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How Safe is Your Sunscreen?

July 30, 2015

When it comes to protecting your skin against the sun’s harmful rays, a quick application of sunscreen seems like the best protection. What you may not know is sunscreen contains dozens of chemicals that may be harmful when inhaled or absorbed through the skin.

The most common sunscreens on the market contain chemical UV filters. Broad-spectrum sunscreens often contain a number of chemical ingredients that absorb UVA and UVB radiation. Nearly all sunscreens include a combination of two to six of the following active ingredients: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, and octinoxate.

Many of these commonly used UV filters are toxic chemicals that have been linked to a number of health problems. Oxybenzone, a chemical that is estimated to be in about 80% of the most popular brands of sunscreens, has been linked to hormone disruption in women and to high rates of skin allergic reactions. Octinoxate that has been linked to hormone disruption, reproductive system problems, and thyroid function alterations. Homosalate has been proven to disrupt estrogen, androgen and progesterone production. Avobenzone has been noted for causing high rates of skin allergic reactions and chemical burns after application.

What can you do to protect yourself against the dangers of sunscreen?

  • Protect yourself from the sun’s rays without using toxic sunscreen products. Avoid exposing your skin to the direct sunlight, especially during peak daylight hours. If you must go out in the sun, wear loose fitting clothing that covers your skin and a wide brimmed hat.
  • If you must use sunscreen, it is important to read product labels and find sunscreens that use the lower toxicity rated chemicals as UV filters. Always apply your sunscreen outdoors and make sure you shower as soon as you enter into your home to rid your skin of chemicals. Avoid using aerosol cans of sunscreen sprays. Aerosol sprays increase the dangers associated with inhaling these chemicals and can contain extra chemicals with additional health risks.
  • DO NOT use products that contain both sun screen and DEET or apply sunscreen and bug spray containing DEET at the same time. The combination of these two products creates a potent mix increasing your skin’s absorption rate of the chemicals and the amount of chemicals absorbed into your skin. A recent study demonstrated that once the DEET penetrated the skin, it was absorbed 3.4 x faster in the combination DEET and sunscreen than it was absorbed with the standard 20% DEET solution in bug spray alone.