Sunscreen Is Important, But It Can Also Be Toxic. This Is Why.

It’s vacation time. Whether you’re hiking,  skiing,  on a beach, or  simply just sight-seeing, sun protection is important when you’re exposed to the sun for any prolonged period of time.  But did you know, that many products on our shelves actually contain ingredients that are toxic and may have adverse effects to your health?

When you buy a sunscreen product, check the label for these ingredients and avoid brands that are not caring for you. This is a re-post of Pie Mully’s recent Longevity editorial because we care about you!

1. Avobenzone

Sunscreens contain avobenzone because of how well it absorbs UVA rays – the ones responsible for sunburn. However, while this is a relatively safe ingredient, avobenzone is not a very stable one.

As it lacks stability, avobenzone breaks down when exposed to the sun for longer than 30 minutes. It then degrades into unknown chemicals, releasing free radicals. As we know, free radicals are directly responsible for accelerating skin aging and increasing the risk of cancer. This means, it can be toxic to you, if you keep re-applying it over the course of a day.

Aside from sun exposure, one study published last year in the journal Chemosphere, found that when exposed to chlorine, avobenzone can turn toxic and jeopardize the health of both the kidney, liver and nervous system.

2. Homosalate also features on the toxic scale

Homosalate absorbs UVB rays, the same rays that increase the risk of skin cancer. Unfortunately, homosalate accumulates in the body faster than the body can detoxify it through the liver. It then lingers in the body, becoming toxic and disrupting hormonal balance, with one study revealing how homosalate encouraged the multiplication of human breast cancer cells.

3. Parabens are toxic

Parabens are preservatives that are used in a wide range of beauty products. Studies have linked parabens to a number of health issues. These include infertility, breast cancer, uterine tumors , obesity, asthma and allergies.

The effects of parabens are so severe that in 2014, the EU banned five common types of parabens.

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4. Octinoxate

Manufacturer combine octinoxate with avobenzone to help avobenzone work longer. Octinoxate also protects the skin against UVB rays.

However, octinoxate has been linked to disrupting hormonal activity, so much so that it affects both the reproductive system and thyroid. Furthermore, like avobenzone, when exposed to sunlight octinoxate breaks down and produces free radicals.

Like oxybenzone, octinoxate has been targeted in Hawaii’s ban in a bid to protect coral reefs.

5. Octocrylene

Like octinoxate, manufacturers combine octocrylene with avobenzone to help avobenzone work longer. Aside from this, octocrylene is also used because of how well it absorbs UVB and UVA rays.

However, octocrylene can pierce quite deep into the skin, where it then encourages the production of free radicals. In fact, one study published in the journal Free Radical Biology & Medicine revealed how, when left on the skin for an hour, octocrylene, octinoxate and oxybenzone increased the production of free radicals, with the levels of production being quite high.

6. Retinyl palmitate

Retinyl palmitate is an antioxidant and a derivative of vitamin A. It helps to protect the skin against premature aging. Unfortunately, studies have shown that retinyl palmitate quickens the development of malignant cells and skin tumors as a result of UV rays breaking the ingredient down. 

Last,  but not least on the toxic list, is oxybenzone. This ingredient is extremely toxic to our coral and therefore threatens ocean life and is the subject of a controversial ban in Hawaii.

7. Oxybenzone

The ingredient oxybenzone has been found to poison the algae that symbiotically support the coral reefs in oceans. These invertebrate animals in turn support the algae gardens that photosynthesize food from sunlight which provides 90% of the coral’s food.

Most of us are probably unaware that the residue left in the water from the sunscreen on our skin is contributing to the destruction of an already pressured ocean ecosystem. And it’s not just limited to bathing. A 2015 study found oxybenzone in marine sediments located near wastewater facilities. This suggests our sunscreen kills coral reefs without a human ever setting foot – or flipper – near them. If oxybenzone in such small quantities can kill off our coral reefs, then what could it be doing to our own health? Oxybenzone is  known to be an endocrine (hormone) disruptor in humans. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 97% of Americans are contaminated with oxybenzone.

Oxybenzone has also been found to mimic oestrogen in cellular studies. This can cause everything from development delays to poor reproductive health.

Tips for safer sunscreens

When you choose a sunscreen, it’s best to go for one made with natural ingredients  such as zinc oxide and mexoryl sx.

And remember,  the key to good health,  is moderation. This includes how long you spend in the sun. So don’t overdo it.  Wear a hat and good sun protective clothing if you are going to be over-exposed to the sun. Some food can also help protect the skin, from the inside out.  Click here to find out more.