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The Lowdown on Sunscreen

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What’s the one thing parents always have when they take the kids to the beach, pool, or any outdoor activity?  Sunscreen, of course.  Why?  Well, to keep our kids safe from sunburn and skin cancer.  We have all probably heard that sunscreen can be bad for you, so we try to pick the ones that look okay.

My old sunscreen was by Neutrogena and the label says “#1 DERMATOLOGIST RECOMMENDED SUNCARE” in capital letters.  I also had a Banana Boat sunscreen that had a little logo with a checkmark that said “Pediatrician tested.”  Should we be reassured by these words and trust the products on our children?  No, because there are NO legal definitions for any of these and other claims on personal care product labels.

Here is the quick low-down on sunscreen.

1.  The only safe sunscreen is one that has non-nanoparticle zinc oxide as the UV blocker.  The non-nanoparticle part is important because nanoparticles cross the cell barrier and enter organs.  The label will say non-nanoparticle because that this is a selling point.  If it does not say non-nanoparticle, then don’t use it.

2.  Spray sunscreens are bad because of inhaling the ingredients.  Consumer Reports caught everyone’s attention with this, and while it is a true concern, they overlooked the biggest problem with spray sunscreens, and really, with the majority of sunscreens.  What is the biggest problem?  Toxic ingredients being put on your skin, which is a direct route to your bloodstream.  Here are the problems with the active ingredients in most sunscreens (per the EWG, see note below).

3.  And what is the biggest problem?  Toxic ingredients being put on your skin, which is a direct route to your bloodstream.  Here are the problems with the active ingredients in most sunscreens (per the EWG, see note below).

Homosalate:  Enhanced skin absorption, Ecotoxicology, Endocrine disruption, Contamination concerns (SALICYLIC ACID, TRIMETHYLCYCLOHEXANOL), Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), Use restrictions.

Octinoxate:  Enhanced skin absorption, Biochemical or cellular level changes, Developmental/reproductive toxicity, Endocrine disruption, Allergies/immunotoxicity, Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), Persistence and bioaccumulation.

Oxybenzone:  Enhanced skin absorption, Biochemical or cellular level changes, Developmental/reproductive toxicity, Endocrine disruption, Allergies/immunotoxicity, Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), Persistence and bioaccumulation, Use restrictions.

Octocrylene:  Biochemical or cellular level changes, Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs), Persistence and bioaccumulation, Use restrictions.

Avobenzone:  Cancer, Allergies/immunotoxicity, Contamination concerns (BENZOIC ACID, 4-T-BUTYLBENZOIC ACID, BENZALDEHYDE, P-ANISIC ACID, ACETOPHENONE, DIBENZOYLMETHANE), Use restrictions.

Titanium Dioxide (as used in sunscreen):  Biochemical or cellular level changes, Cancer, Ecotoxicology, Allergies/immunotoxicity, Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs), Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), Occupational hazards.

Octisalate: Enhanced skin absorption, Ecotoxicology, Allergies/immunotoxicity, Use restrictions.

Now these are just the UV blocker (active) ingredients.  Also in most sunscreens are many other harmful ingredients, such as:

Retinyl acetate or retinyl palmitate:   Biochemical or cellular level changes, Cancer, Developmental/reproductive toxicity, Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), Use restrictions.

Parabens (chemical preservatives):  Biochemical or cellular level changes, Data gaps, Developmental/reproductive toxicity, Endocrine disruption, Allergies/immunotoxicity, Use restrictions.

Fragrance: Ecotoxicology, Allergies/immunotoxicity, Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs), Miscellaneous, Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive).

Bottom line: Parents need to look at the ingredients, not the labeling, which is just marketing.  Avoid the above ingredients, or check your sunscreen at ewg.org/sunscreen, and use sunscreen with non-nanoparticle zinc oxide as the active ingredient.

Note on the EWG: The Environmental Working Group is an independent watchdog organization that evaluates the research on ingredients and rates them according to how toxic they are.  Their rating scale is 0-10, with 3 and over starting the toxic range.

References:

Six Sunscreen Shockers:

http://ronandlisa.com/2012/06/28/six-sunscreen-shockers-what-you-need-to-know-to-protect-yourself/

Avoiding Neutrogena:

http://www.vancitybuzz.com/2015/06/neutrogena-sunscreen-toxic-avoid/

Environmental Working Group (EWG) evaluation of Banana Boat:

http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/product/600625/Banana_Boat_Kids_Sunscreen_Lotion%2C_SPF_50%2C_Fragrance_Free/

Consumer Reports on spray sunscreens:

http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2011/07/don-t-spray-sunscreens-on-kids-at-least-for-now/index.htm

 

[About]  Alison Carlson is a consultant with Ava Anderson Non Toxic.  She gives presentations on toxic chemicals, how labels fool consumers, and how to avoid harmful ingredients.  Her company also has a complete line of personal care and home products (including sun protection products) that have no harmful chemicals or contaminants.  Anyone wanting to hear a presentation or host one can reach her at (805) 901-1974, avaandersonnontoxic.com/alisoncarlson, or on Facebook at Ava Anderson Non-Toxic with Alison Carlson.  Her business is also a Ventura Certified Green Business.

 

July 22, 2015

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