We usually think of sunscreen as a way to prevent cancer, but growing research says some sunscreen ingredients could actually increase your risk of cancer and other problems. Knowing what these ingredients are can help you choose safe sunscreen for yourself and your family this summer. Here I’ll outline some of the common ingredients in sunscreen that you could be avoiding, as well as which sunscreens are safest.
Safe Sunscreen is Essential for Your Health
Research shows that dangers of certain chemical compounds within sunscreen could be causing a variety of skin damaging ailments, especially when reacting with the sun’s intensive heat. Though the FDA had supervised and funded the studies showing key ingredients related to vitamin A as carcinogenic, they knowingly prevented the information from being released to the public whatsoever – up until recently. The synthetic vitamin A compound found in many sunscreen brands contain retinol and retinyl palmitate, both found to react negatively in the sunlight, becoming toxic to the system.
Who would think that sunscreen causes cancer? Isn’t it supposed to protect against skin cancer? According to the Environmental Working Group, people should steer clear of sunscreeens containing oxybenzone. Oxybenzone is contained within about 56% of sunscreens currently on the market. This chemical is included to absorb ultraviolet light. But instead of making a barrier on your skin, it’s actually absorbed into the body.
Research has shown a link between oxybenzone and hormone disrupton. Also, there is evidence it may cause cell damage and lead to cancer. While mainstream doctors say there’s nothing wrong with the FDA-approved chemical, we know that the FDA doesn’t always have the best interests of consumers in mind and certainly isn’t always on the cusp of breaking research.
Another ingredient that shouldn’t be found in safe sunscreen is retinyl palminate. While there is less research on this component, the Environmental Working Group says it certainly doesn’t help sunscreens work better and the effects on humans simply aren’t known—that avoiding it is the safest thing.
Retinyl palminate is a type of vitamin A. In laboratory rats, it’s been shown to actually increase risk of skin cancer. About 25% of sunscreens tested this year contained retinyl palminate.
Dermatologists and the Environmental Working Group agree that consumers should use sunscreens with broad screen protection if sunscreen is used at all. This means it protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
Lotions are better than sprays for a few different reasons. You get better coverage when you use a lotion and you know where it’s going. Also, fine particles are inhaled when you use spray sunscreens, and these chemicals may have untold risks when taken in through the lungs.
Finally, the Environmental Working Group cautions against using anything more than SPF 50, saying the higher numbers don’t give you that much of a better effect and instead simply cost more.
When you go to the store and see the shelves upon shelves of sunscreen options, it can be a little overwhelming. According to the Environmental Working Group’s standards, only 25% of sunscreens on the market are effective and work without potentially harmful chemicals. So,a more safe sunscreen could be out there, just take your time and look.
If you need safe sunscreen, here are a few safer options given by the Environmental Working Group:
- Adorable Baby
- Aubrey Organics
- Burt’s Bees
- Desert Essence
- Maui Natural Organics