Is Your Sunscreen Safe?

Harmful Chemicals Found In Common Products

2021-05-24 Maggie Roney, Counselor, MS, NCC, LPC

It’s that time of year again! The temperatures are getting warmer, activities are moved to the outdoors and pools are getting ready to open up.  As we put on the shorts, swimsuits and grab our sunglasses, we all know the importance of lathering in sunscreen.  

Since the late 1970s to 1980s research showed that UV rays can increase cancer rates and signs of aging.  As more and more sunscreens hit the market, the amount of toxic ingredients in them increased as well.  

So what are these toxins in the sunscreen you’re putting on your skin? Here are some of the most common toxic ingredients found in widely used sunscreens today.

  • Oxybenzone and Octinoxate: these are synthetic chemicals listed as “active ingredients.”  These are easily absorbed which can cause adverse reactions and free radicals in the body when exposed to sunlight.  These can be major hormone disruptors.
  • Avobenzone: An ingredient used to absorb a wide range of UV rays.  However, when exposed to the sun this chemical breaks down and increases free radicals which adds to the aging process and increases your risk of cancer.  This can also cause an increase in skin sensitivities.
  • Parabens: these are synthetic preservatives found in not just sunscreens, but many beauty products. Parabens are used  to make products last longer.  These can be linked to many harmful effects from skin irritation to tumors.
  • Retinyl Palmitate: this is Vitamin A and palmitic acid.  Yes, Vitamin A is a very important vitamin. However, when the palmitic acid is  exposed to the sun, it causes free radical formation, like other synthetic chemicals.  This can increase the risk of cancer.
  • Artificial Fragrances: these synthetic “smell good” ingredients can contain chemicals that are linked to anything such as cancer, skin irritations, ADHD, autism, obesity, diabetes etc.  This can occur due to the interactions within the body’s chemistry.  They can also be hormone disruptors.  

So What Ingredients Are Safe? 

Not all added ingredients in sunscreen are bad for you. Here are some of the most commonly found, safe ingredients, and how they protect you from the sun.

  • Zinc Oxide: this is an active ingredient found in many natural sunscreens which offer broad UV ray protection, lasts longer, is a non irritant, non carcinogenic and is not a hormone disruptor.
  • Other examples of safe ingredients can include: Vitamin A, E and C, beeswax, jojoba oil, almond oil, coconut oil, red raspberry oil, and shea butter

The Best Brands For Safe Sunscreen

Sunscreen Ingredients

Not sure which brands carry the sunscreens that are best for your skin? Here are some brands that prioritize non-toxic sunscreen. The following brands have sunscreens that are certified organic and contain natural, safe ingredients:

  • Beauty Counter
  • Pure Haven
  • Earthley
  • 100% Pure
  • Babo Botanicals
  • Native
  • Badger

What Else Can I Do For Sun Protection?

In addition to putting on sunscreen, there are other things you can do to protect your body from harmful sun exposure.  Adding the following nutrients to your daily diet can help protect you from the sun as well.

  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids
  • Astaxanthin: found in salmon and shrimp
  • Vitamin E: found in foods such as almonds, pine nuts, radishes, broccoli avocados
  • Beta Carotene: found in bell peppers and carrots
  • Catechins: found in green teas
  • Resveratrol: found in grapes and red wine

When you’re outside enjoying time with loved ones it can be easy to forget the steps you need to take to protect your skin. But don’t forget to cover up when you will be exposed to the sun’s harmful rays. Wearing hats, cover ups and other types of clothing can protect your skin from being exposed too long to UV rays. 

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