How Safe Is Your Sunscreen?
Orlando. The sunshine State. This means that people load up on the sunscreen to protect their skin from the sun's beaming rays. But are we actually causing more harm than good? I recently came across an article that opened my eyes to sunscreen. Here’s what you need to know.
There are two main kinds of sunscreen: chemical and mineral. Chemical sunscreen uses chemicals to block UVA and UVB rays, while mineral sunscreen uses physical barriers in the form of minerals like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide (these are naturally broad spectrum).
Chemicals used in conventional sunscreen include the following:
- ethylhexyl salicylate
Some studies suggest that these harmful chemicals can be absorbed into your bloodstream. However, some mineral sunscreens also contain chemical sunscreen ingredients, so it’s important to check the active ingredients.
Dangers of Chemical Sunscreens
These chemical sunscreen ingredients aren’t harmless either. They affect the body and the environment in serious ways. In the 1970s, the FDA grandfathered in many sunscreen chemicals because they were already in use. These chemicals have never been evaluated for safety. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), oxybenzone is the most concerning of the chemicals in conventional sunscreen. Oxybenzone can easily pass through the skin and into the body. It was found in 96 percent of the adult population and can cause allergic reactions, especially on sensitive skin. It was also found to be a weak estrogen and to have potent anti-androgenic effects (block hormones like testosterone).
Chemical sunscreen use also affects the environment. People use sunscreen before swimming and much of it is washed off into the water. Worldwide, every year, up to 14,000 tons of sunscreen are deposited on coral reefs. Many of these blockers are composed of chemicals listed above that are contaminants to the marine environment. These components are especially toxic to juvenile corals, as they increase their vulnerability to bleaching, affect their DNA and alter their development process. That is why the products that contain Oxybenzone and other chemical products represent a danger for the conservation of the reef and threaten the resilience of corals in the face of climate change and other effects caused by different human activities.
Concentrations of oxybenzone as low as 62 parts per trillion caused damaging effects. For perspective, the researchers explain that this is the equivalent of one drop in 6.5 Olympic swimming pools. Clearly, not much sunscreen is needed to cause environmental problems.
Oxybenzone is also toxic to algae, sea urchins, fish, and mammals.
According to MarineSafe.com, oxybenzone can have the following effects:
- Inhibits embryonic development in sea urchins.
- Causes gender shifts in fish (male fish take on female characteristics and female fish have reduced ability to produce offspring).
- Potentially acts as a mutagen and exhibits carcinogenic activity in mammals.
If you’re looking for a mineral sunscreen that’s truly safe, check the ingredients. If any of the above chemicals are listed, don’t buy it. Additionally, if it’s made with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide make sure it is non-nano. This means that the particles are not nano-sized (i.e., able to penetrate into the body).
The EWG lists some mineral sunscreens that are safe:
- Alba Botanical Mineral Sunscreen
- Badger Mineral Sunscreen
- Babyganics Sunscreenor spray sunscreen
- Thinkbaby Safe Sunscreen
- Thinksport Sunscreen
- Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen
- Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sunscreen
- California Baby Hypoallergenic Sunscreen
- JASON Mineral Sunscreen
- Sunology Natural Sunscreen
- Raw Elements Sunscreen
Thankfully we now have many safe, natural sunscreens to choose from.
You can read the full article with sources here.