Summer is rolling in quickly and the weather forecast is calling for hot and sunny weather. The debate around chemical sunscreen is a conversation that comes up often at the clinic and we are here to put it to rest.
Sunscreen Studies and Findings
When the FDA started considering the safety of the ingredients in sunscreen, they grandfathered in the active ingredients from the 1970s without reviewing their potential hazards.
They stated that “nearly all of these sunscreen active ingredients have limited or no data characterizing their absorption.” without doing the research.
According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), all non-mineral sunscreen chemicals absorbed into the body could be measured in blood after just a single use. Furthermore, many sunscreen ingredients have been detected in breast milk and urine samples (1). This means that our body is needing to process these chemicals through our detox organs (liver, kidneys, bladder) to then be excreted.
Toxic Chemicals Found in Sunscreen
In 2019 and 2020, FDA published two studies showing that the ingredients oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and avobenzone are all systemically absorbed into the body after a single use. The FDA also found that these ingredients could be detected on the skin and in blood weeks after application ended.
This table outlines human exposure and hazard information for nine FDA-approved sunscreen chemicals.
As you can see, the main chemical ingredients in sunscreen are causing issues throughout the body, especially those with skin concerns or hormone imbalances. There just isn’t enough research to confirm that these chemical sunscreens are truly safe.
According to the National Institutes of Health, endocrine disruptors are chemicals that may interfere with the body’s endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and impaired immune effects.
The Endocrine Society stated that, “Many ultraviolet (UV)-filtering chemicals commonly used in sunscreens interfere with the function of human sperm cells, and some mimic the effect of the female hormone progesterone. These results are of concern and might explain in part why unexplained infertility is so prevalent.” (2).
Broad Spectrum Sun Protection Explained
The FDA issued guidelines that sunscreen must filter both UVA and UVB radiation in order for manufacturers to put SPF ratings on their labels. Alas, the term “broad spectrum” was born. Since each individual chemical covers only a portion of the solar spectrum, several chemicals must be combined to assure that more of the solar spectrum is filtered. This combining creates diverse problems.
The FDA has tested these chemicals individually. But what we don’t fully understand in detail is how these chemicals react together. Furthermore, what happens when they’re exposed to the sun’s heat? Is a toxic chemical reaction occurring right on our skin? Yes. Two things happen when these chemicals are combined.
- Increased Toxicity: Research studies have been identifying that chemicals may not be “too toxic” when used individually, but low concentrations of several in combination create new harmful chemical complexes that result in a much more toxic formula (3).
- Accelerated Photodegradation: Some of the chemicals or metals used as sun filters actually become inactivated upon exposure to sunlight, turning into toxic molecules. This photodegradation can occur even more rapidly when chemicals are combined, compared with when they are used by themselves.
Other Ingredients to Consider
Other nasty ingredients in chemical sunscreen are preservatives like parabens. According to the Canadian Cancer Agency, “A few studies have suggested that parabens act like estrogen in the body, which can speed up the growth of breast cancer tumours.” (4). Yet another reason to reach for a natural sunscreen.
What we do know is that people who experience skin irritation are usually prone to outbreaks when using chemical sunscreens. Dr. Reid sees many cases of skin concerns in her practice. This includes: psoriasis, eczema, skin allergies, rosacea, irritation rashes and acne.
The active ingredients in chemical sunscreens are known to aggravate skin irritation (5). To put simply, skin irritation is an inflammatory reaction by the body. Chronic or prolonged periods of inflammation can wreak havoc on the body as this is a form of stress.
A natural sunscreen using ingredients that nourish the skin, may be the answer for these concerns. However, sometimes even “natural” sunscreens can contain the harmful ingredients of a chemical ones. It’s important to read the label to ensure the ingredients are pure, organic and truly natural.
Sunscreen for Children
While many companies offer children’s sunscreen, they often still contain the harmful active ingredients. With child allergies on the rise, it may help to reduce their exposure to allergen causing chemicals with a natural sunscreen.
Harmful Sun Exposure
Prolonged sun exposure can be very damaging to the skin and body. In fact it’s antioxidants in the body that protect the skin against a sunburn. It’s a lot of work for the body alone to protect against the sun rays, this is why our skin burns. A sunburn our body’s way of telling us we’ve had too much sun exposure.
Frequent sunburns can increase your chance of skin cancer (6) so it’s vital to ensure your skin is protected from the sun.
It’s true that increasing your antioxidant intake can help in sun protection! See this blog post for more details:
All chemical sunscreens block the absorption of Vitamin D into the body therefore contributing to vitamin D deficiency (7).
Chemical sunscreens need time to be absorbed by the skin for their protection to work. This is why they are applied 10-15 minutes before sun exposure. When your body is covered in chemical sunscreen, it inhibits all the benefits of Vitamin D.
Contrarily, mineral sunscreen (using zine oxide), sits on the surface of the skin and provides instant sun protection.
At noon, the sun is at its highest point, and its UVB rays are most intense. That means you need less time in the sun to make sufficient vitamin D (8). Wait 10-30 minutes before applying your mineral sunscreen to ensure you are absorbing those beneficial Vitamin D sun rays!
So, what can we do?!
Want to know exactly what’s in your sunscreen? Make your own! Yes you heard me, DIY sunscreen is possible with just a few ingredients.
At the end of June, we will be hosting a DIY Natural Sunscreen Workshop!
During the live seminar part of the workshop, we will explain the benefits of using a natural sunscreen and why the ingredients are safe and can promote healthy, glowing skin.
The main sun blocking ingredient we will use is non-nano Zinc Oxide powder. This does not absorb into the skin, it simply sits on top for optimal UV blocking protection. This mineral is safe to use, does not irritate the skin and provides ample sun protection. The other ingredients will remain a secret until the seminar!
When? Wednesday, June 24th 5:00pm
Where? In the comfort of your own home, it’s a virtual workshop!
What’s included? All supplies needed including ingredients and an 8 oz. storage jar, a how-to video, our Natural Sunscreen Recipe, and a recording of the live seminar.
We want to point out that this recipe has not been tested for it’s SPF level. Please be cautious when using it and test it before relying solely on it for sun protection. We recommend re-applying every hour and after sweating and swimming.
Registration closes June 15th! Call 604-688-1169 to claim your spot!
Mineral Based Sunscreens
EWG has a list of the top brands for safe and effective sunscreens. They are mineral based and do not include preservatives or the nasty toxic chemicals. Most of them contain organic ingredients but again, read the label to ensure purity and quality!
Here are a few of the recommended brands:
Goddess Garden https://www.goddessgarden.com/
Alba Botanica https://www.albabotanica.com/
Green Beaver https://greenbeaver.com/en
Join us for our virtual workshop for even more information on natural sunscreen and the benefits of making your own!