Much has been made over the last two decades about the benefits of sunscreen use. Sunscreen creates a protective barrier on the surface of the skin that limits the amount of potentially harmful UV rays that penetrate the skin’s outermost layer. Excessive UV exposure has been scientifically linked to increased risk of skin cancer, although susceptibility varies from individual to individual depending on several different factors.
What consumers may not realize is that the very ingredients that help keep UV light from penetrating the skin’s surface are associated with other kinds of health problems, including hormone disruption and mild to severe skin allergies. These same chemicals have been found to leach into the breast milk of nursing mothers and into the environment, causing mutations and reproductive problems in animals and sea life. Additionally, research suggests that an astounding 97 percent of Americans have traces of one or more common sunscreen chemicals in their blood.
Unfortunately, almost every commercial sunscreen on the market contains at least one of these potentially-harmful or problematic chemicals. Most contain two or more. If you have a bottle of sunscreen in your medicine cabinet, check the label and see if you find any of these listed:
Oxybenzone- A very common ingredient in sunscreen products, also considered one of the most potentially harmful. Oxybenzone is associated with hormone disruption (it mimics estrogen in the body). It’s also highly allergenic and easily penetrates the outer layer of the skin, getting into the bloodstream and breast milk.
Octinoxate (Octylmethoxycinnamate)- Another common sunscreen ingredient, also associated with hormone disruption and reproductive problems. It has been found to leach into breast milk. It’s moderately allergenic and is as dangerous to animals as it is to humans.
Homosalate- Disrupts androgen, estrogen and progesterone and has the ability to leach into breast milk.
Avobenzone- Considered one of the most effective UVA filters, but is highly allergenic and breaks down easily.
Octisalate- Usually added as a stabilizer for avobenzone, but has the ability to penetrate the skin’s surface, although it is not yet known what kind of negative health effects it may have.
Octocrylene- Has the ability to penetrate skin and leach into breast milk. It is highly allergenic.
Titanium Dioxide- Used mainly in spray and powder sunscreens. May cause respiratory problems if inhaled. If made in nano particles might penetrate to the bloodstream and cause cells damage.
Zinc Oxide- This mineral (not a chemical) is sometimes referred to as a “natural” sunscreen. Is associated with respiratory problems if inhaled. If made in nano particles might penetrate to the bloodstream and cause cells damage.
(These are not the only chemicals that may show up in sunscreen but are the most common.)
My personal advise is to stay out of sun in peak hours, suntan 15-30 minutes a day, protect yourself with long sleeves and a hat and use your common sense rather then sunscreens.