Sunscreen Safety

These facts about sunscreen safety are not provided by sunscreen manufacturers. Manufacturers have no obligation to tell us everything that is in their products, what ingredients have been tested, and what have not. And manufacturers are free to make broad and misleading claims like – “all day protection” – that can give us a false sense of security.

Sunscreen Safety Facts

  • Sunscreens let UVA radiation through

Sunscreens absorb the sun’s UVB rays that cause sunburn, but UVA rays, the ones associated with cancer risk, pass right through sunscreens.

  • We get only one-third of the SPF protection stated on the label

SPF testing is based on using three times as much sunscreen as most people put onto their skin. So the true SPF benefit you get is likely to be one third of what is stated on the label. Experts say that the most protection you can expect from a sunscreen, in the best circumstances, is no more than 2 hours, no matter what the manufacturer claims.

  • Sunscreens do not stay on the body

They need to be constantly re-applied and at very much higher doses than we normally use, especially if we sweat or get wet.

  • Sunscreens can contain dangerous chemicals

Sunscreens often contain ingredients known to be carcinogens, allergens and hormone-disrupters. However, there is considerable debate about whether they are present in sufficient quantities in sunscreens and personal care products to be dangerous. For example, bottled water contains lead, a known dangerous chemical, and we drink a lot of bottled water. But the lead is present in such tiny quantities that it is not regarded as a safety hazard. In the same way, many scientists maintain that the chemicals in skincare products are safe, given the tiny dosages of them we are likely to absorb.

I’m not advocating complacency about these chemicals. They are found in mother’s milk and are passed directly to fetuses via the placenta. They are so potent they even cause feminization of fish in rivers and estuaries. The key question is whether they are present in skin care products in large enough quantities to cause problems. No one is arguing against regulating dangerous chemicals. For an informed perspective on cosmetic product safety, I recommend this web site about personal care – truth or scare.

  • Sunscreens are largely unregulated

Since there are so many harmful chemicals in the environment already, and so many ways we can come in contact with them, it is extremely difficult to draw a line between health problems and a specific product. So the regulatory agencies are not effective.

  • Sunscreens provide a false sense of security

They do not work as advertised and they contain untested toxic ingredients that can be passed unknowingly from generation to generation.

  • Sunblocks can be safe and effective

The key difference between a sunscreen and a sunblock is that sunblocks work by reflecting the suns rays, unlike sunscreens that work by absorbing some of the sun’s rays (the UVB rays). Zinc oxide and titanium oxide work well at reflecting the sun’s rays and they are safe. Most sunblocks use them. However, the “nanoparticle” or “ultrafine” or “microfine” versions are based on new technology that lets chemicals pass easier through the skin. After nanoparticles have delivered their chemical payload, they persist in the body with untested and unknown consequences.

  • There are organic oils that protect against sun damage

Jojoba oil, sesame oil, coconut oil, olive oil, wild shea butter, pomegranate oil and evening primrose oil are some of the natural products that help protect against sun damage and deal with free radicals caused by sun exposure. It is recommended to use skincare products that contain organic forms of these ingredients. This kind of organic sun protection will definitely help prevent and heal sun damage, but wild claims such as “all day protection” do not apply!

  • Some sun exposure is really good for us

15 minutes of full-body sunshine generates a healthy amount of Vitamin D. More and more research is highlighting Vitamin D’s health benefits. Sunlight also relieves some depressive conditions. And who wants to spend a lifetime in the gloom anyway? But let’s not kid ourselves that we can rely on sunscreens or most sunblocks to keep us safe.

  • The best sun protection remains all-natural and free – it’s called “shade”

Wear a hat!

Dr. Samuel S. Epstein, Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition, is a leading advocate for chemical safety. He is particularly alarmed about toxic chemicals in cosmetics and has published a book, “Toxic Beauty,” to bring attention to the dangers he believes we face from them.

Simple Care, Luminous Skin