Thursday, April 29, 2010

Could your sunscreen be CAUSING skin cancer instead of preventing it?

Two years ago I was nearly oblivious to the toxic ingredients in cosmetic products. Since then, my list of chemicals to avoid has just gotten longer and longer. Last summer I was perplexed about sunscreen, because I do think it is necessary. I bought an organic one, that didn't contain harmful inactive ingredients (parabens etc, PEGs etc). Now I discovered even that is not enough, because even natural organic sunscreens can contain harmful substances (the above pic is my new sunscreen, which I think is safe?). I was too busy staring at the inactive ingredients, naively believing that the active ingredients are surely OK!

Not exactly the truth. Even organic suncreens may contain one or a combination of these potentially very harmful ingredients:

Homosalate (weak hormone disruptor)
Octisalate (weak UVB)

There is also cause to question whether these substances even sufficiently protect against UVA/UVB rays.

Here are some interesting quotes from the Environmental Working Group (EWG):

"In summer 2008 just 29% of sunscreens on the market contained any of the 4 strong UVA filters FDA has approved for use in sunscreens (avobenzone, Mexoryl, titanium dioxide, and zinc), according to EWG’s analysis of product ingredient labels."

 " Only 8% of 1,771 products analyzed met EWG's criteria for safety and effectiveness, blocking both UVA and UVB radiation, remaining stable in sunlight, and containing few if any ingredients with significant known or suspected health hazards. Our assessment is based on a detailed review of hundreds of scientific studies, industry models of sunscreen efficacy, and toxicity and regulatory information housed in nearly 60 government, academic, and industry databases. "

"Many products lack UVA protection. Our analysis found that 4% of high SPF sunscreens (SPF of at least 30) protect only from sunburn (UVB radiation), and do not contain ingredient combinations known to protect from UVA, the sun rays linked to skin damage and aging, immune system problems, and potentially skin cancer. FDA does not require that sunscreens guard against UVA radiation." 

"Sunscreens break down in the sun. Paradoxically, many sunscreen ingredients break down in the sun, in a matter of minutes or hours, and then let UV radiation through to the skin. Our analyses show that 41% of products on the market contain ingredients that may be unstable alone or in combination, raising questions about whether these products last as long as the label says. FDA has not proposed requirements for sunscreen stability."

When you head out to buy your sunscreen, make sure the only active ingredients are zinc oxide and/or titanium oxide. Some time ago I posted about natural cosmetics, in particular about lip balms with SPF. Needless to say, now that I am aware of this I've tossed those.

Check out EWG's safety ratings for a majority of commercial sunscreens:


Carob marzipan truffles

I finally found some raw organic apricot kernels in Finland! To celebrate this awesome discovery, I just had to whip up some raw marzipan. Personally I think there is something magical about the combination of really dark, slightly bitter chocolate and sweet rich marzipan. So, as soon as we got home I started soaking some almonds and later that evening we enjoyed these little treats (WHY does blogger tilt my pics nowadays??):

1 handful of almonds, soaked 8 hours
1-4 apricot  kernels
Agave syrup, to taste

Peel almonds after soaking. Place almonds and apricot kernels in a powerful blender and process into a nut butter. Add some agave to sweeten. Roll into tiny balls by hand.

Carob powder
Coconut oil
Agave syrup
Pinch salt

The idea is you make a little mountain of carob powder, and then slowly add liquid (=oil, agave) to it until the right consistency and taste is achieved.You want it pretty thick, so that it stays on the marzipan balls. My carob chocolate was pretty grainy (as you can see from the pic), not nearly as smooth as it would've been using raw cacao powder. We chose carob, because of the caffeine in raw cacao. If however you prefer using cacao, go right ahead.  To assemble the truffles, roll the marzipan balls in chocolate until they are coated all around and chill in the fridge to set.