I want to tell you about the hazards lurking in most sun protection products on the market...and in your cabinet. Surprising when you learn that the ingredients you are diligently using to protect yourself from the sun's damage, could actually be hurting you more than the sun. When you consider that the harmful UVA rays can get you, even through glass and clouds, you realize that it's imperative that you wear a good, healthy sunscreen every day. Not to mention...it's the number one preventative measure against skin aging. Here's a quick cheat sheet on which ingredients to always avoid. And, at the bottom, which to embrace.
Oxybenzone: This penetration enhancer (i.e., chemical that helps other chemicals penetrate the skin) undergoes a chemical reaction when exposed to UV rays. When oxybenzone is absorbed by your skin, it can cause an eczema-like allergic reaction that can spread beyond the exposed area and last long after you're out of the sun. Experts also suspect that oxybenzone disrupts hormones (i.e., mimics, blocks, and alters hormone levels) which can throw off your endocrine system. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 97 percent of Americans have this chemical circulating in our bodies, as it can accumulate more quickly than our bodies can get rid of it.
Octinoxate: One of the most common ingredients found in sunscreens with SPF, octinoxate is readily absorbed by our skin and helps other ingredients to be absorbed more readily. While allergic reactions from octinoxate aren't common, hormone disruption is: the chemical's effects on estrogen can be harmful for humans and wildlife, too, should they come into contact with the chemical once it gets into water. Though SPF products are designed to protect skin from sun-induced aging, octinoxate may actually be a culprit for premature aging, as it produces menacing free radicals that can damage skin and cells.
Avobenzone: Easily absorbed through the epidermis and a chemical that absorbs ultraviolet radiation energy. Since it cannot destroy this energy, it has to convert the light energy into chemical energy, which is normally released as free radicals. In sunlight, Avobenzone degrades and becomes ineffective within about 1 hour.
Retinyl Palmitate (Vitamin A Palmitate): Just like the vitamin A we eat, retinyl palmitate is an antioxidant. As an ingredient in sunscreen, it's function is to improve the product's performance against the aging effects of UV exposure, However, certain forms of vitamin A found in sun protection products—namely retinyl palmitate, a combination of retinol (vitamin A) and palmitic acid, an ingredient found in tropical plants such as palm and coconut—can be cause for concern. When exposed to the sun's UV rays, retinol compounds break down and produce destructive free radicals that are toxic to cells, damage DNA, and may lead to cancer. In fact, FDA studies have shown that retinyl palimitate may speed the development of malignant cells and skin tumors when applied to skin before sun exposure, so steer clear of skin sun products that harbor the stuff.
Homosalate: This UV-absorbing sunscreen ingredient helps sunscreen to penetrate your skin. Once the ingredient has been absorbed, homosalate accumulates in our bodies faster than we can get rid of it, becomes toxic and disrupts our hormones.
Octocrylene: When this chemical is exposed to UV light, it absorbs the rays and produces oxygen radicals that can damage cells and cause mutations. It is readily absorbed by your skin and may accumulate within your body in measurable amounts. Plus, it can be toxic to the environment.
Paraben Preservatives: Associated with both acute and chronic side effects, parabens (butyl-, ethyl-, methyl-, and propyl-) can induce allergic reactions, hormone disruption, developmental and reproductive toxicity. While butylparaben was reported to be non-carcinogenic in rats and mice, but it has been previously suspected that parabens and other chemicals in underarm cosmetics may contribute to the rising incidence of breast cancer.
Paba (para-aminobenzoic acid): Though rarely used now in sunscreens, be aware of products that contain the ingredient. Forty percent of the population is sensitive to it, experiencing red, itchy skin.
Fragrance and/or Essential Oils: mostly synthetic ingredients can indicate the presence of up to four thousand separate ingredients, many toxic or carcinogenic. Symptoms reported to the FDA include headaches, dizziness, allergic rashes, skin discoloration, violent coughing and vomiting, and skin irritation. Clinical observation proves fragrances can affect the central nervous system, causing depression, hyperactivity, irritability, inability to cope, and other behavioral changes. Our skin perceives essential oils to be complex chemical components. Over time, essential oils will cumulatively and imperceptibly cause skin sensitization and irritation. It's no wonder everyone has "sensitive skin" these days.
Nanoparticles: Physical sunblocks, made with the minerals titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, stay on skin's surface, reflecting UV rays. However, to make them more aesthetically appealing and less opaque, some newer products use titanium dioxide or zinc oxide reduced to microscopic nanoparticles. A nanometer (nm) is about a billionth of a meter-a unit so small that a single human hair is about 80,000 nm in diameter. The nanoparticles are unpredictable - they could penetrate the skin, enter the bloodstream, where they may damage cells.
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