As we approach the summer season we should be mindful of the importance of using sunscreen. Slathering on sunscreen has always been an effective way of keeping our skin protected from the sun’s ultraviolet rays, but you also need make sure the brand of sunscreen you’re using is safe. Lately more research is starting to point that certain chemicals in sunscreens may cause cancer.
Every year more than two million Americans are being diagnosed skin cancer. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) released its 2016 sunscreen guide; in order to make the list, a sunscreen must be free of oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate, must be broad spectrum (protect against both UVA and UVB rays), and not have an SPF above 50, not be in the form of a spray, or combined with bug repellent. Keep in mind that the most dangerous rays, in terms of causing skin damage and cancer, are the UVA rays. This is why you always want to make sure any sunscreen you buy protects against UVA as well as UVB.
Listed below are the things you should look out for when purchasing sunscreen.
- Oxybenzone: According to the EWG this is one of the worst ingredients found in the majority of sunscreens. It creates harmful free radicals when exposed to the sun. This synthetic chemical, Oxybenzone is also an endocrine disruptor which can affect the nervous system; it’s also believed to damage cells that may provoke cancer. (It has been linked to cancer in some laboratory studies.) It penetrates the skin and gets into the bloodstream.
- Retinyl palmitate (Vitamin A): A study done by the FDA revealed it may speed the growth of skin lesions and tumors in lab mice. Many companies are eliminating or have eliminated this from their sunscreen; however there are still sunscreens on the market that contain Retinal palmitate. These sunscreen products containing vitamin A, retinol and retinyl palmitate may actually increase the speed at which the malignant cells develop and spread skin cancer. Avoid sunscreens that contain this.
- Fragrant sunscreen contain harmful chemicals, some of these are:
- Parabens: Synthetic preservatives known to interfere with hormone production and release.4
- Phthalates: A synthetic preservative that’s carcinogenic and linked to reproductive effects, and liver and kidney damage.4
- Synthetic musks: These are linked to hormone disruption and are thought to persist and accumulate in breast milk, body fat, umbilical cord blood, and the environment.4
- Bug Repellant: Sunscreen: Do not use skin products that combine sunscreen and insect repellent. These contain pesticides that can harm humans. Studies suggest that combining sunscreens and repellents leads to increased skin absorption of the repellent ingredients. Those ingredients are toxic; if it can harm a bug, it can harm a human.
- Spray Sunscreens: These are very popular with parents who have little children. However the EWG does not recommend the use of spray sunscreens because of concerns about inhalation and inadequate sun protection. When these are sprayed, toxic particles are released into the air, making them easy to breathe in. Inhalation can cause lung irritation, other respiratory issues and unknown health risk.
Remember to choose wisely when purchasing a sunscreen and read the ingredient label on the sunscreen before you purchase it. You can go the EWG website https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/ for a list of safe sunscreens.
If you’re headed to the beach check the UV index to help plan your summer outdoor activities and help prevent sun overexposure. Wear a hat and sunglasses; they protect your eyes from UV radiation. Bring an umbrella or canopy for some shade. You can safely enjoy the summer and protect your skin by being mindful and making smart, healthy choices to prevent any future illness.