is to use safe, non-toxic personal care products.
There are many simple lifestyle changes you can make to radically decrease your risk of sunburn, such as choosing your essential fatty acids wisely, increasing raw vegetables loaded with skin protecting antioxidant phytonutrients, and avoiding processed foods and sugars.
Additionally you can use clothing wisely to avoid sun-induced skin damage. Wearing a hat keeps the sun off your face and the very thin skin around your eyes which is particularly sensitive to photo-aging skin damage from the sun.
Natural sunlight is the best way to get your vitamin D so try to spend small amounts of time in the sun without any sunscreen. Vitamin D plays a crucial role in your overall health and well-being. Safe sun exposure is the key.