Is your sunscreen
making you sick?



Search more than 200 pages on this site...

More than ever before, people all over the world are using sunscreen to protect themselves from sunburn and guard against skin cancer. Through knowledge provided in this information age of ours, preference is predominantly for high SPF rated sunscreens, with "broad spectrum" for both UVA and UVB radiation protection and optionally waterproof.

However, like many other things in life today, most people will view the information supplied at face value and trust all the claims being made ensuring health and wellness protection. Unfortunately, we cannot afford to be that sure.

Sunscreens are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ways that the chemical industry and various governments, with all their legislation, are failing to protect public health. An extensive body of global scientific literature through the years demonstrates that almost everyone today carries vast amounts of industrial chemicals in their body. This is as a result of exposure to contaminants in air, water, and food, plus ingredients in the products we consume daily.

Do you think when you are outside and you lather those creams and lotions on that you are safe? Not necessarily so. The basis is that you don't need sunburn to suffer the effects of skin cancer. Many products tend to do a good job protecting the UVB rays. But what about the UVA rays? Those are the worst ones that can soak into your skin.

So what to look for when buying sunscreen?

People tend to focus on buying high-SPF products, assuming they've purchased maximum sun protection. High SPF ("Sun Protection Factor") products do protect you from sunburn caused by the sun's ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation. However, these don't necessarily block the UVA radiation, which are the more deeply penetrating rays linked to skin aging and wrinkling, immune system suppression, and also skin cancer.

Significant studies done by various organisations have revealed a high percentage of such products provide inefficient protection from the sun and/or are potentially harmful to one's health. Ideally, these products need to be...

  • Effective, by blocking out both UVA and UVB radiation
  • Safe, by containing no ingredients with any known or suspected toxic health hazards
  • Stable, by not breaking down in structure in sunlight
  • Here's an insight (courtesy of Google) into regional interest in 'natural sunscreen'...

    UVA and UVB

    Why are UVA rays so bad? Even at low-level exposures, UVA radiation breaks down skin collagen, causing skin damage and aging. ie wrinkles! Research shows 90 percent of wrinkles are caused by the sun's UVA light and sun damage is the Number One cause of premature aging in women and men.

    But the scary part is that scientists have established that UVA is linked to immune system problems and is the main culprit for many melanomas because it reaches deep into the underlying support structure of the skin.

    Safety

    Various researchers and reviews have revealed alarming aspects connected to the contents of sunscreens. Some have found that they can do more harm than good once they soak into the skin, where they can actually promote the harmful compounds they are meant to protect against.

    For example, three commonly used ultraviolet (UV) filters, namely octylmethoxycinnamate, benzophenone 3 and octocrylene, eventually soak into the deeper layers of the skin after their application, leaving the top skin layers vulnerable to sun damage. UV rays absorbed by the skin can generate harmful compounds called reactive oxygen species (ROS), which can cause skin cancer and premature aging. The researchers found that once the filters in sunscreen soak into the lower layers of skin, the filters react with UV light to create more damaging ROS.

    Some product ingredients absorb into the blood and raise safety concerns linked to toxic effects. Some release skin-damaging free radicals in sunlight. Some act like estrogen and could disrupt hormone systems. Several are strongly linked to allergic reactions. Still others may build up in the body or the environment.

    Stability

    An ideal sunscreen should be stable in the sun. Instead, nearly every active ingredient (all but zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) works by first absorbing the sun's energy so it doesn't penetrate our skin, and then releasing that captured energy by breaking apart, reacting with other chemicals in the sunscreen, or even kicking off free radicals. Some active ingredients are more stable than others, but nearly all break down to some extent in the sun.

    Manufacturers are not required to produce stable products. The test used to establish a product's UVB rating accounts for stability in part, since it tests the product in simulated sunlight on human volunteers over the time needed to produce a sunburn. A product's UVA protection, however, is not subject to testing and rating, and the filters that contribute to UVA protection in a product may or may not be stable.

    Recommendations

    The best protection is actually achieved through a combination of nutrition and external means. A diet high in antioxidants... berries, 'superfoods' and fresh produce eaten on a regular basis, which contain natural antioxidants, are utilized by your skin to protect you from excessive ultraviolet ray exposure.

    Studies have shown that both taking antioxidants and putting them on your skin can protect your epidermis and keep it smooth and healthy-looking. Researchers found that adding natural vitamin E and vitamin C to skin products may help lower your risk of skin cancer caused by ultraviolet light, and keep skin firm and looking younger.

    According to a Dr. Hanson, products with a sun protection factor of 15 can block up to 94% of the sun's ultraviolet (UV) light, while the rest of the light hits the skin and creates free radicals, which can distort or destroy cell membranes. Free radicals also damage DNA, and can cause age spots and compromise immunity.

    While most sunscreens can't protect you against these free radicals, Dr. Hanson has found that antioxidants put on the skin reduce the free radicals that are generated. When she studied how vitamin E and vitamin C worked, she found that "vitamin C was by far the best [free radical] quencher."

    Enzymes in your skin work with vitamin C to fight these free radicals.

    How does sunscreen work?

    The basics behind most sun protection products involve absorbing, reflecting, or scattering the sun's rays in combinations of organic and inorganic active ingredients. Inorganic ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium oxide reflect or scatter ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Organic ingredients such as octyl methoxycinnamate (OMC) or oxybenzone, absorb UV radiation, dissipating it as heat.

    Applying it Properly

    Sunscreens do not provide complete protection from the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Most people use them improperly by not applying enough. They apply only 25% to 50% of the recommended amount. These products should be applied liberally enough to all sun-exposed areas, including the nose, ears, neck, hands, scalp and feet, that it forms a film when initially applied. It takes 20-30 minutes for most sunscreens to be absorbed by the skin, so it should be applied at least a half an hour before going out in the sun. It should also be the last product applied especially on the face since some can break down in the presence of water contained in water-based foundations and moisturizers.

    Reapplying

    Most written product instructions recommend reapplying "frequently", but the definition of "frequently" is vague. A common instruction is to reapply after 2-4 hours in the sun. However, one study has shown that reapplying sunscreen 20 to 30 minutes after being in the sun is more effective than waiting 2 hours. It is possible that this time period is more effective because most people do not apply enough initially, and this second application approximates the actual amount needed. Sunscreen can be washed off, rubbed off or sweat off. As a result, it requires frequent reapplication.

    Ideally, it should be applied daily. The daily use of a low SPF sunscreen (15) has been shown to be more effective in preventing skin damage than the intermittent use of a higher SPF sunscreen.

    Have A Great Story About This Topic?

    Do you have a story or an experience or even a question about the benefits and dangers or other issues relating to sunscreen and sun exposure? Then please share it here!

    Enter Your Title (ex: "I don't trust chemical sunscreens"

    What Other Visitors Have Said

    Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...

    2 Ingredients to look for when buying sunscreen for children 
    This article was published with some great comments from a Dr Torres, on ABC Action News. She said "The only ingredients that should be there are …

    Sunumbra sunscreen. 
    I found sunumbra sunscreen on this site, bought two tubes as I had burnt my face. It also said it was good for burns. Used the white BP cream by the tubful. …

    Subconscious sabotage  
    I found this site when I was searching for bulk natural sunscreen. I don't use as much sunscreen as I should because I only like to use high-quality, …

    What can I do if I am allergic to sunscreen? 
    When I use a sunscreen, or even when there is sun protection in my face moisturiser, I seem to react with these small red bumps all over my face, neck …

    Vitamin D supplementation vs sun exposure - can we pick and choose? 
    Dr Cannell has a fabulous web site with details of all the latest developments regarding Vitamin D and the research happening out there. To me it all makes …

    Sun Savvy and sunglasses 
    There seem to be many sites out there that have created great teaching tools for sun safety awareness. I liked this one I found while searching for something …

    Parabens in Cosmetics 
    What's the status on the alternatives to paraben use as a preservative in cosmetics? Replacing parabens in cosmetics, as well as similar synthetic ingredients, …

    Nutricosmetic industry expanding in the USA? 
    Interesting article - Can the nutricosmetic market finally crack the US? Despite trending high with European and Japanese consumers, the US market for …

    My views of EWG's 2012 sunscreen report 
    EWG's 6th annual sunscreen report for 2012 was released a couple of weeks back with an assessment of 257 different brands and more than 1800 sun protection …

    What will it take to have parabens banned from cosmetics? 
    Very interesting research on what parabens do and how much harm they cause. I find it amasing how many cosmetic products out there still use parabens …

    Sunscreen chemicals linked to endometriosis? 
    We've long heard many accusations against chemical sunscreens being so very toxic for our health. A specific scientific test has been done by a group from …

    Click here to write your own.



    New! Comments

    Have your say... please leave me a comment in the box below.

    Is your sunscreen
    making you sick?
    sunscreen-video-dangers

    How to embrace
    the sun safely
    sunscreen-video-organic

    A primer
    on sun safety
    sunscreen-video-primer

    What is your
    skin type?
    sunscreen-video-skin-types


    Do you have a question or story about the benefits or dangers of sun exposure?

    Share it by clicking here