Updated: Jul 2, 2021
We can all agree that protecting our families from Cancer is a priority. I dove deep to simplify sunscreen safety, and when I surfaced, this is what I though you should know:
Not all sunscreens are equally safe and effective.
Modern sunscreens contain all kinds of new chemicals to make applying sunscreen more convenient. From effortless application, to water resistance, and scent; your typical sunscreen has a long paragraph of ingredients I would challenge you to pronounce. That's not natural or necessary! I have done the leg-work and research to select a few of the safest sunscreens available at 5 national chains based on their inventory here in KC.
Spray sunscreens are by far the worst for you and your family.
Spray sunscreens, like fast-food, counteract their convenience factor with their detriment to your health. Over 60% of non-mineral sunscreens contain a chemical called Oxybenzone. Stop now, while you're thinking about it and check yours. Not at home? Call your husband or wife. If your sunscreen has this ingredient, return it to the store you bought it from. Tell them that it is harmful to human health and they should consider not selling it.
This may sound extreme, but here's why:
Oxybenzone and other penetration enhancers are potent, metabolically active hormone disruptors that interfere with sex hormones and the thyroid. Oxybenzone is a synthetic estrogen that is detectable in your blood within 26 seconds of application. This chemical has also been found in breast milk, and urine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that over 96% of the population have detectable levels of this toxin in bodily fluids. Adolescent boys with high levels had significantly lower levels of testosterone than their peers. Other studies show a decrease in male fertility among those with higher sunscreen chemical levels.
The very attributes that make them convenient, also make them unhealthy. These chemicals aren't any better for our lungs when inhaled, than they are for our skin when applied externally. We've all been down-wind when an unexpected cloud of smoke, sunscreen, or bug spray blows by. Inhaling any of these three is harmful to your lungs.
For new chemicals and drugs on the market, typically the best evidence we have are animal testing studies, which have been widely recognized as insufficient to prove safety in human subjects. When you use one of these, you are essentially participating in a large-scale clinical trial, the conclusions of which nobody will know for years. Can we agree that at the very least we should protect our women, children, and the unborn from these chemicals?
WARNING: UNSAFE FOR
PREGNANT WOMEN AND CHILDREN!
Oxybenzone has been proven to influence birth outcomes such as gestational period and birth weight of the baby. Oxybenzone and other penetration enhancers reach the blood stream quickly and may be dangerous for newborns and a developing fetus. One study showed that 85% of breast milk samples contain at least one sunscreen chemical.
Sunscreen usage is climbing, and so are skin cancer rates, this is the Sunscreen Paradox.
Check out my prior blog linked above on the subject. Here are a few general guidelines to keep in mind:
1. Use Mineral-based Broad-Spectrum SPF 30 or higher as recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology.
2. Apply 30 minutes before sun exposure, reapply every 90 minutes, especially with water contact.
2. Do not extend your sun exposure simply because you are using sunscreen.
3. Utilize shade, hats, and protective clothing whenever possible.
4. Peak UV intensity hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. it is especially important to practice sun safety mid-day.
5. Use your favorite weather app. to check your current local UV index and forecast.
Sunscreens are not regulated as you may expect to ensure safety and efficacy.
The FDA currently has very little legal power to regulate the safety of the ingredients in cosmetics. It makes sense-they are not food or drugs. Instead, the cosmetics industries are essentially left to police themselves through the Cosmetics Ingredient Review (CIR) panel which is staffed by experts appointed and paid by the cosmetic industry. After several decades of this role, how many ingredients or chemicals do you think the CIR has declared unsafe for the public...12, enough said. Fortunately for the public, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has created their searchable annual Guide to Sunscreens. The FDA has recently banned claims such as 'sunblock', 'waterproof', and 'sweatproof' from labeling; although the claim to protect against skin cancer and aging is still allowed despite conflicting data.
Making an informed decision on sunscreen can be overwhelming!
I recently canvased the local Natural Grocers, Sprouts, Target, Wal-Mart, and Whole Foods. I collected information on their current inventory and used the EWG's guide to find the top 3 safest at each store. First, I looked them up by brand. The EWG rating system is from 1 to 10, with 1 being the safest, and 10 being the most harmful. I have arranged them in order from safest brands to those to avoid. The first number represents the brand's highest rated product and the second, the lowest. There were a select few brands whose products were all highly rated:
Think Sport: 1
Kiss My Face Organics: 1
All Good: 1-3
My Chelle: 1-3
Alba: 2-3 V
Jason: 2-3 V
Nature's Gate: 2-3 V
Blue Lizard: 1-4
Garden Goddess: 1-5
Bare Republic: 1-6
Kiss My Face: 1-6 V
No Ad: 2-7
Sun Bum: 4
Australian Gold: 4-7 Hawaiian Tropic: 4-7
Up & Up: 4-7
Banana Boat: 2-10
What I learned from all of this research:
Baby sunscreens are by far the safest as a general rule.
There are always exceptions to the rule, but even the companies that have the most toxic sprays; seem to have a mineral-based sunscreen with less-harmful ingredients for babies. Isn't it interesting that corporations have decided for us at which age it is safe to expose ourselves to more toxins? The truth is, it is never safe to coat your skin, your largest and most vulnerable organ, in toxins. Across all brands, the baby products were 1-10, but don't let that fool you, two-thirds of these had a rating of 1 or 2. The most-toxic ranged from 3-10.
Sprays are by far the most harmful.
The product(s) with the highest number (lowest rating) were always the sprays in each brand. Overall, considering all brands, sprays are 3-10. They clearly use more harmful chemicals in sprays, especially the aerosols. There were a few pump sprays made by the above highly rated brands.
Be safe out there, Kansas City!