As the weather is warming up and we are spending more time in the sun we are going to be reaching for the sunscreen to slather on ourselves and our loved ones. We have been told for years about the importance of sunscreen for preventing skin damage and skin cancer. There is even a day of recognition for sunscreen on May 27th. The benefits of sunscreen seem to be many but has anyone ever told you about the drawbacks of sunscreen? Most likely not. Vitamin D is an important nutrient for our bodies, which we are blocking when you apply sunscreen, and many ingredients in sunscreen are toxic to our body and harmful to the planet.
- Oxybenzone- This is one of the most commonly used chemicals in sunscreens. It is linked to endocrine disruption, organ system toxicity, contact allergies, and photoallergies, meaning exposure to light is required to generate an allergic response. Oxybenzone is also harmful to aquatic life. This chemical is so harmful that in 2018, Hawaii banned it to protect coral reefs.
- Octinoxate: A commonly used UV filter that protects from UVB rays, but not UVA sun rays. On packaging, it may be listed as OMC, methoxy-cinnamate or ethylhexyl methoxy-cinnamate. Octinoxate is linked to endocrine disruption by an abundance of data, as well as to reproductive toxicity. Researchers have detected this chemical in breast milk, urine, and blood. Like oxybenzone, this ingredient was targeted in Hawaii’s ban, as it harms coral reefs.
- Homosalate: A common sunscreen ingredient that absorbs UVB rays to prevent direct skin exposure. Homosalate absorbs UVB rays only. This ingredient is linked to hormone disruption and it may also enhance the absorption of pesticides, including bug sprays. It may also enhance the penetration of other harmful ingredients found within the formulation. This ingredient is persistent in the environment, meaning it doesn’t break down readily.
- Nanoparticles: Nanoparticles can be 1000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. In sunscreen, they’re most commonly found as nanoparticle titanium dioxide of zinc oxide. Nanoparticles have not been properly assessed for their potential effects on human or environmental health. Researchers don’t yet understand the impact they could have. But because of their infinitesimally small size, nanoparticles may be more chemically reactive and therefore more bioavailable, meaning the particles are fast-tracked into the body. Researchers have suggested that nanoparticle titanium dioxide may be implicated in coral reef degradation.
So what are the options?
Stay out of the sun’s rays during the most intense times of the day, between 11:00am-2:00pm. Wear a hat and light clothing that covers your skin and stay under a sun shade when you are outdoors. Make sure to allow yourself to bask in some of those sun rays for short periods of time to get the benefits of the natural source of vitamin D.
There are also sunscreens that have safer ingredients:
- Titanium Dioxide-A naturally-occurring mineral found in the earth’s crust. It is a UV absorber, meaning it can soak up UV rays. Titanium dioxide absorbs UVB rays and some UVA rays, but may not provide full UVA protection. Titanium dioxide is safe for people and the planet when it’s non-nanoparticle.
- Zinc Oxide- a naturally-occurring UV absorber. Zinc oxide offers broad spectrum protection, as it protects against both UVA and UVB rays. When non-nanoparticle, zinc is safe for humans and the environment.
One of my favorite options for clean sunscreen is BeautyCounter. Click here to find out more about sunscreen options that are safe for your family and for the planet.