Avoid These Harmful Chemicals Commonly Found in Sunscreens


It can be difficult enough finding a sunscreen you like that doesn’t clog your pores, leave a greasy sheen, or irritate your skin. But now it seems you also have to check the ingredient label. Sunscreen - the very item created to help prevent skin cancer and UVA/UVB damage - could actually be harming your skin or causing cancer.

Lately, more and more articles are coming out about some of the harmful chemicals that are in certain sunscreens. While studies are still out on the long-term effects of these ingredients, many doctors agree that it’s better to be safe than sorry, especially since there are others ways to protect your skin, whether you use a more natural sunscreen or wear UPF apparel.

According to the Environmental Working Group, which leads up annual studies on sunscreen and chemicals, only 25% of sunscreens on the market protect your skin without potentially harmful chemicals. Here is what the group evaluates in determining which sunscreens are safe and which ones you should skip.

This ingredient is the number one chemical you should avoid in sunscreen. Oxybenzone is used to absorb UV light. However, some research shows that the chemical itself can be absorbed through your skin. Several experts believe that oxybenzone is linked to hormone disruption and, potentially, cell damage that could lead to skin cancer. As of this year, more than 50% of beach and sport sunscreens on the market contain oxybenzone.

Retinyl Palminate
A type of vitamin A, retinyl palminate may increase your risk of skin cancer if used on sun-exposed skin. While these studies aren’t entirely conclusive, many recommend it’s best to avoid the 25% or so of sunscreens containing this ingredient.

Parabens are in a lot of products, not just sunscreen. This preservative has been known to cause allergic reactions, hormone disruption, reproductive toxicity, and more. Some studies suggest that parabens in deodorant could increase your risk of breast cancer.

Another common ingredient found in sunscreen, Octinoxate easily absorbs into your skin and helps other ingredients absorb. While this helps your sunscreen absorb better into your skin, there could be some harmful side effects. The chemical’s effects on estrogen can be harmful both for you and the environment. Octinoxate could even cause premature aging since it produces free radicals, which can damage your skin and cells.

Beyond these four ingredients, the Environmental Working Group, among other organizations and experts, recommend avoiding sunscreen with a SPF higher than 50. This mainly comes down to the fact that these labels are misleading and can give users a false sense of security. Often, people think they can apply sunscreen less frequently if they use a higher number. However, SPF 50 doesn’t provide much more protection than SPF 30. Studies show that SPF 15 sunscreen can block around 93% of UVB rays. SPF 30 blocks about 97% and SPF blocks 98%. After that, the increase is very minimal, as no sunscreen can offer complete coverage.

Make sure you always check ingredient labels before buying your sunscreen. You may also consider cutting down on your sunscreen usage and opting for a safer alternative, like UV wear from Sundriven®. For large areas of your body, like your arms, hands, and legs, UV wear is a much simpler and safer way to protect yourself from the sun. You never have to worry about reapplying and there are no chemical ingredients used in Sundriven® products. For your face, ears, feet, and other small areas, use a sunscreen that doesn’t contain these chemicals listed. Wondering where to start? Try browsing organic and eco-friendly brands, like Tarte and Josie Maran.

Author: Melissa Darcey

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