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:

Source: http://www.ewg.org/cosmetics/report/sunscreen09/investigation/summary-of-findings

5 comments:

Chaos said...

Great post, also that is showed that a certain hepatitis B (if I remember right) vaccine causes skin cancer. That's the reason there has been a massive increase of skin cancer in black people, who naturally have a better tolarance to sun's rays.

A good and healthy choice for a sunscreen is coconut oil, I can recommend it, it also deepens the tan :)

Yaelian said...

I try to avoid sun as much as I can in this sun drenched land,as I am super intolerant to sun,and the sun acts as a trigger to a skin condition that I have.Like Chaos,the last few years I have been using coconut oil for my skin,when outside,but I have been using a special sun cream with a very high SPF for my face,that is organic.I will go and check the ingredients there.It is really scary that the products that are supposed to protect us are actually harming us:-(
And your marzipan in the previous post,yummy.I have been doing more or less same kind of treats,and they are so yummy! Glad to hear that you can now find organic apricot kernels in Finland:-)

Aletheia said...

Chaos, thank you for the information! I use coconut oil too, but when I know I'm going to be out longer (especially when swimming) I think it's nice to have a safe sunscreen product.

Yaelian, you really have a challenge avoiding UV rays over there! How awful that it aggravates your condition. Did you find out whether your sunscreen is safe or not? Coconut is a blessing, because where you live you really need SPF all the time - and it is definitely the safest option for daily use.

Thanks also for commenting on the truffles, I'd love to hear how you make them!

Yaelian said...

My sunscreen is organic and parabenfree, so I guess it is ok.As for the marzipan,I made it with the same ingredients as you,but I added some organic bitter almond extract to give more flavour.

Amanda said...

Great post! Check out Marie Veronique Organics. Their Face Screen is highly rated by the EWG, http://www.ewg.org/cosmetics/report/sunscreen09/findyoursunscreen?ptype=moisturizer and I love that I get a SAFE sunscreen, moisturizer and foundation all in one! My favorite is here (I like the medium tint, http://mvorganics.com/_product_83436/Moisturizing_Face_Screen_Plus%2c_SPF_30_-_No_Tint