What You Need to Know about Sunscreens and Skin Cancer

It’s the end of spring and the school year, and in a couple of weeks summer officially starts.  The days are getting longer and hotter, and people will be spending more time outdoors doing yard work, sports, sitting at the beach, and going on vacation.  Of course this means more sun exposure and the chance of getting burned from having become a “pale-face” all winter.  The media and health authorities recommend covering stk103316corup with sunscreen to protect yourself from “the sun’s harmful rays”.  But what you are not told is that most conventional sunscreens are not healthy and may be doing you more harm than good.

Most sunscreens are chemical soups with ingredients that may not have been fully tested for toxicity. In fact, many of the ingredients are not only dangerous but have been shown to be carcinogenic, skin irritants, and hormone disruptors.  They can cause DNA mutations, cardiovascular disease, liver failure, dizziness, nausea, and difficulty in breathing.  P-Aminobenzoic acid (PABA), a common ingredient in sunscreens, has been banned in Europe but is still allowed in the US, and has been shown to be extremely toxic.  You should be aware that anything that is applied to the skin is absorbed within 20 seconds, and when people apply sunscreens, they slather it on getting a good dose of these poisons.

Here is a list of the top 5 toxic chemicals found in sunscreens:

1. Oxybenzone a.k.a. benzophenone-3 is a chemical added to most sunscreens to guard the skin from UVA rays. It also prevents other sunscreen ingredients from deteriorating. Sunlight causes oxybenzone to form free radical chemicals linked to cell damage.Sixty-five percent of non-mineral sunscreens on the U.S. market contain oxybenzone. This chemical penetrates your skin in large amounts, potentially triggering allergic reactions. Oxybenzone is also a potential endocrine-disrupting chemical that can cause hormone disruption and cell damage.

2. Nanoparticles are extremely tiny particles added to sunscreen because they are easily absorbed by the skin. “Spray Sunscreens” frequently contain nano particles and are more dangerous. This is because the particles can be inhaled. Safe metals such as zinc and titanium dioxide occurring in most sunscreens are safe as long as they aren’t put in nano particle form

3. Retinyl Palmitate [RP] received a lot of press a few years ago. RP is a form of vitamin A added to 41% of the sunscreens on the market and to other skin care products. In a National Toxicology Program (NTP) study, it was found when skin is treated with a mix of retinyl palmitate and skin cream and is exposed to ultraviolet light, the cream with retinyl palmitate stimulated lesion and tumor growth. While Vitamin A is a wonderful skin care ingredient when in it’s natural state, it obviously has no business being in a sunscreen when your skin is in direct sunlight.

4. Octyl methoxycinnamate, also known as Octinoxate, Eusolex 2292 and Uvinul MC80, creates free radicals inside the skin which post significant threat to DNA. Like oxybenzone, it works with other penetration enhancers to penetrate skin and accumulates in the body. Also, similarly to retinyl palmitate, it has phototoxic effects (toxic reaction provoked by light and often linked to photosensitivity!)

5. Another ingredient used to block UVA rays is Padimate O, paraminobenzoic acid, or PABA. Research shows this chemical releases free radicals, damages DNA, has estrogenic activity, and causes allergic reactions in some people. A report done by the FDA a few years ago implicated padimate O as a nitrosamine, a class of compounds known to be carcinogenic. Many people avoid this because it is irritating to the skin.

Sunscreens do block out the sun, but the sunshine is necessary to create Vitamin D in the body.  It is estimated that 70% of people in this country are vitamin D deficient.  Low vitamin D in the body can make you prone to the flu, other infections, depression, hormonal imbalances, and contribute to osteoporosis.  There are estimates that 50 to 80% of all cancers may be prevented with proper vitamin D levels.  It is well known that children need vitamin D for proper bone development and, if they are vitamin D deficient, they may develop rickets, are more prone to bone fractures, Multiple Sclerosis, and sudden infant death (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2168264/Washout-summer-lead-rickets-epidemic-children-exposed-regular-sunlight-needed-produce-vitamin-D.html).

But, you may say, we know that too much sun causes skin cancer.  What should we do?  There are a number of precautions that people can take to prevent skin cancer: 

  • Don’t burn! This is of utmost importance.  Each year reintroduce yourself to the sun with a little exposure at a time so your skin can develop a tan.  It’s not tanning that causes cancer – it’s the burn.
  • If you do burn, take a good anti-oxidant like vitamin E or Astaxanthin.  Burning is oxidation, and these supplements can stop the process.  Astaxanthin is very well known for boosting your skin’s natural ability to protect against burning.
  • Eat a good diet.  No, eat a great diet.  Skin cancer is not caused by ultra violet light exposure only; eating junk food deficient in nutrients and anti-oxidants also makes you more prone to it.  Your skin is made of the food you eat.  Boost the health of your skin and it will protect you without the need for harmful chemicals.
  • If you still need a sunscreen, there are truly natural products you can use. Loving Naturals, and Badger All Natural Sunscreens are highly recommended. Or, if you are feeling ambitious, you can make your own sunscreen with this recipe using coconut oil:

Homemade Coconut Oil Sunscreen Recipe


1/4 cup coconut oil

1/4 cup shea butter

1/8 cup sesame or jojoba oil

2 tbsp. beeswax granules

1-2 tbsp. zinc oxide powder (optional)

1 tsp. red raspberry seed oil

1 tsp. carrot seed oil

Essential oils of your choice (lavender, rosemary, vanilla, and/or peppermint are nice)


1. Using a double boiler (or a small pan over very low heat), melt your coconut oil, sesame or jojoba oil, beeswax, and shea butter together. The beeswax will be the last to melt.

2. When the beeswax is melted, remove the mixture from the heat and let cool to room temperature. If you’re using zinc oxide, whisk it in at this point, being careful not to create a lot of dust. If there are some lumps, that’s OK. They will break up when you whip the body butter in step 4.

3. Move the mixture to the fridge for 15-30 minutes. You want it to start to set up, but still be soft enough to whip.

4. Take the mixture out of the fridge and using a stand mixer or hand mixer, start to whip it. Drizzle in the red raspberry seed oil, the carrot seed oil, and any essential oils of your choice, and continue whipping until the mixture is light and fluffy.

5. Use as you would any regular sunscreen. Application rates will depend on your activity and exposure to water. Store in a glass container in the fridge between uses.

Those of us who live in northeast Ohio know what it’s like to live without the sun for months at a time.  So when the weather gets warm we can’t wait to get out and soak it all up.  But the media and others have misled us into thinking that the sun is our enemy.  The sun creates health in the body and is as necessary as the food you eat.  If you do the right things, you can truly enjoy the sun without the use of toxic chemicals or the fear of possible cancer.

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