Oh beautiful summer sun, how we've missed you! It's the time of year that we love to be outside enjoying the natural warmth of the sun as we play volleyball on the beach, tend to our gardens, or finally try stand up paddle boarding. We pull out our sun hats and our favourite tightly woven, loose-fitting, long sleeved shirts and pants to help keep harmful rays away from skin, but let's face it, when summer fun includes prolonged exposure to the intense sunlight, it's important to choose a sunscreen wisely.
What Goes On, Goes In
For sunscreen to be effective, you need to apply thick coat over large areas of your body and reapply frequently. What goes on goes in, right? Right. So ingredients in sunscreen should not be irritating, cause skin reactions, or be otherwise toxic to us.
There are two types of sunscreens available in the market that protect your skin in very different ways: with a mineral barrier or a chemical one.
The EWG reveals that the active chemicals commonly used in sunscreen are endocrine disruptors, estrogenic and may interfere with thyroid and other hormone processes in the body. Basically, they interfere with the systems in our bodies that balance our hormones and keep our bodies functioning at their regular state.
Even more alarming? Of the 1,400+ sunscreens tested by the EWG, only 5% met their safety standards and over 40% were listed as potentially contributing to skin cancer. For a product that is supposed to be protecting us, that sounds awfully harmful.
5 Toxic Ingredients that You Won't Find in Natural Sunscreens
The most common active ingredients in chemical sunscreens (chemical UV filters) are oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate. Let's take a closer look at each of these ingredients to understand why natural sunscreens, made without these chemicals, are a much safer option.
The most common sunscreen chemical, Oxybenzone, was found in 96% of the population by a recent study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. This is especially alarming since oxybenzone is considered an endocrine disruptor, can reduce sperm count in men and may contribute to endometriosis in women. Oxybenzone is linked to allergic skin reactions, and may disrupt hormones (Rodriguez 2006, Kraus 2012). The EWG warns against using oxybenzone, especially on children or pregnant/breastfeeding women.
Octinoxate is poses high toxicity concerns as a skin allergen and hormone disruptor.
Homosalate poses a moderate toxicity risk for hormone disruption.
Octisalate and Octocrylene
Octisalate and octocrylene pose a moderate toxicity risk for skin allergy.
UV filters with lower toxicity concerns include zinc oxide, titanium dioxide and Mexoryl SX.
Avobenzone also displays lower toxicity, but if it breaks down it poses a relatively high risk of skin allergic response.
Lastly, read the ingredient list closely to ensure it's not made with the usual culprits: parabens, phthalates, PEG's (polyethylene glycols), propylene glycol, phenoxyethanol and sodium laurel sulphates.
So knowing how toxic these chemicals are for our bodies & how often we apply and reapply sunscreen during the summer months, it's no wonder that chemical sunscreens have come under such close scrutiny lately!
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