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The Trouble with Ingredients In Sunscreens

When it comes to protecting your skin from the sun, it's important to be aware of the ingredients that can be found in your sunscreen. While most sunscreens contain ingredients that can help protect your skin from the sun, some of these ingredients can actually be harmful. To ensure that you're using a safe sunscreen, it's important to avoid the ingredients I share below.

The Science on Ingredient Toxicity

When it comes to protecting your skin from the sun’s damaging rays, sunscreen is an essential part of any good skincare routine. But not all sunscreens are created equal, and it’s important to know what ingredients to look for and which ones to avoid. There are some ingredients that everyone should avoid because studies have found they have damaging effects on the environment or on our bodies. Other ingredients might be fine for some people but may be irritating to your skin or have negative reactions with medications you're taking.

Ingredients toxicity labeling and the science behind which ingredients are bad for our bodies and the environment is also impacted by data from research that is funded by companies with specific agendas. While do have this research to thank for the data we do have about ingredients toxicity, it's important to remember that data is frequently not published if it's counter to the funding company or organization's agenda, partial data can be manipulated and many ingredients have yet to be fully researched. Even the FDA has an agenda and is influenced by private funding. As a rule, we've been using the ingredients listed in your skin care products safely as a species for millennia it's probably all good, but all other ingredients should be regarded with a discerning eye.

List of Toxic Sunscreen Ingredients

We all want to take the best care of our skin possible, and one of the most important steps is to make sure we are using sunscreen to protect ourselves from the damaging effects of the sun’s rays. While sunscreen is a great way to protect our skin, it is important to know which ingredients to avoid when choosing a sunscreen. Here are five ingredients to watch out for in your sunscreen:

1. Titanium Dioxide Nanoparticles

One ingredient to be aware of is titanium dioxide nanoparticles. While these nanoparticles provide a physical barrier against the sun's UV rays, they can also cause oxidative stress and inflammation, leading to a variety of health issues. What's more, titanium dioxide nanoparticles are not biodegradable, meaning they can't be broken down naturally by the environment. Even worse, these particles can also be absorbed through the skin, leading to potential health risks. For these reasons, it's best to avoid sunscreens that contain titanium dioxide nanoparticles.

2. Chemical Filters

Sunscreen is an essential part of any summer-time routine, but many of us don’t realize that the ingredients in our sunscreen can be damaging both to our health and to the environment. It’s important to be aware of the ingredients in your sunscreen, and to avoid any products that contain chemical filters such as oxybenzone, octinoxate, and avobenzone.

These chemical filters are designed to absorb UV rays, but can penetrate the skin and enter the bloodstream, leading to potential hormonal disruption and other health risks. Not only can they be hazardous to our health, but chemical filters can also be damaging to our coral reefs, as they are toxic to the marine environment.

Furthermore, chemical filters break down when exposed to the sun, meaning they offer inadequate protection from the sun’s UV rays. To protect your skin and the environment, it’s best to avoid any products that contain chemical filters. Instead, opt for sunscreens that use physical filters such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, which provide a protective barrier between your skin and the sun’s rays.

3. Parabens

Parabens are artificial preservatives used in a variety of products, including sunscreen. They have been linked to various health concerns, such as endocrine disruption, cancer, and reproductive toxicity. Parabens are absorbed through the skin and can stay in the body for up to 48 hours. This means that if you use sunscreen with parabens, you may be exposed to them for a long period of time.

Not only are parabens found in sunscreen, but they can also be found in food and other cosmetics. This means that it is important to read labels carefully in order to avoid parabens. Luckily, parabens are not essential to sunscreen formulation, and there are now many sunscreens available without them.

4. Retinyl Palmitate or Retinol

Retinyl Palmitate or Retinol is one such commonly-found ingredient in sunscreen that can actually be quite dangerous.

Retinol has been linked to an increased risk of skin cancer when exposed to UV rays. It can also cause skin irritation and sensitivity, making it an ingredient to avoid in your sunscreen. Not only can Retinol cause photo-sensitivity, making the skin more easily damaged by the sun, leading to an increased risk of sunburns and premature wrinkles, but it is also toxic to the environment. So if you want to protect yourself and the environment, it's important to avoid Retinol in your sunscreen.

There are plenty of sunscreens out there that don't contain Retinol, so take the time to read labels and choose one that is safe for your skin and the environment. Natural ingredients such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are great alternatives for protecting your skin from UV rays, and they don't contain any of the dangerous chemicals that Retinol does.

5. Spray Sunscreen

Spray sunscreen can contain aerosolized chemicals that are not only potentially hazardous to the environment, but to the user as well. Many of the ingredients used to make spray sunscreens are not regulated by the FDA, meaning they could contain potentially harmful chemicals. Inhaling these chemicals can be dangerous, as many of these sprays contain toxic chemicals like oxybenzone and octinoxate. Additionally, the use of spray sunscreen can lead to skin irritation due to the presence of alcohols, fragrances, and preservatives. Finally, sprays can be difficult to apply evenly, leading to sunburns and other skin problems.

To ensure your safety and the safety of your family, it is important to be aware of the ingredients used in sunscreens. Here are a few other ingredients to avoid when shopping for sunscreen:

1. Alcohols

2. Fragrances

3. Preservatives

4. Aerosolized chemicals

Remember, when you’re out in the sun, it’s important to be aware of what’s in your sunscreen and to use a product that is safe and effective. Avoiding these five ingredients will help you protect yourself and your family from the harmful effects of the sun.

Safe Sunscreen Ingredients

If you are hoping to stay away from harmful chemicals in sunscreen, the safest choices are often “mineral” or “physical” sunscreens. These sunscreens are made with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide non-nanoparticles. According to the FDA, these ingredients are “generally recognized as safe and effective.”

Ewg's Top-rated Sunscreens

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is the widely recognized best source for safe product research, suggestions and information. The EWG has a great selection of sunscreens that have been deemed safe and have few to none of the dangerous ingredients listed above. These sunscreens are safe both for the environment and for your body! My favorite safe sunscreen can be found here!

Choose Safe Sun Protection

Another alternative to consider apart from chemical sun protection is layering up! Wearing light natural fibers like linen can help to shade the skin from the sun without the hassle of trying to find a safe sunscreen and without the waste that comes with sunscreen products. Always consider bringing light layers as alternatives to chemical sun protection that can be removed when it gets really toasty. This will help you stretch your sunscreen farther and will provide more options for sun protection on those beautiful blue sky days!


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