When you apply sunscreen, the general consensus is that you're doing something beneficial for your health... but have you stopped to consider what exactly is inside it? Could your chemical sunscreen actually be doing you harm?
Coming from the “sun-kissed” land of Oz, we have been well educated on the risk factor of exposure to the harmful rays of the sun and the importance of using sunscreen. Unfortunately we have been less educated on the dangers of chemical sunscreen and the safe alternatives that are available, such as Zinc Oxide, which can effectively provide us with sun protection sans additional risk factors. Basking Beauty Natural Sunscreen uses Zinc Oxide to safely provide broad spectrum SPF50 UVA and UVB protection without having to sacrifice other aspects of your health, such as potential hormone disruption, allergic reactions and irritation.
THE SUNSCREEN RISK FACTOR
When it comes to being aware of what we are putting on our skin, conventional sunscreens, termed “chemical sunscreens,” are products we need to be very careful with. Not only are they are applied to a large surface area of our body, they are reapplied frequently, including around the face where they can even be incidentally consumed from the lips and inhaled from around the nostrils. Chemical sunscreens also commonly contain ingredients that act to enhance penetration of the skin, which help the product adhere whilst driving the nasty ingredients deeper into your dermis. Many sunscreen chemicals are absorbed into the body from the skin and can shockingly be measured in blood, breast milk and urine samples.
HOW DO CHEMICAL SUNSCREENS WORK?
Chemical sunscreens protect from the sun by changing UV rays into heat, then releasing that heat from the skin. They are often referred to as chemical or organic absorbers.
These products typically include a combination of two to six of the following active ingredients: Oxybenzone, Avobenzone, Octisalate, Octocrylene, Homosalate and Octinoxate. These molecules are comprised of chemical rings, essentially, and they absorb light. However, chemical rings are also the fundamental basis for a lot of our hormones. When the active ingredients from toxic sunscreens enter the cells, the chemical rings result in hormone disrupting actions.
MOST SUNSCREEN INGREDIENTS HAVE NOT BEEN PROVEN TO BE SAFE
Most recently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States has found that of 16 ingredients used as UV filters in sunscreen, there are just two sunscreen ingredients, Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide (classified as mineral sunscreens) that we have enough information and understanding of to be classified as "safe". For the 12 other ingredients used commonly in sun protection formulas that are the chemical sunscreens, the FDA has said there isn’t enough data to determine whether they are actually safe. Key concerns centre around their potential to significantly disrupt hormone patterns in the human body, which can have multiple "domino-effect" health implications.
In particular, concerns have been raised about the substantial skin absorption of oxybenzone, one of the most widespread UV filters and its potential to affect hormone levels and the increased absorption susceptibility of children (FDA 2019).
Lab studies have shown that chemical UV filters may mimic hormones and anecdotal reports often point to sunscreen-related skin allergies, which raises questions around the link between frequent sunscreen exposure and allergies, endocrine disruption (hormone imbalances), infertility and even cancer.
WATCH OUT FOR THESE NASTIES
The specific concerns around each of the nasties in sunscreen include:
- Oxybenzone, this is the most worrisome of sunscreen ingredients, being linked to allergic reactions and oestrogenic effects as well as anti-androgenic effects (Rodriguez 2006, Krause 2012, Ghazipura 2017). Studies also report shorter pregnancies and birth weights in women with higher levels of oxybenzone exposure. This is a cause of concern given the ingredient is routinely detected in over 95% of Americans in studies conducted by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Octinoxate, used in many sunscreen products, has been linked to hormone-mimicking activity along with thyroid and behavioural alternations.
- Homosalate, has been found to disrupt oestrogen, androgens and progesterone.
- Avobenzone, used widely in sunscreen ingredients and reported as having the best UVA protection of chemical filters. Breakdown products of this ingredient have been associated with relatively high rates of skin allergies.
- Methylisothiazolinone, this is an inactive ingredient used as a preservative in many sunscreen formulas. This ingredient is linked to serious cases of skin allergies, most notably in children exposed to it. In March 2015, the European Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety concluded that no concentration of the chemical could be considered safe in leave-on cosmetic products (EU SCCS 2014). But methylisothiazolinone is still allowed in US and Australian products.
CHOOSING A SAFE SUNSCREEN
The alternatives to chemical sunscreens are mineral sunscreens and include Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide. These ingredients work by providing a physical sun protection, in the form of a barrier that deflects UV rays. Even where nanoparticles are detected in these minerals, studies suggest that few (if any at all) zinc or titanium particles penetrate the skin to reach the living tissues layers. This contributes to why mineral sunscreens tend to rate better than chemical sunscreens in terms of levels of toxins (EWG).
When selecting your sunscreen, make sure its formula does not take effect from one of the chemical actives. It is also useful to ensure that no other common skincare nasties are included, such as parabens and fragrances. In addition to using a natural sunscreen with a high broad spectrum SPF, it is always a good idea to use hats, sunglasses and shade, as well as limiting excessive sun exposure during the hottest part of the day.
BASKING BEAUTY NATURAL SUNSCREEN
We are proud to have available our 100% natural zinc oxide formula that is also enriched with hydrating and anti-ageing botanicals, to provide a safe and beautifying sunscreen option that is suitable for the whole family, including newborns! Find out more here.