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March 2, 2016

Ingredients that help the absorption of other harmful sunscreen chemicals? Another ingredient that turns more toxic when exposed to sunlight?? When I first started researching the dangers of conventional sunscreen, I was shocked at how many chemical ingredients are used that have been shown to be toxic, and that may become even more toxic when they are exposed to sunlight. Not only are we harming ourselves, but we are exposing our children to it, whose bodies are less able to handle the toxins and whose skin readily absorbs it.

Now that summer is almost here and we begin thinking about how to protect our skin from the sun, most of us will immediately reach for the sunscreen and slather it on ourselves and our children. That may not be the safest option. If you do have to use a sunscreen, buy one as natural as possible, and use it only when you HAVE to be out for long periods of time during peak sun hours.

While it is extremely important to protect our skin from excessive sun exposure, studies have also shown that getting regular, smaller exposures to the sun without the use of sunscreen is important to our health, especially because of our body’s production of vitamin D.  Read on to find out more about this important process, and what kind of sunscreen to look for if you must use it.

Vitamin D

Your body’s natural Vitamin D production is reduced by 97.5 to 99.9 % when using sunscreen.  Vitamin D deficiency is directly related to many different diseases and cancer, including heart disease, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBS), and diabetes. Vitamin D is made by the body with the help of sunlight, and this transformation takes place in the skin.  Although vitamin D can be ingested through food, those levels may not be adequate enough to be beneficial.

Vitamin D is also available in supplement form, but unless you know your actual vitamin D level, it is hard to gauge how much you really need.  It is also important to remember that vitamins work synergistically rather than as isolated compounds, so sunlight really is the most natural and beneficial way to maintain healthy vitamin D levels; it takes as little as 10 to 15 minutes on your face and hands per day for your body to produce adequate vitamin D.

Get Your Skin Ready for Summer

Going out early in the season and getting just a few minutes a day in the sun, then slowly increasing that time will help to get your skin adjusted to the sun without the use of sunscreen.  Different sources may have different advice, but I have read that all the way up to an hour without sunscreen is safe, given that you have taken precautions to slowly expose skin to the sun and by also staying out of the sun between the “peak” hours of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to help you avoid the more dangerous sun exposure that can cause sunburn.

During these hours, consider staying in the shade, and/or using protective clothing and a hat.  Studies show that excess sun exposure that results in sunburn is a well-known risk factor for melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer.  Your risk of getting melanoma increases in relationship to sunburn frequency and severity.  However, other studies show that those who spend more time outdoors without getting sunburn actually decrease their chance of developing melanoma.Woman with sun shaped sunscreen on her back

Part of the reason for that has to do with ultraviolet (UV) rays.  UV light comes in two main wavelengths:  UVA  and UVB.  UVB is the “good” light that helps your skin produce vitamin D, and UVA is the more dangerous of the two, by penetrating the skin more deeply and causing more damage from free radicals.  These rays are constant throughout the entire day, while UVB are low in the morning and evening, and high during mid-day.

A majority of sunscreens do not protect you from UVA rays, no matter how high the SPF, and instead filter out the beneficial UVB rays.  According to Dr. Mercola, “UVA can cause cancerous mutations, and can also break down the vitamin D formed in your skin after outdoor UVB exposure. And vitamin D is a potent defense against melanoma…”

Some Harmful Ingredients Hiding in Your Sunscreen

When you do have to use sunscreen, such as when you will be out during peak sun hours or a majority of your body will be exposed to the sun, choose an all-natural, chemical-free sunscreen to reduce your exposure to toxins.  A link has been found between melanoma and the use of commercial sunscreens, and it has been found that many sunscreens become unstable when exposed to sunlight.

One of the main chemicals used in sunscreens to filter out UVB is octinoxate (also known as octyl methoxycinnamate, or OMC).  OMC was found to be especially toxic when exposed to sunshine, resulting in increased toxicity; researchers from one study have suggested that OMC became twice as toxic in the sunlight as it was alone. This chemical also caused estrogenic effects in labatory animals (estrogen disruptors are linked to breast and prostate cancer) as well as disruption of thyroid hormone and brain signaling.

Dioxybenzone and oxybenzone are two extremely powerful free radical generators, and are also commonly found in commercial sunscreens.

These are some pretty scary facts, especially when it has been found that these chemical are absorbed into the bloodstream.  Another ingredient, octisalate, is a penetration enhancer, which may actually increase the amount of sunscreen ingredients that are absorbed into the skin, while another ingredient, homosalate, can enhance the penetration of the toxic herbicide 2,4-D (this is a component of Agent Orange, and is commonly used to spray crops, as well as turf and lawns). This makes it an especially harmful sunscreen ingredient for those in the farming and ground maintenance industries, and even for golfers who may use it on a golf course where 2,4-D may have been used.

What Can You Do?

If being in the sun during peak hours for long periods of time can’t be avoided and you must buy sunscreen, the Environmental Working Group has just released its 2016 Guide to Sunscreens, where you can find the sunscreens that meet their safety criteria and see where yours rates. It is also a great resource to find the best moisturizers and lip balms with SPF and where they rank.

 

Class Coming Soon

Sources

Ganzel, B. (2009, January 1). The Herbicide 2, 4-D and How It Works. Retrieved February 24, 2015, from http://www.livinghistoryfarm.org/farminginthe70s/pests_04.html

Homosalate. (2011). Retrieved from http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredient/702867/HOMOSALATE/

Nanomaterials and hormone disruptors in sunscreens. (2011, June 23). Retrieved from http://breakingnews.ewg.org/2011sunscreen/sunscreens-exposed/nanomaterials-and-hormone-disruptors-in-sunscreens

OCTINOXATE. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredient.php?ingred06=704203

Retinyl palmitate (vitamin a palmitate) . (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredient.php?ingred06=705545#

 

 

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Hidden Toxins: How to Find Cancer-Causing Chemicals in Your Personal Care Products (in 10 Seconds or Less)

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