The Dangers of Sunscreen

I enjoy being outdoors lot, but having quite fair skin I always have to take precaution in the sun as I burn quite easily.
The other day I was putting on sunscreen and I started wondering about the potential dangers of rubbing this cream into my skin nearly everyday. I’ve seen people have seizures from using too much mosquito-repellent, and if a simple cream has the power to block out the harmful UV rays, surely it could possibly have some negative effects as well?

A few days after considering this, my father, who is a doctor, just happened to send me some interesting information regarding the pro’s and cons of sun blockout.

Most of this information comes from the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

Firstly it’s important to understand that the primary cause of sunburn is due to UVB rays which are connected to DNA, causing pre-cancerous mutations. However, the sun has a higher quantity of UVA rays which penetrate deeper into skin tissue and generate the free radicals that can damage DNA and skin cells.

Sunscreens do help to reduce the UV-related free radical damage. The cream does this by diverting the radiation from the skin. Alarmingly though, the ingredients themselves can release their own free radicals in the process.

When the sunscreen molecules absorb UV energy, diverting it from the skin, the molecules dispel this excess energy by releasing free radicals. In a delicate balancing act, an effective sunscreen prevents more free radical damage (from UV radiation) than it creates through its own free radical generation. It reduces UV exposure without itself damaging skin. Sunscreen makers commonly add antioxidants to their products to soak up free radicals from either the UV radiation or the sunscreen. It is possible for this delicate balance to shift and change if people apply too little sunscreen or reapply infrequently.

In terms of damage from free radicals, sunscreens typically do more good than harm, but they could be doing better.
The SPF (Sun Protection Factor) on a bottle of sunblock refers only to protection against UVB radiation, which burns the skin. It has nothing to do with the UVA radiation which penetrates deep into the skin, accelerates skin aging and increases the chances of skin cancer.

Also EWG recommends that enjoyers of the outdoors avoid products labeled higher than “SPF 50+” and that they reapply sunscreen often.
Certain sunscreen ingredients can also be more damaging to skin than others. So have a good look at the ingredients of your lotion. For example zinc oxide and titanium dioxide react strongly with UV light and can actually damage the skin cells.

Also “the UV filter Padimate O causes skin damage through an entirely different mechanism. It fell out of industry’s favor when evidence emerged that it reacts with other compounds to form a mutagenic contaminant (Loeppky 1991).”

EWG reckons it’s difficult to gauge the effectiveness of any particular sunscreen at combating free radicals, although there have been proposals for an Integrated Sun Protection index that would quantify the degree of free radical formation under UV light (and also give us a more accurate SPF reading).

Some of the really good sunscreens which scored well (based on how effectively it protected the skin from both the UV rays and free radicals) are listed below.

Look out for some of these:

* Aubrey Organics – Natural Sun Sport Stick Unscented Sunscreen, SPF 30
* Aveeno – Baby Natural Protection Mineral Block Face Stick, SPF 50
* babyUV/kidsUV inc. – kidsUV Natural Sunscreen Pink, SPF 30
* Badger – Sunscreen, Unscented, SPF 30+
* California Baby – No Fragrance Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30+
* Eco Skin Care – Eco Face, SPF 30+
* Kabana Skin Care – Green Screen Organic Sunscreen Fragrance Free, SPF 20
* Loving Naturals – Sunscreen, SPF 30+
* Green Beaver Company Certified Organic Kids Non-whitening Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30
* Trukid – New Sunny Days Mineral All Natural Sunscreen, SPF 30+

Some of the Sunscreens which scored the worst are listed below.
(Reasons why they are the worst: basically comes down to ingredients again. Some of the kids’ sunscreens contain hormone disruptors such as oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate which may speed up the growth of skin tumors.)

* Hawaiian Tropic Baby Stick Sunscreen SPF 50
* Baby Blanket SunBlankie Towelette SPF 45+
* Aveeno Baby Continuous Protection SPF 55
* Coppertone Water Babies Sunscreen Lotion SPF 70+
* Banana Boat Sport Performance Active Max Protect, SPF 110
* Elizabeth Arden – Eight Hour Cream Sun Defense for Face, SPF 50
* Rite Aid Kids Sunscreen Spray Lotion SPF 45
* Anthony Logistics for Men Sun Stick SPF 15

Enjoy the Sunshine, but do it Safely!

reference

6 Comments

  • Excellent article Rory. Most sunscreens are potentially toxic, and what is worse, is that they block the natural production of vitamin D by the skin, which is converted into the powerful health-enhancing Vit D3, which has been shown to be protective against a host of human cancers and chronic disorders which can shorten a lifespan !
    Some sunscreens can reduce vit D production by 97.5% to 99.9% with severe consequences for health and longevity.
    Some protective benefit may be obtained by applying coconut oil to the skin before sun exposure. Sunlight is natures protective gift…..dont ignore it, but use it wisely !
    Dr. Neville Wilson.

    • Lisa says:

      Doctor,
      Can you explain how coconut oil would help? Wouldn’t that just attract the sun and make one’s skin fry?

      • Coconut Oil is probably the healthiest oil known to humankind.
        Because it is a saturated fat, it is highly resistant to oxidation, unlike all the other fats, and is therefore protective against the harmful effects of the environment, taken internally or used externally.

        Because of its high content of very beneficial lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid, it confers antimicrobial, antioxidant and anti-fungal benefits.

        As a skin moisturiser and skin antioxidant, it is probably the best and safest oil to use on the skin, scalp and hair.

        Dr. Nev.

  • […] Read about the potential Dangers of Sunscreen. […]

  • Lisa says:

    Interesting! Through the years, as I have been getting away from chemical health& beauty products, lotions, etc, I’ve wondered how good sunscreen could possibly be for us. The mineral oil in it is enough to make me not want it on my skin – since I’ve learned that mineral oil is a derivative of the petroleum we put in our cars. The doctor’s comment above is very interesting too.
    Ha, it’s the cheap sounding ones that are the worse – coppertone, banana boat, rite aid, hawaiian…
    Thanks for stopping by my blog, Rory!

  • […] outside in the late afternoon sun also helps to maintain a good level of Vitamin D, which is also essential to fighting the degeneration of your […]

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