Whether you’re gearing up for beach season or traveling somewhere warm and sunny, we want to make sure you’re practicing safe sun protection. While many common brands of sunscreen contain endocrine-disrupting ingredients like triclosan, parabens, and phthalates, there is a growing number of health-conscious brands selling safer sunscreens. Below, we explain what to watch out for in conventional sunscreen and how to choose cleaner products.
Do I even need sunscreen? What about getting enough vitamin D?
While a certain amount of sun exposure is important for healthy vitamin D levels, it’s also true that the sun’s intense UV rays can cause sunburns, wrinkles, age spots, and skin cancers. Sunscreen can protect the skin against the effects of too much sun exposure and free radical damage from UV rays.
What’s the concern about sunscreen?
While it was once thought that sunscreens are not absorbed through the skin, we now know that they are — on May 6, 2019, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published a study showing that common sunscreen ingredients do in fact show up in the blood when applied to the skin. Other studies have shown that sunscreen ingredients can be measured in breast milk and urine samples. A number of these ingredients can have detrimental effects on our health — more on that below.
Which ingredients should I avoid?
Some of the chemicals to avoid include:
- Methyl, ethyl, and propyl parabens
- Retinyl palmitate
- 4-methylbenzylidene camphor
Why are these problematic?
Endocrine disruption: Most of these chemicals act as endocrine disruptors — compounds that mimic female hormones and suppress male hormones by binding with estrogen receptors. This activity is thought to increase the risk of hormone-related cancers like breast, ovarian, and prostate cancers in adults, and affect reproductive development in children.
Skin cancer risk: Retinyl palmitate has been found to increase the risk for skin cancer when exposed to UV light in animal studies. While this effect is certainly concerning, retinyl palmitate continues to be an ingredient in many sunscreens.
Environmental concerns: Many of these chemicals have been found to damage sea life and coral reefs, leading Australia, Hawaii, and Palau to ban oxybenzone and octinoxate.
Skin damage: Oxybenzone may cause skin irritations, and octinoxate may cause cellular damage to the skin.
How can I choose a safer sunscreen?
A great resource for checking sunscreen safety is the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database. It also provides a list of the cleanest products available.
When shopping for a sunscreen, opt for a mineral-based lotion that uses natural titanium and zinc, which functions as a mirror to reflect the sun’s rays. There are various natural sunscreens that are safe and effective!
Some of our favorite clean sunscreens include:
- Love Sun Body
- Countersun by Beautycounter
- Sensitive Mineral Sunscreen by Blue Lizard
- Self Defense Mineral Sunscreen Fluid by Honest Company
- Sensitive Mineral Sunscreen by Alba Botanica
Let us know which one you like the best!
Want to know more about staying safe under the sun?
Chat with our team of integrative practitioners today to learn more about sun safety and how to boost your skin’s natural SPF. Call our office to find out more: 212-989-9828.