Choosing Your Sun Protection Wisely - Part II

8/15/2011 Osmosis Skincare 0 Comments

Before applying chemical sunscreens to your skin, it is important to find out what's really in them.   Why, you ask?  Because, that sunscreen isn’t just sitting on top of your skin.
NaturalNews reported in 2009 that UCLA scientists have discovered that nanoparticles in cosmetics and sunscreens can enter and wander throughout the body and can potentially disrupt body functions at a sub-cellular level (http://www.naturalnews.com). 
In another investigation, conducted by a Swiss National Research Program called Endocrine Disrupters: Relevance to Humans, Animals and Ecosystems, researchers found that UV filters (common in cosmetics and sunscreens) were present in 85 percent of human milk samples tested.  What does this mean?  The scary truth is that no one really knows. 

Here are just a few of the chemicals you should be aware of:

·         Benzophenone and its variants, dioxybenzone and oxybenzone, are common sunscreen ingredients.  Oxybenzone was found to be safe in the 1970s when sunscreens first started gaining in popularity.  However, new research suggests that it may not be.  Studies have linked it to allergies, hormone disruption, and cell damage.  A study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reveals that 97% of Americans are contaminated with  oxybenzone.  A companion study revealed that baby girls whose mothers are exposed to oxybenzone during pregnancy are at higher risk of being born at a low birth weight.
·         PABA (or Para-Aminobenzoic Acid) and PABA Esters (including ethyl dihydroxy propyl PAB, glyceryl PABA, padimate-O or octyl dimethyl PABA) have historically been very popular sunscreen ingredients, but as evidence against them grows – PABA is linked with allergic dermatitis, increased sensitivity to light, and cancer – many manufacturers are now avoiding them.  You’ll still see padimate-O in a lot of sunscreens; it’s supposedly less risky than PABA, but even that has been linked with free-radical formation.
·         Cinnamates (Cinoxate, Ethylhexyl P-Methoxycinnamate, Octocrylene, Octyl Methoxcyinnamate) are the chemicals that are most frequently used in the United States to absorb UVB rays.  Unfortunately, some cinnamates are known to cause allergic reactions in the skin when exposed to the sun on top of their free radical production.  Lab studies have also shown that cinnamates have estrogenic effects and can disrupt thyroid hormone and brain signaling.
·         Salicylates (Ethylhexyl Salicylate, Homosalate, Octyl Salicylate) absorb UVB rays but they are suspected of being hormone disrupters and forming toxic substances in the body.
·         Menthyl Anthranilate is used as a UVA protector in some sunscreens.  Europe and Japan both prohibit its use.  Research suggests that it produces damaging free radicals when exposed to sunlight.
·         Avobenzone (Butyl-Methyoxydibenzoylmethane; Parsol 1789) is a popular sunscreen ingredient, used for absorbing UVA rays.  It is the only chemical sunscreen ingredient allowed by the European community, but even it has limited protective abilities because it breaks down into unknown chemicals quickly.

Over the past decade, many scientists studying cancer have come to the conclusion that the use of sunscreen chemicals may be increasing the incidence of cancer.  Skin cancer thrives on two things:  DNA damage and weakened immune function.  Evidence suggests these chemical sunscreens result in further damage to the DNA, as well as inflammation – and excess inflammation weakens immune activity.   

Protecting ourselves from sun damage is important but it is equally important to be informed as to the hidden dangers of the products we may be using.  Sunblock lotions that contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide are options that will both block the UV rays without the carcinogenic effects of ingredients in chemical sunscreens.

In Part III, we will explore SPF - the sun protection factor.

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