Should we swap one health hazard for another? Overexposure to the sun can damage DNA and lead to skin cancer. Therefore, protecting our skin, especially during the hottest part of the day, is vital. But, if we try to protect ourselves using only sunscreen, we may run the risk of other health hazards, including other cancers, such as breast and prostate cancer.
Common sunscreen preservatives, parabens and BHA, are known to disrupt the endocrine—or hormone—system. Increasing evidence now shows that the popular chemical active ingredients (those that “actively” absorb or block UVB rays), oxybenzone (benzophenone-3 or BP-3) andoctinoxate (octyl-methoxycinnamate or OMC) may disrupt the endocrine system as well. The authors of the scientific review article, Sunscreens: are they beneficial for health? An overview of endocrine disrupting properties of UV-filters, state, “the UV-filters BP-3…and OMC can be considered as substances of high concern in relation to human risk.”
The National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences’ (NIEHS) publication, Endocrine Disruptors, warns American consumers that, “…endocrine disruptors may cause…increases inmammary, ovarian, and prostate cancers…” among other health concerns such as reductions in male and female fertility, abnormalities in male reproductive organs, early puberty in girls, and increases in immune and autoimmune diseases.
And surprisingly, sunscreen chemicals may not sufficiently protect us from skin cancer. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in its Burning Facts factsheet states, “Although a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher offers protection from sunburn, it does not block all of the sun’s damaging rays. In fact, there is no evidence that sunscreens protect you from malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer…”
The EPA goes on to suggest, “To fully protect yourself, remember to seek shade, minimize peak hours of sun exposure, and wear protective clothing in addition to applying sunscreen.” The EPA urges consumers to use full-spectrum sunscreen, which protects the skin against both UVA and UVB rays. Both are linked to skin cancer, but a product’s “SPF” only refers to blockage of UVB rays.
Look for minerals
The majority of individual chemical sunscreen active ingredients are not full spectrum; they do not successfully block UVA rays. The minerals zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, however, physically block both UVA and UVB rays. Avobenzone is one chemical active ingredient that receives a low-toxicity rating from the environmental health watchdog group, theEnvironmental Working Group (EWG). According to the EPA, it offers extensive UVA protection and limited UVB protection.
1. Prevent sun exposure
~ Sun’s rays are strongest from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
~ Wear a hat & protective, light-colored clothing.
2. Protect against both UVA and UVB rays
~ UVA rays can cause wrinkles & skin cancer
~ “SPF” only refers to blockage of UVB rays
~ Use “Broad spectrum” sunscreen to protect against both UVB and UVA rays
3. Avoid potential and known endocrine disruptors in the ingredients
~ Active ingredients: oxybenzone (BP-3) and octinoxate (OMC)
~ Preservatives: parabens and BHA
4. Look for minerals or least toxic chemicals as active ingredients
~ Zinc oxide
~ Titanium oxide
~ Refer to the short list below or visit EWG’s Best Beach & Sport Sunscreen List
5. Use sunscreen properly
~ Lay it on thick
~ Reapply after 2 hours
Mineral Sunscreen Brands
*Indicates brands with both chemical and mineral based suncreens. Look for the specific line(s) listed to avoid chemical active ingredients. List is not exhaustive or all-inclusive.
Lip Balms with SPF