Slip, slop, slap was a very famous Australia campaign to protect people from getting skin cancer as the Australian sun is notoriously strong. It called on the public to Slip on a shirt, Slap on a hat and Slop on some sunscreen before exposing themselves to the sun. But could the very stuff that was being touted as saving us from skin cancer also be causing other health issues?
A Swedish study found that 63% of ingredients in the most popular sunscreens in Europe are classified as dangerous for human health and/or the environment.
Many conventional sunscreens contain toxic ingredients that can do more harm than good. The most commonly used chemical sunscreen ingredients, oxybenzone and octinoxate, have been linked to hormone disruption and have been found to be toxic to coral reefs.
Additionally, the preservatives used in many sunscreens, such as parabens, can be absorbed through the skin and have been linked to health concerns. Please see my previous blog on the subject HERE.
The list below is in the order of their toxicity ranking according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG)
1) OXYBENZONE / BENZOPHENONE-3 (BP-3)
2) OCTINOXATE / OCTYLMETHOXYCINNAMATE (OMZ)
HARMFUL ACTIVE SUNSCREENS INGREDIENTS - MODERATE RISK
4) OCTISALATE / ETHYLHEXYL SALICYLATE
5) OCTOCRYLENE / 2-ETHYLHEXYL ESTER
High rate of photocontact allergies: can result in irritations and eczema when skin comes in contact with both Octocrylene and sunlight
First evidence of bioaccumulation, e.g. accumulates in brain and liver of zebrafish affecting developmental processes and organ development
HARMFUL ACTIVE SUNSCREENS INGREDIENTS - LOW RISK
Not photostable on its own: breaks down in contact with UV light, producing ecotoxins
Therefore often combined with stabilizers like Octisalate which is mentioned higher up on this list
Besides harmful active ingredients, that are harmful inactive ingredients that are not yet restricted, even though they bear significant risk to public health. Here you can find a list of concerning inactive ingredients and you should make sure that they don’t appear on the list of components of the products you use!
Parabens can be found in a majority of cosmetics. They’re mainly used to extend the shelf life of your products by preventing the growth of bacteria. It’s sounds great, however, they are also associated with breast cancer, as they may affect the mechanisms of breast cells. There are a few parabens which have already been banned in some countries (find more details on ingredient bans below), however, parabens like ethylparaben, methylparaben and other ingredients that end with -paraben are still approved for use in cosmetics.
8) BEMOTRIZINOL (ALSO KNOWN AS TINOSORB S)
Bemotrizinol is commonly used in sunscreen since it can absorb both UVA and UVB rays. It’s approved in Europe and Australia, however, the FDA in the USA rejected several pending applications of Bemotrizinol previously as there is not sufficient information to prove that it’s officially safe and effective.
Make sure you're still protected and reapply sunscreen after swimming or drying yourself with a towel
9) RETINYL PALMITATE
Retinyl Palmitate is a form of vitamin A, which may result in skin damage and cancer. There is evidence that suggests that it may accelerate the growth of cancer cells when used on the skin under sunlight. A study from the Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food Safety stated that excessive vitamin A can cause health problems such as liver damage, hair loss, and osteoporosis (weakening of bones).
10) TITANIUM DIOXIDE (NANO)
Titanium Dioxide in nano size can be found in many cosmetics, including sunscreen. Nevertheless it’s classified as a possible risk to humans based on animal inhalation experiments. In its powdered or spray form, such as sunscreen sprays or SPF powders, and eyeshadows, it is considered potentially carginogenic.
11) METHYLISOTHIAZOLINONE (MI)
Studies suggest that MI may be neurotoxic and cause allergic reactions. The common usage of MI in sunscreen raises concerns since sunscreen users are very likely to be exposed to significant concentrations of it.
Fortunately, there are plenty of natural alternatives available that can protect your skin while keeping you safe from these potentially harmful ingredients. Many natural sunscreens are formulated with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, both of which provide broad spectrum protection without the potential health risks of chemical sunscreens.
Additionally, natural sunscreens often use nourishing oils like coconut oil and shea butter to provide extra hydration and protection.
Do you have any questions about safe sunscreens? Please post them in the comments below.
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