This topic may be more debatable than you know. Depending on who you ask and where you look for the answer, sunscreen is either great for your skin and safe for your entire family, or it is loaded with toxic chemicals and can possibly raise your risk for cancer.
The answer to the sunscreen question causes confusion, not only because there are many conflicting reports on sunscreen and how it affects your health, but also because we know that the rays of the sun can damage and age the skin. Additionally, we are told to get our daily dose of Vitamin D from the sun. It’s quite a conundrum.
With summer just around the corner, this is a great time to have the sunscreen discussion. There can be a real dark side when it comes to the safety of daily sunscreen usage.
In this article you will learn which ingredients are helpful in sunscreen, which ingredients are harmful, and how to best use sunscreen to keep your face protected. You will also be able to identify, recognize and avoid harmful chemicals or toxins contained in many of sunscreens on the market today, and learn about all-natural sunscreen ingredients that are easy to get.
Myths and tall tales about sunscreen we have all heard over and over from our parents to our camp coaches include:
- Make sure you apply your sunscreen before you set foot outdoors, and especially on your face, neck, knees and ears.
- Make sure you spray or slather a heavy coating of sunscreen on your kids before they go out to play every day.
- If your kids go swimming, make sure you slather them up again as soon as they come out of the water!
For years, dermatologists have been stressing the importance of using sunscreen as a way to protect your skin from damage caused by the sun, including skin cancer, sun spots, wrinkles, and other signs of premature aging. There is no question that the sun’s rays can be very dangerous to your health, but we are now learning that the same sunscreen being used to protect us from harm could have ingredients that are easily absorbed into your skin and into the bloodstream, and can contribute to a host of health issues including hormone disruption and inflammation. The good news is that not all sunscreens contain harmful chemicals or cause health issues.
The active ingredients in sunscreen come in two forms: chemical filters and mineral filters. One is good and the other bad — and you need to know the difference! Mineral filters are natural and almost 100% free of substances that can create adverse health issues — these are the “good guys” of the sunscreen world. The “bad guys” are chemical filters, and unfortunately, most sunscreens on the market today contain these chemical filters, usually in a combination of one form or another.
Here are the main bad guys to look for on the label and avoid:
All of these chemicals are easily absorbed into the body, and all known to cause health issues. And yes, all potentially very dangerous… here’s why:
Oxybenzone is an estrogen, testosterone and thyroid disruptor and has been linked to significant skin irritations.
Octinoxate is another hormone disruptor, that has been linked to issues with the reproductive system and thyroid. It's also been known to cause skin irritations.
Homosalate disrupts the production of estrogen and progesterone, potentially causing hormonal and metabolic issues, including weight gain, increased risk of heart disease, and even kidney issues.
Octisalate and Octocrylene are also linked to skin irritations and inflammation including rash, hives, itchy skin, swelling, and even blisters.
Equally as alarming is the fact that the Environmental Working Group (EWG) — the same group that gives us the Dirty Dozen lists, tested over 1,400 sunscreens and found that only 5% of them met their safety standards, and over 40% were listed as potentially contributing to skin cancer with their negligent formulas. And it’s because so many sunscreens sneak these cheap chemical bad guys into their product.
Sunscreen companies are not required to do rigorous testing to prove their products are safe (or unsafe). In fact, back in the late 1970’s, the FDA actually grandfathered in 19 common sunscreen chemicals that they just decided to call “safe” ingredients. In the following 40 years, despite an overwhelming amount of research and evidence showing how these ingredients can disrupt hormones, cause lung irritation and breathing problems, and contribute to skin allergies, the FDA still allows these ingredients to be called “safe”. The bottom line is that chemical filter sunscreen ingredients are not something you want to put on your skin.
But the good news is that mineral filter sunscreen ingredients are good – safe and effective. There are a number of great mineral filters ingredients that are natural and safe to apply to your skin as a sunscreen and they really work. The two most commonly used mineral sunscreen ingredients are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide — both of these ingredients are considered to be safe, are not hormone disruptors, and do not cause skin irritations.
So, make sure any sunscreen you buy from now on uses zinc oxide or titanium oxide as ingredients. It’s really important for you and your family.
If you are a DYI kind of person, then you do have the option of making your own sunscreen using natural ingredients that have been shown to provide a natural SPF (Sun Protection Factor).
These natural ingredients include:
- Almond Oil - SPF of 5
- Coconut Oil– SPF 4-6
- Zinc Oxide SPF 2-20 depending on how much is used
- Shea Butter – SPF 4-6
- Red Raspberry Seed Oil (SPF 25-50)
Red Raspberry Oil isn't always easy to find, but it is a powerful natural ingredient that has great sunscreen power. When making your own sunscreen at home, please note that everyone has very different skin tones and skin complexion — some of us burn more easily than others and require more SPF protection. Don’t be afraid to mix and match ingredient types and quantity until you find what works for you!
Here is a go-to sunscreen formula that works for children and adults that use 6 all natural ingredients:
- ½ cup almond oil - you can sub in olive oil too
- ¼ cup coconut oil (natural SPF 4)
- ¼ cup beeswax
- 2 Tablespoons Zinc Oxide
- 2 tablespoons Shea Butter (natural SPF 4-5)- optional
- And your favorite Essential Oil or natural extract…. Suggested oils include lavender and vanilla extract. Please kindly note not to use lemon, orange, or any other essential oils as they can increase your sensitivity to the sun.
- (OPTIONAL) 1 teaspoon Red Raspberry Seed Oil
Put all the ingredients in a glass jar. Put the jar in a pot on the stove, add a few inches of
water, and warm ingredients until the all contents melt and come together. Take solution the off the heat, pour into any container you wish to store it in, and let it cool.
In summary, sunscreen comes in two forms: chemical filter based, and mineral filter based. Several of the ingredients found in chemical filtering sunscreen are toxic and are easily absorbed into the skin. They could cause a number of dangerous health issues, including inflammation of the skin and body and hormone disruptions, and have been linked to several metabolic issues. Avoid these ingredients at all costs!
On the other hand, mineral filtering sunscreen ingredients are safe, effective, and pose no health risks. When buying sunscreen, make sure it uses mineral filtering. Look for the mineral filtering sunscreen ingredients zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide.
You can also be super safe by creating your own all-natural sunscreen by following the recipe. This way you will know you are using only natural ingredients that provide the SPF protection you need for your skin!
Remember, this is all about being healthy and preventing accelerated aging other damaging effects of the sun this spring, summer, and every day. Since sunscreen does block Vitamin D production from the sun, taking a high-quality vitamin D like Smarter Vitamin D daily, and year-round, is a great practice to have. It’s 100% plant based and is quickly absorbed into your body. It’s a must daily supplement for your immune system, bones, and so much more.