Toxic death cream.
That’s what one mother called it, as she smeared the white cream onto her child’s back.
It was a popular brand of sunblock containing the chemical oxybenzone. It was the only kind she could find at the shop.
What’s wrong with sunscreen?
Isn’t wearing sunscreen supposed to be good for you?
Before you pick up that bottle of Banana Boat or Coppertone, do your research.
Know what’s in that bottle BEFORE you apply it.
What’s Wrong with Sunscreen?
Sunscreen is no longer optional. We ALL have to wear it.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer. More people diagnosed with it each year than all other cancers combined. Rates of the deadliest skin cancer, melanoma, have doubled over the past 3 decades.
So the question isn’t whether you should wear sunscreen.
It’s what KIND of sunscreen you should wear.
Go grab the bottle of sunscreen you’re using, and flip it over to read the active ingredient list on the back.
Does it contain oxybenzone?
Oxybenzone is an active ingredient in over half of chemical sunscreens.
Chemical sunscreens contain chemicals that absorb UV rays, convert them to heat, then release them.
So far, so good.
Except that the sunscreen you apply is not just getting washed off when you shower…
It’s getting absorbed through the skin into your body.
Which means that the chemicals in your sunscreen can affect you internally, potentially causing havoc.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found oxybenzone in 96% of the population. Which means you probably already have this chemical inside you. Levels rise over the summer, when people are using more sunscreen.
It was named “Allergen of the Year” by the American Contact Dermatitis Society in 2014.
But having an allergic reaction is the least of your worries.
Oxybenzone is an endocrine disrupter, which means it messes with your hormones. It’s been linked to lower testosterone levels in adolescent boys, decreased sperm count in men, and early puberty in girls.
Using an oxybenzone-based sunscreen while you’re pregnant can affect the duration of the pregnancy and birth weight of the baby.
And if that’s not enough to make you think twice…
If you live in Hawaii or plan to vacation there, you soon won’t have a choice. Sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate have been banned due to their impact on coral reefs.
And that’s not even getting into methylisothiazolinone and retinyl palmitate, which are two other sunscreen ingredients known to cause problems.
What’s the alternative?
Do Your Research
You don’t have to learn how to analyze the ingredients list of a sunscreen if you don’t want to. Just hop online and check out the Environmental Working Group’s list of the safest sunscreen brands.
Dr. Josh Axe provides a useful list of sunscreen brands as well.
Unfortunately, popular brands like Banana Boat, Coppertone, and Neutrogena—the brands most likely to be on sale—are the ones you most want to avoid.
Spray sunscreens, despite being convenient, aren’t recommended because it’s too easy to inhale the particles.
Stick with Physical Sunscreens
Not all sunscreens work the same.
They come in two forms: chemical and physical.
You already know how chemical sunscreens work.
Physical sunscreens create a physical barrier that deflects UV rays. They’re usually made from either titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. They don’t penetrate the skin like chemical sunscreens.
Old formulations looked chalky—you could see a white smear where you’d applied them—but newer formulations disappear on application.
If you have the choice between titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, choose zinc oxide. It blocks both kinds of UVA light as well as UVB. Surprisingly, you’ll find zinc oxide in diaper rash creams because it reduces inflammation and locks in moisture.
And if you tend to break out from sunscreen, which I do, zinc oxide can also help soothe acne irritation.
If you’re traveling through Europe, use the local sunscreen.
Europeans sunscreens tend to be stronger than U.S. brands. They tend to be safer, too.
I can attest to this. While on vacation in Greece, I was worried I’d get burned from the intensity of the Mediterranean sun. The sight of topless, red-backed tourists lying on the beaches didn’t instill me with confidence.
When my own sunscreen ran out, I had no choice but to buy local. And I was amazed. The sunscreen didn’t have any fragrance and kept me from burning despite the fact that I was spending much more time outside than usual.
Stay Out of the Sun
One of the best things you can do is layer up your sun protection. Always wear sunscreen, but don’t rely on it exclusively. Never use sunblock as an excuse to stay out longer in the sun.
Wear wide-brimmed hats and long sleeves. Stay in the shade. Avoid being outside when the sun is at its peak.
If worst comes to worst, carry your own shade.
Back when white skin was fashionable, ladies strolled down the street carrying parasols to protect them from the sun. Today, baby strollers come equipped with parasols to shade those new-baby eyes from the sun. Maybe parasols should be the next big fad!