There seems to be some discrepancy on whether or not sunscreens are safe. On one hand, it protects our skin from burning and later developing skin cancers, yet on the other hand, most sunscreens are chemical-laden and can cause cancer later in life.
So, which is the right choice?
Not All Sunscreens Are Created Equal
First of all, the sun does not cause cancer; UVA rays and sun damage do. It is suggested that we get 20-30 minutes of unfiltered sunshine preferably in the early morning when UV rays are not yet at their most potent. This naturally creates vitamin D in our body and helps with our heart, fight cancer and boost our immune system.
It is important to note that the FDA has not established rigorous safety standards for sunscreen ingredients. In fact, in the United States, sunscreens haven’t been regulated since 1978. According to the Environmental Working Group’s “Sunscreen Guide for 2015” eighty percent of sunscreens on the market were found unsafe, ineffective or both. That said, there are those who are concerned about skin damage and looking for the right sunscreen for them.
To gain a greater perspective, it is important to understand what type of products you are dealing with. Before I get into the different type of sunscreen products out there, I wanted to remind everyone that SPF factor only tells you how effective a sunscreen is against UVB rays which cause sunburn. There is no way to measure UVA rays. Learn about the difference between UVAs and UVBs here. That said, natural ingredients like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide can help protect against the damaging rays (more on that later). Keep that in mind when reading about the two main categories of sunscreens:
Chemical sunscreens are products that contain synthetic ingredients such as oxybenzone and octinoxate, which are absorbed into the skin to filter and absorb UV rays. This category of sunscreens are very effective in protecting deeper layers of skin. That said, it can also lead to skin irritation and other adverse reactions. Plus, the ingredients can generate cell-damaging free radicals when exposed to the sun. It is always important to look at the ingredients in your sunscreen. For instance, scientists recommend not using sunscreens containing oxybenzone on children because it disrupts hormones. As well, aerosolized sunscreens may seem convenient, but they may pose serious inhalation risks and do not completely cover the skin. Try and refrain from purchasing sunscreens with the following ingredients, as these have been shown to cause severe skin reactions, allergic reactions, hormone disruption, damage DNA and cause cancer:
- Retinyl Palmitate (Vitamin A Palmitate)
- Paraben Preservatives
Read about which sunscreens are in the Hall of Shame due to the additives and chemicals added.
Physical sunscreens contains naturally derived minerals that cover the surface of skin to physically block or reflect broad spectrum of the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. Keep in mind that many of these type of sunblocks can be thick and messy to apply, and can leave a white sheen and residue on the skin that can clog pores.
Since the population has become more aware of the dangerous chemicals found in certain sunscreens, many companies are coming out with natural products that are chemical free and have naturally derived ingredients to protect the skin. As well, they have found a way to get rid of the thick and messy application too. Two of the most common ingredients to look for in natural sunscreens are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Some of the most popular natural sunscreens to choose from are:
- Kiss My Face SPF 30
- OZ Naturals Sunscreen, SPF 30
- Aubrey Organics SPF 30 Children’s Unscented Sensitive Skin
- Alba Botanica Very Emollient, Sport Sunscreen, SPF 45
- Badger Sport Sunscreen Cream – SPF 35
As well, adding certain foods to your diet can help you develop an inner sunscreen to further protect your skin from the sun. Read about these six foods here.
The following video goes into detail on how dangerous chemical-laden sunscreens are to our body, and what we can do to naturally protect ourselves.
To conclude, we need to be more proactive in understanding the products we put on our bodies. If the FDA is going to allow cancer causing ingredients, we need to be better at familiarizing ourselves with the ingredients and their long-term effects. Choosing a more natural route for protecting your skin can lessen your chances of being subjected to hormone disrupting and cancer causing sunscreens.