Is Your Sunscreen Safe?

(BeWellBuzz) During summer most of us will slather our bodies with a sun protection cream and hit the outdoors. Be it sunbathing beside a pool or hanging out on the beach, staying out in the sun is the preferred option during this time.

However, from this summer onwards, we must ensure that we select our sunscreen carefully. Why? According to the experts, conventional sunscreens may cause more harm than good, and it is best that we stay away from them.

Shocking as it may be, there is substantial data that suggests the experts are right. Here are six disturbing facts about sunscreens:

1. Contains cancer accelerant

The most disturbing fact that has come to light is: retinyl palmitate (a form of Vitamin A), present in many conventional sunscreens, may accelerate the development of skin cancer when applied to sun-exposed skin.

This revelation was made by a one year animal study conducted by the FDA. The researchers found that lab animals that were dabbed with a Vitamin A-laced sun protection cream developed lesions and skin tumors sooner than animals that were coated in a sunscreen that didn’t contain Vitamin A.

2. Sunscreens may increase the risk of melanoma

There is some evidence which suggests that the incidence of melanoma is higher in sunscreen users. The exact cause of this, however, is not known. Some speculations that have been made so far include:

  1. Sunscreen users usually stay outdoors for long hours, as a result of which they are more prone to UV radiation damage, one of the risk factors for melanoma
  2. Staying out in the sun for long hours causes sunscreen components to break down and release free radicals, which, in turn, causes melanoma
  3. The sunscreen of yesteryears provided poor UVA protection

3. Many spray-on sunscreens contain oxybenzone

Oxybenzone, an organic compound which is often used in sunscreens, is linked to potential cell damage and hormone disruption, according to the Environmental Working Group. This is not the only danger of spray sunscreens, which increases your risk of inhaling potentially-harmful chemicals that can cause irritation in the mouth, lungs, nose, and other harmful side effects.

However, the biggest danger of spray-on sunscreens, it is believed, comes not from its ingredients, but from sprayed vapors that are highly inflammable. Most spray-on sunscreens come with a warning that they shouldn’t be used near an open flame. However, second and third degree cases have been reported where individuals suffered from injuries when they went near an open flame immediately, or a few minutes after applying a spray sunscreen. Inexplicably, most spray blocks do not issue a warning in this regard on their product label.

4. Causes free radical damage

You may be aware that UV radiation generates free radicals that are harmful to us. However, do you know that many ingredients present in common sunscreens also generate free radicals that kill healthy skin cells, damage DNA, speed up skin aging, and cause melanoma and other types of cancers?

Sunscreens, when applied in adequate amounts and reapplied frequently, do more good than harm. However, many people tend to apply less or more sunscreen than recommended and/or reapply it after long gaps. Such people, in turn, are vulnerable to free radical damage due to both UV radiation and the sunscreen they use.

5. Stalls the production of Vitamin D

A thin layer of sunblock prevents the body from producing this important substance. According to an article published in the British Journal of Dermatology, the production of vitamin D is curbed when sunscreen is used for long periods of time.

6. Some sunscreen ingredients may cause endometriosis in women

Endometriosis is a painful condition characterized by irregular bleeding and pain. It occurs when the endometriosis starts growing outside the uterus. The exact cause of endometriosis is not known, but it is believed that estrogen, the female hormone, plays an important role in this regard.

Sunscreens contain UV filters that protect us from harmful UV rays. However, some of these UV filters have an effect similar to estrogen, which, as explained above, is suspected to cause endometriosis.

It is true that the concentration of individual UV filters in sunblocks is low. However, according to a study published in the Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, these UV filters together have a much greater estrogenic effect than they have alone.

Sunscreens should be your second line of defense against the sun rather than the first

The above statement sums up the mental shift that is required in the way we understand and use sunscreens.

Recent studies show that sunscreens are not as effective in protecting us from the harmful effects of UV as we earlier thought. Nevertheless, they do have a role to play in providing protection from the sun, according to all major public health agencies, which agree that sunscreens should be your second line of defense against the sun- not the first.

Use organic chemical-free sunscreens, but also wear protective clothing, stay in the shade as much as possible, and stay away from the afternoon sun. We sum up this article with a few tips to help you choose a safe and effective sunscreen:

  • Look for sunscreens that have one or more of the following ingredients – titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, avobenzone (3%),  or Mexoryl SX
  • Avoid sunscreens that have Oxybenzone and/or Vitamin A
  • Select lotions and stay away from sprays
  • Use a water-resistant sunblock for the pool or beach



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