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The toxicity within many sunscreen ingredients is something we are becoming more and more aware of, as consumer focus shifts towards healthy eating and healthy living. Within the cosmetic industry, the shift is towards using natural ingredients instead of chemical and synthetic ingredients. The whole industry is being seriously challenged, never mind the sunscreen industry within this. Besides toxic chemical sunscreen ingredients, people also want to avoid the potentially carcinogenic fragrances, petrochemicals and harmful preservatives.
By becoming aware of what you are choosing to buy and switching to a non-toxic sunscreen, you can possibly reverse some of the damage already done to your health and your skin!
Undesirable chemical sunscreens
You really don't have to destroy your skin with toxic sunscreen ingredients to prevent getting sunburnt. A Centre for Disease Control (CDC) study done in 2008 showed that as much as 97% of Americans were contaminated with oxybenzone. This is actually one of the globally approved chemical sunscreens that you will find is used in hundreds of sunscreen products, including many children sunscreen formulas.
The following are some of these chemical sunscreen ingredients that have negative health outcomes and should be avoided:
- Octinoxate (Octyl Methoxycinnamate): estrogenic (gender bending) effects
- Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3): photo allergic reactions and hormone disrupting activities
- Avobenzone (Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane): sunlight breaks this down into toxic ingredients
- Octocrylene: Produces free radicals when exposed to sunlight, damaging DNA and potentially causing cancer
- Homosalate: Hormone disruptor; forms toxic metabolites; can enhance penetration of some toxic herbicides
- Padimate O (Octyl Dimethyl Paba / Paba Ester): derivative of once popular PABA sunscreen, this releases free radicals, damaging DNA, has estrogenic activity and causes allergic reactions. When exposed to sunlight causes genetic mutation
- Ensulizole (Phenylbenzimidazole Sulfonic Acid): In sunlight it produces free radicals, damaging DNA and is potentially carcinogenic
- Mexoryl SX: Degrades up to 40% when in sunlight, plus produces damaging reactive oxygen species (ROS)
- Octyl Salicyclate: penetration enhancer altering skin structure, allowing other chemicals to penetrate deeper into the skin, increasing the amounts of other chemicals that reach the bloodstream
- Benzophenone (Sulisobenzone): Can cause skin and eye irritation. Mostly does not penetrate the skin, but enhances other chemicals penetration abilities
- PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid): Studies have shown that exposure to this chemical could possibly lead to an autoimmune response (turning the body against its own cells or tissues)
Toxic Cosmetic ingredients
Besides being diligent about the active sunscreen ingredients you choose, there are many other cosmetic ingredients that may be included in a sunscreen that are worthy of avoiding:
- Sodium Laurel, Lauryl Sulfate, or Sodium Laurel Sulfate: Combined with other chemicals this becomes Nitrosamine, a powerful carcinogen, which penetrates the skin's moisture barrier, allowing chemicals in
- PEG (Polyethylene Glycol), Polysorbates, or Ethoxyylate alcohol: all contain dioxane, which is carcinogenic and probably one of the most potent toxins known to man
- Propylene Glycol: can cause dermatitis, kidney or liver abnormalities, skin growth prevention, or just plain irritation
- Phenol Carbolic Acid: Can cause circulatory collapse, paralysis, convulsions, coma, and even death from respiratory failure
- Acrylamide: Can cause breast cancer
- Toluene (Benzoic; Benzyl or Butylated Hydroxtoluene): can cause anemia, low blood cell count, liver and kidney damage and birth defects
- Parabens: Commonly used preservatives, which are endocrine disruptors mimicking estrogen, upsetting the hormone balance, and potentially causing reproductive cancers in men and women
- Mineral Oils, Parafin or Petrolatum: coats the skin like plastic and leaves the pores clogged, trapping in toxins, slowing skin cell growth, disrupting normal hormone functioning, robbing bones and the nervous system of magnesium. Petrochemicals can have estrogenic effects. They also absorb oil soluble vitamins A, D, E and K from the body and then excrete them
- Colorants: Use natural rather than toxic synthetic colors
- Added fragrance: Natural organic ingredients often smell delightful, requiring no added toxic fragrance
- Unnatural polymers: Used for water resistance, they prevent the skin from breathing
Natural sunscreen ingredients
Trying to become fully knowledgeable about which are the healthy vs toxic ingredients is a daunting task to say the least. However, there are a handful of ingredients that will appear on the natural sunscreen labels that you will become more familiar with as you search for the right one to buy.
The two natural sunscreen ingredients to look out for are:
- Zinc Oxide blocks both UVA and UVB rays very effectively, is ideal for wound healing, and is non-comedogenic (won't clog pores). It is also gentle enough for most skin types, including babies, as it has been used for decades for healing nappy rash
- Titanium Dioxide also a reflective mineral that is white and chalky, is non-comedogenic, and non-irritating (but has potential risks).
Further to these, adding organic plant extracts with their anti-oxidant activities will not only eliminate negative chemical reactions, but provide excellent benefits such as cell repair and skin healing, plus added protection against free radical damage and atmospheric toxins.
Some excellent examples of these ingredients are:
- Acai berries
- Aloe Vera or Aloe Ferox
- Black tea extract
- Green tea extract
- Broccoli sprout extract
- Kigelia extract
- Milk thistle extract
- No fillers are required as a counteraction to a negative chemical reaction. Every ingredient has a direct benefit for you.
- Reversing sun damage. By switching from a toxic sunscreen to a non-toxic sunscreen, you can possibly reverse some of the damage already done!