Are the Chemicals in your Sunscreen Harmful?
Ah, summer! The sun is shining and there’s a good chance you’ll be dipping your toes in a lake, ocean or pool. During this time, it’s very important to protect yourself from ultraviolet (UV) rays. However, it’s important to be aware of the potentially harmful chemicals found in your screen.
The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays do miraculous things: They provide warmth and light, nourish plants and crops, and trigger a reaction in our bodies that produces Vitamin D. Vitamin D boosts the immune system, strengthens teeth and bones, heals some chronic skin conditions and enhances mood.
However, too much of the sun can be harmful. Sunburn, photo-aging and skin cancer can result from over exposure.
Because of these dangers, most of us are quick to apply sunscreens that prevent the sun’s damaging rays. There are clear benefits to this practice, as sun damage is dangerous and irreversible.
The Many Chemicals in Sunscreens
Many sunscreens rely on chemicals, including oxybenzone, octocrylene and avobenzone to block dangerous UV rays.
In May 2019, the Journal of the American Medical Association published results of the FDA’s exploratory trial on the maximum usage of sunscreens to learn about chemical absorption into our bodies from sunscreen. Perhaps shockingly, of 24 participants applying four commercial screens, results showed blood plasma concentrations of four chemicals in screen—avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene and ecamsule—that exceeded the FDA threshold for waiving toxicology studies.
FDA Orders More Safety Testing for Chemical Sunscreens
The FDA has changed its regulatory requirements for sunscreen and is asking manufacturers for additional safety data on 12 ingredients, each of which are absorbed into the body at higher rates than previously thought.
It’s important to note that both the FDA and the American Academy of Dermatology recommend that consumers continue using sunscreen. None of the 12 ingredients that merit further testing have been proven unsafe; the FDA has simply called for additional safety data.
Oxybenzone: Suspected Endocrine Disruptor
The Environmental Working Group suggests that oxybenzone, one of the most common chemical sunscreen ingredients, is a suspected endocrine disruptor, and may cause skin allergies.
Endocrine disruptors are substances that impact bodily functions including development and reproduction by affecting hormones—in this case, thyroid hormones. There is data around the impact of oxybenzone levels in the blood and its impact on pregnancy: Research indicates that pregnant women with higher oxybenzone exposure have shorter pregnancies when carrying male babies, and the chemical may impact birth weight.
An Alternative to Chemical Sunscreens
Again, protecting yourself from the sun’s damaging UV rays by using sunscreen remains critically important.
Consider switching to a mineral sunscreen (containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide) to avoid potentially harmful chemicals. Mineral screens are not absorbed into skin. Instead, these minerals stay on top of the skin as a physical block to prevent ultraviolet rays from reaching your skin.
In our next post, we’ll explore mineral screens and additional chemical-free alternatives to sun protection.
It is always important to consider the affect that personal products (not just sunscreen) have on your health. At PrimeHealth, we help our patient’s to create a safe and health-promoting environment on their skin and in their homes.
6 Sunscreen Ingredients to be aware of!
- Oxybenzone: This chemical absorbs UV radiation and has been shown to have hormone-disrupting effects in some studies. It has also been found to harm coral reefs.
- Octinoxate: Like oxybenzone, octinoxate absorbs UV radiation and has been shown to have hormone-disrupting effects.
- Octocrylene: This chemical absorbs UV radiation and has been associated with skin irritation and allergic reactions in some people.
- Homosalate: This chemical absorbs UV radiation and has been shown to disrupt hormones in animal studies.
- Retinyl palmitate: This chemical is a form of vitamin A and is added to some screens for its potential anti-aging effects. However, it has been shown to increase the risk of skin cancer when applied to the skin and exposed to UV radiation.
- Parabens: These chemicals are used as preservatives in some sunscreens and have been shown to have hormone-disrupting effects.