If someone asks what my desert island product is? It would definitely be SUNSCREEN. Ask any dermatologist and they’d tell you to ALWAYS wear sunscreen 365 days a year if you want healthy, young looking skin. More importantly, wearing sunscreen will help protect us from skin cancer. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S. and approximately 9,500 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with skin cancer every day.
Up to 80 percent of the sun’s UV rays can pass through clouds, which is why you should wear sunscreen even when it’s cloudy and raining outside. Sunscreen is a must-have for both beauty and health…but is it actually healthy for us? Like some deodorants, some sunscreens are actually toxic. Today, I’m decoding the difference between natural (mineral-based sunscreens) and chemical-based sunscreens.
Photo by lack of color.
CHEMICAL VS MINERAL SUNSCREENS: WHICH ONE SHOULD I CHOOSE?
There are two types of sunscreens: chemical and mineral. If you’re short on time and can’t be bothered with reading the details, just remember chemical = problem and mineral = better choice. Here’s why: Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing the UV rays from the sun, converting them into heat, and then releasing the heat from our bodies. They usually contain a combination of these chemicals: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate.
Although there are many other suspicious ingredients found in sunscreens, the one I’d like to focus on is OXYBENZONE.
WHY YOU SHOULD AVOID OXYBENZONE
Our skin absorbs oxybenzone like a SPONGE. A study from the EWG illustrated how sensitive our skin is to oxybenzone. Participants in the study who used chemical sunscreen had higher levels of oxybenzone in their bodies than those who did not. An even more interesting study showed correlations between eliminating usage of products containing oxybenzone and significantly lower oxybenzone levels in the body.
IT’S A KNOWN HORMONE DISRUPTOR
Oxybenzone is classified as an ENDOCRINE (hormone) DISRUPTOR. Endocrine disruptors alter the hormone levels in your body and are thought to lead to adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects. Hormones are the chemical messengers that travel in your body and are responsible for coordinating complex processes like growth, metabolism, and fertility. They can influence the function of the immune system, and even alter behavior. More importantly, endocrine disruptors have been linked to lowered fertility and an increased incidence of endometriosis and some cancers. For reference, parabens, phthalates and synthetic fragrances are also all known endocrine disruptors.
Photo by the Linda Edit.
WHY PREGNANT WOMEN SHOULD BE CONCERNED
Oxybenzone doesn’t just affect you because if you’re pregnant it can impact the health of your baby too. Studies have shown significant relations between oxybenzone exposure in pregnant women, shorter pregnancy terms and lower birth weights in newborn males. A study conducted by American Academy of Pediatrics in 2006 found that infants with moderately low birth weights were significantly more likely to have a special health care need, chronic condition (diabetes, heart disease, etc), learning disability, and/or attention-deficit disorder (ADD) or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder(ADHD).
Oxybenzone not only affects your baby during pregnancy but can continue to affect them after they are born through breast milk. Margaret Schlumpf of the University of Zurich detected oxybenzone in Swiss women’s breast milk, which suggests that newborns may be exposed to these substances (Schlumpf 2008, Schlumpf 2010).
WHY MEN SHOULD BE CONCERNED
In a study conducted on American children, researchers found that adolescent boys with higher oxybenzone measurements had significantly lower testosterone levels (Scinicariello 2016). Lower levels of testosterone has been linked to low energy levels, hair loss/male pattern balding, increased body fat, and lowered sex drive.
Photo by Catrin Johnson.
OXYBENZONE & CORAL REEFS
When we swim in the ocean with chemical sunscreen on, oxybenzone enters into the water and gets ingested by corals. Oxybenzone has been found to decrease the coral’s defenses against bleaching and disrupts it’s reproduction and growth cycles.
In 2018, Hawaii passed a bill banning sunscreens containing the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate in efforts to help protect their marine life and coral reefs.
CHOOSE NATURAL SUNSCREENS
The FDA says the only sunscreen ingredients that they know for certain are safe are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, also known as the two main active ingredients found in mineral sunscreens. They work by sitting on top of the skin and reflecting the sun’s rays. Mineral sunscreens that use zinc oxide or titanium dioxide are also coral-reef safe, as their particle sizes are much bigger than oxybenzone and cannot be ingested by corals.
Because mineral sunscreen doesn’t penetrate the skin, its only real downside is the trademark white cast sunscreen is famous for. But hey, I’d rather look like a ghost on the beach knowing my skin is protected.
Look for tinted mineral sunscreens or apply sunscreen underneath your makeup.
A lot of natural sunscreens use coconut oil which can leave your skin looking and feeling greasy. It’s also not ideal to use coconut oil on acne-prone skin as it can clog your pores, so look for coconut oil-free natural sunscreens.
Do you have a favourite mineral sunscreen? Share your recommendations below!