How To Avoid Toxic Chemicals In Sunscreens
Sunscreens, are they more dangerous for us than the sun?
Most suntan lotions, sprays and roll-ons, contain a cocktail of synthetic and often toxic, chemicals ingredients, many of which are known carcinogens and hormone disruptors.
We need to be aware of which sunscreens are safe to use and which may be doing more harm than good!
Below I address the health concerns, posed by conventional sunscreen brands and they further down you will see my list of recommended safer, cruelty free, natural sunscreen brands.
Nanoparticles In Sunscreens
Many of the newer formulations of sunscreens use nanoparticle technology to ensure their sunscreens leave no white creamy residue and are absorbed into the skin smoothly. Nanoparticles are ingredients that have been formulated with molecules that are so small that they potentially allow the ingredients to penetrate right through the protective barrier of our skin.
Because this is such a new technology the safety jury is still out on their use. There has been some evidence to suggest that they are absorbed into the skin and are hazardous to our health. See the Environmental Working Groups article Nanomaterials in Sunscreens
Photo-Toxic Ingredients In Sunscreens
There has been alarming research suggesting that a lot of the chemicals used in sunscreens, alter into a dangerous state when in direct sun on our skins.
“Many of the chemicals in sunscreens have minimal toxicological effects when first applied to the skin. However, once exposed to sunlight, reactions occur between the sunscreens active and inactive ingredients and the epidermis. Toxic reactions include inflammation, dermatological effects, allergic reactions and photo genotoxic (DNA altering) effects. Many chemicals in sunscreens have been found to be photo-toxic (becoming toxic when exposed to light), causing burning, irritations, pigment changes and photo-allergic effects such as hypersensitivity to chemicals.” Dr Peter Dingle , the rest of this article Toxic Sunscreen is enlightening and well worth a read.
Toxic Chemicals In Sunscreens
The majority of sunscreens on the market are chock full of potentially dangerous chemicals, including preservatives, colours and fragrances that are known carcinogens and hormone disruptors.
Canada, they have actually prohibited the commonly used PABA as a sunscreen ingredient, due to its ability to affect DNA in human cells in a manner that results in increased susceptibility in some people to skin cancer. PABA has been found to form potent free radicals when exposed to UV light. See here
List of some of the commonly used and dangerous ingredients in sunscreens.
- benzophenone-3 (Bp-3)
- homosalate (HMS)
- 4-methyl-benzylidene camphor (4-MBC)
- octal-methoxycinnamate (OMC)
- octal-dimethyl-PABA (OD-PABA)
- butty-methoxydibenzoylmethane (B-MDM)
- artificial fragrance – this could be any number of ingredients, read Synthetic Perfumes Making Us Sick.
Here is a breakdown by the Cosmetic Data Base of a popular brand of sunscreen. It has a rating 7 out of 10 for harmful ingredients, read here.
Animal Testing And Cruelty Free Sunscreens
Most sunscreen brands are by big cosmetics and skincare companies that still test their ingredients and products on animals. The trouble is many of these brands advertise the fact that they are cruelty free or against animal testing, but unless these companies have been approved by a reputable, non-profit organization such Cruelty Free International, then all this so-called ethical advertising is just smoke and mirrors.
Popular Sunscreen Brands That DO Test On Animals
Here are just some of the companies that produce sunscreens that still test on animals; Aveeno, Avon, Banana Boat, Chapstick, Clinique, Dove, Estee Lauder, Johnson and Johnson, Kiehls, L’Oreal, MAC, Olay, Ponds, Revlon and Vaseline.
Cruelty-Free Sunscreen Brands
Find ethical sunscreen brands by visiting Cruelty Free International and their Leaping Bunny Programme List
*Please note I cannot personally recommend companies listed with PETA as their requirements for listing cruelty-free companies are not stringent enough.
Choosing Safer Sunscreens
So does this mean that you should never use sunscreen?
Absolutely not, if we are going to be out in the sun for prolonged periods we need to protect the delicate skins of our children and ourselves. There are now thankfully more natural and much safer sunscreen alternatives on the market that contain the active sunscreen ingredient ZINC OXIDE.
- Choose a natural Zinc Oxide sunscreen, the thick white cream and not a clear coloured cream. Zinc and Titanium oxide creams that are clear in colour have been altered into nano sized particles,
- While these thick natural Zinc Oxide sunscreens may not absorb into the skin as easily, they are much safer for especially babies and children, whose bodies are more reactive to and negatively affected by toxic chemicals.
- Try to also avoid fragranced suntan lotions and stick to buying the purest suntan lotion you can. While they may not smell as nice and leave you looking a little greasy, this is a small price to pay in return for keeping you and your family healthy and safe.
- Most importantly stay out of the sun during the harshest time of day when the UV rating is high. Read my article Sunbaking The Good & Bad.
- Cover up, wear protective clothing, a wide brim hat and sunglasses when outdoors. Babies and Children should wear bathing suits that have long sleeves and legs, save the cute baby bikinis and board shorts for indoor pool use or evening swims.
- Using a nanoparticle free mineral foundations with zinc oxide in it, will also provide natural protection from the sun. See Mineral Makeup Benefits vs Conventional Makeup
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