Could Your Sunscreen be Dangerous?
Even Dr. Oz is saying it: Sunscreen may be dangerous to your health. The very thing you use to protect your skin may cause rashes, hormonal problems, and cancer. Dr. Arthur Perry, who appeared on Dr. Oz's show on May 8, 2013, thinks sunscreen can do more harm than good.1
The main problem Dr. Perry is concerned about is cancer. The fact is that the ingredients used in chemical sunscreens are endocrine disruptors. They interfere with the hormones of the body, which can potentially cause cancer, especially breast cancer. The dangers are even greater for pregnant women because the developing fetus gets exposed to the endocrine disruptors.
Endocrine disruptors have powerful effects. They can alter the development of young children, causing early puberty in girls, small testicle size and low sperm counts in boys, as well as increase cancer risk.
If we only used a tiny bit, but people slather huge amounts on their body. The chemicals in sunscreen are especially absorbent. They penetrate deep into the body over time, and can interfere with every organ.
Dr. Thomas Zeller of the Endocrine Society states: "Dr Perry makes an important point… some sunscreens are known to interfere with hormone action… could plausibly increase the risk of various cancers."
Some of the Dangerous Chemicals in Sunscreen:
- Benzophenone: One of the most harmful (and most common), sunscreen ingredients is benzophenone. It is known to cause cancer in animal tests. Yet, it is still used in most sunscreens.
- Oxybenzone: a known hormone disruptor, is another popular ingredient found in 60% of commercial sunscreens. Oxybenzone soaks in deed – a recent study out of the Centers for Disease Control found trace amounts of oxybenzone in 97% of adults.
- Retinyl palmitate: Another harmful chemical is retinyl palmitate, a form of Vitamin A. Natural vitamin A is healthy and necessary. However, the synthetic version is another story. A recent FDA study of Vitamin A creams found that some appear to accelerate skin damage. It also encourages tumor growth in animals. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that 40% of the sunscreens they evaluated contain retinyl palmitate.
- PABA: causes DNA damage in human cells. (PABA was banned as a sunscreen ingredient several years ago).
- Phenylbenzimidazole (PBI): Causes DNA photodamage when illuminated while in contact with bacteria or human keratinocytes
- Titanium Dioxide: Studies have found that titanium dioxide nanoparticles cause genetic damage in mice, suggesting that humans may be at risk of cancer or genetic disorders resulting from exposure.
Is Sunscreen Even Effective?
An interesting fact is that malignant melanoma has been found more frequently in sunscreen users compared to non-users in some studies. Other studies found fair skinned people used more sunscreen and had more skin cancer. These studies did not look further into why this was the case, but its important to note that sunscreen use may not have the desired effect. Other studies show that it is the very ingredients in the sunscreen that are causing the cancer.
What About Vitamin D?
Adequate levels of sunshine are needed for the body to create Vitamin D in the skin naturally. Vitamin D is critical to good health in many ways. High levels are necessary for mental health, cardiovascular health, cancer protection and for the conservation and intestinal absorption of calcium. Without adequate Vitamin D, calcium cannot be absorbed by the body. Ultimately, this causes weakened bones, fractures, osteoporosis, etc.
The use of sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 8 inhibits more than 95% of vitamin D production in the skin. Since sunscreen blocks out the sun's rays, it also prevents the body from making Vitamin D in the skin, causing a multitude of problems.
Fair-skinned humans need at least 15 to 20 minutes of sunshine three to four times a week to manufacture enough Vitamin D. Those with darker skin need up to six times more exposure to the sun.
Vitamin D3 supplementation is an alternative, but can't be compared to natural production in quality.
It doesn't seem to make sense to block out the sun and deprive our bodies of necessary nutrients while exposing them to chemicals which may do more harm than good. Yet, it is important to protect against sunburn. Can this be done more safely?
Interestingly, the EWG recommended only 8% of sunscreen products on the market. The safest contain Zinc oxide, which offers broad-spectrum protection in what's called "mineral sunscreen."
Another alternative is to make your own with coconut oil, which has natural sun-screening properties. Coconut oil does not block the UV rays that are necessary for vitamin D synthesis on the skin, and it protects your skin from environmental exposure damage.
Although the SPF value of olive oil and coconut oil is about 8, the SPF number of coconut oil doesn't really mean anything. Coconut oil doesn’t block out the sun’s rays. Instead it prevents free-radical reactions which lead to all the consequences caused by overexposure to the sun. Adding a little Zinc Oxide makes it a great alternative to chemical sunscreens.
Adding a little peppermint oil (SPF value of 7) or lavender oil (SPF value of 6), can further enhance a coconut oil-based sunscreen. The value of lavender oil for skin health has long been established, so my preference is for lavender oil, although peppermint oil provides a wonderfully cooling effect.
Here's a recipe to make your own sunscreen:
Coconut Oil, Zinc Oxide Sunscreen Recipe:
1 cup Coconut oil, at room temperature or melted over very low heat
1/2 cup Shea oil (or olive oil)
1/2 cup Zinc Oxide Powder (for 20 SPF – use 1/4 cup for 10 SPF)
20 to 40 drops Young Living Lavender oil
1/2 cup purified water
Put all ingredients into a blender and blend well until emulsified. Pour into a squeeze-top container. Softens in warm weather. Store in refrigerator during summer season and in the freezer during the off-season (will keep only 2-3 months at room temperature).
Yields about 2 cups.
What to do if You Get a Burn?
And if you should inadvertently get a sunburn, a great remedy is Lavaderm, formulated with lavender essential oil, aloe vera and Ionic Trace Minerals
Lavaderm helps the skin heal quickly after a burn. Many have also found that spritzing the "hot spots" of their skin during and after sun exposure prevents burns and peeling.