The Harmful Ingredients Found in Sunscreen

Harmful Ingredients in Sunscreen

Sunscreen has been a topic of controversy in the news which has been more and more confusing for consumers to choose the right kind. While the sun is the enemy and Vitamin D from the sun is essential for our health, there is the fact that too much of one thing can be bad. This is why it’s important to find a sunscreen that contains natural ingredients, so you can protect against the sun and keep your body healthy.

Don’t buy Cheap Sunscreen

Of course, we need to wear sunscreen when out in the sun, but we need to be aware of the ingredients that are used in it. In recent years there has been a lot of worrisome reports about the health effects of cheap sunscreens that contain chemical ingredients such as oxybenzone and avobenzone. Both ingredients are known to cause skin irritations, burns, and even skin cancer, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). Unfortunately, so many sunscreens on the market contain toxic chemicals that contribute to hormonal problems and skin issues. Just like food, it’s so important to read the ingredients of all skin care products because our skin is extremely absorbent, and anything we put on it enters our bloodstream. So what ingredients should we avoid when it comes to sunscreen?

mom putting sunscreen on her daughter at the beach
Mom putting sunscreen on her daughter at the beach.

1. Chemical filters 

Chemical filters are the main concerns that make sunscreen unsafe. Some of the bad ingredients include oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate. All of these chemicals have the potential to penetrate our skin easily and even more so when exposed to sunlight. They can accumulate in our bodies, burden our liver and disrupt our hormones which can throw off our entire endocrine system.

There was a 2010 study done by the University of Zurich which found that at least one of the sunscreen chemicals in 85% milk samples taken. This illustrates just how the harmful toxins found in sunscreen can linger in the body. The chemicals can cause allergic reactions in the body and produce free radicals that breakdown our cells. Cancer is a possible result of this damage.

2. Titanium dioxide nanoparticles

This is still being tested but there is evidence to suggest that nanoparticles can absorb the sun’s radiation. These tiny particles are so small that they can seep into the bloodstream and cause inflammation in the body. Titanium dioxide is a potential carcinogen and causes lung damage when inhaled. This can be an issue with kids as they tend to put fingers in their mouths.

3. Spray sunscreen

Spray sunscreen might be one of the worst decisions regarding sunscreen. Yes, it might be convenient, but it can easily be inhaled. If it contains any of the chemical filters, you can cause harm to your body. It’s better to choose a lotion-based sunscreen in this case. Some of the labels even state warnings such as, “if swallowed, get medical help right away.” It’s better to avoid sunscreens that don’t’ have natural ingredients altogether.

4. Retinyl palmitate or retinol

Retinyl palmitate or retinol are the various names of Vitamin A that, while maybe a great antioxidant, is harmful when the skin is exposed to sunlight. While taking these ointments, many dermatologists and pharmacists will tell you to avoid the sun. This is because retinyl palmitate speeds up the development of skin lesions and tumors. When you’re exposed to the UV rays, these antioxidant compounds break down and produce free radicals that damage our DNA and may lead to skin cancer.

sunscreen being applied to the skin
Sunscreen soaks into the bloodstream through the skin. Harmful chemicals can disrupt our body and lead to cancer.

5. Parabens

Parabens are artificial preservatives used in many sunscreens and may be hard to identify because they have many names on the ingredient list. Here are some of the common names that are used:

Benzyl-parahydroxybenzoate (p-hydroxybenzoate)
Methyl-parahydroxybenzoate (p-hydroxybenzate)
Ethyl-parahydroxybenzoate (p-hydroxybenzoate)
Propyl-parahydroxybenzoate (p-hydroxybenzoate)
Butyl-parahydroxybenzoate (p-hydroxybenzoate)
Parahydroxybenzoate (p-hydroxybenzoate)

Why avoid parabens? Well, because they disrupt hormones and have been linked to breast cancer and allergic reactions. Parabens are used in other skincare products and not just sunscreens. So beware when you shop for lotions and other ointments that you put on your skin.

What’s the best sunscreen out there?

The best sunscreens are the ones formulated with zinc oxide. The zinc-based sunscreens physically block the sunlight without receiving the harmful effects of chemicals. You can do your best research to find the best brand. Be sure to check out the Environmental Working Group (EWG)’s top sunscreens that meet their tough safety criteria. It’s important to protect yourself from the sun, but equally as important to make sure the ingredients in sunscreen are safe too.