Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Is Your Sunscreen Safe?

We are often reminded that we need to slip, slop, slap while we’re also told how bad sunscreen is for us.  Why are they so bad?  Well, they contain some pretty dubious ingredients – ingredients deemed hazardous to our health.  So while we may be protecting ourselves from melanoma [skin cancer], some ingredients in sunscreen may well be carcinogens themselves.

Let’s explore this.

Let’s have a look at some sunscreen lotions to get a better understanding of what is in them.

Invisible Zinc
Active ingredients
Zinc Oxide (18%)
Full ingredients
Water, Zinc Oxide, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Cyclomethicone, Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer, Lauryl PEG/PPG-18/8 Methicone, Phenyl trimethicone, Bis-PEG-18 Methyl Ether Dimethyl Silane, Isostearic Acid, Sodium Chloride, Polyhydroxy Stearic Acid, Diazolidinyl Urea, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate.   

Australian Gold Clear Spray Gel, SPF 30:
Active Ingredients:
Octinoxate (7.5%), Octisalate (5%), Oxybenzone (4%), Homosalate (6%) Inactive Ingredients: Acrylates/C10 30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Acrylates/C12 22 Alkyl Methacrylate Copolymer, Aloe Vera (Aloe Barbadensis) Leaf Juice, Butylphthalimide, Diazolidinyl Urea, Dimethicone, Disodium EDTA, Fragrance, Helianthus Annuus Seed Oil (Sunflower), Hydroxypropylmethylcellulose, Isopropylphthalimide, Melaleuca Altemifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Oil (Tea Tree), Methylparaben, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil (Olive), Oleth 10, Propylene Glycol, Propylparaben, Sorbitan Oleate, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Triethanolamine, Trimethylsiloxysilicate, Water

     Lauryl PEG/PPG-18/8 Methicone: this ingredient is not safe for use on injured or damaged skin.  PEG stands for propylene glycol, a carcinogenic petroleum ingredient that reduces the skin's natural moisture and aids in absorption of other chemicals.
     Diazolidinyl Urea: excreted from urine and other bodily fluids.  Diazolidinyl urea is an antimicrobial preservative that acts as a formaldehyde releaser in cosmetics and personal care products.
     Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate: acutely toxic by inhalation and should not be used in products that can be aerosolized or inhaled.
     Octinoxate: estrogenic effects are noted in laboratory animals, as well as disruption of thyroid hormone and brain signalling.
     Octisalate: a penetration enhancer, which can increase the amount of other ingredients passing through skin.
     Oxybenzone: has high hazard rating by EWG. Produces excess reactive oxygen species that can interfere with cellular signalling, cause mutations, lead to cell death and may be implicated in cardiovascular disease.

Of course you can also see these ingredients listed in the product(s): propylene glycol, propylparaben, methylparaben (which means parabens – and parabens are NOT good).

What should you do?

1. Limit your time in the sun to 10-15 minutes a day - this is just enough time to absorb the all-important vitamin D, which strengthens bones and the immune system and is our bodies natural defense for reducing the risk of certain skin and other cancers.  Let me say that again: getting 10mins of sun a day REDUCES your risk of getting cancers.
Many of us avoid the sun completely which may attribute to the RISE in cancer rates.

2. Avoid the sun during 11am and 3pm.

3. Do NOT get sunburn.  It goes without saying, this damages your skin and increases the risk of skin cancer.

4. Wear suitable protective clothing, such as a long sleeve cotton shirt, a hat and sun glasses (optional) when outside, and stick to the shade.

4. Hunt around for a safe sunscreen that does not contain dubious ingredients.  One of the best ways to do this is by visiting the website and typing in ‘sunscreen’ to see what brands and ratings come up.  Once you’ve found a suitable sunscreen, don’t go spending long amounts of time in the sun - too much sun isn't good for us: it can cause sunstroke and dehydration for starters.  Note: many sunscreen only protect against UVB rays, not UVA.

It is interesting to note that while the use of sunscreens is on the increase, the rate of skin cancers is not declining.

Some reason for this are:
  1. the types of people who use sunscreens (such as freckled and fair skinned) could have an enhanced risk of skin cancer to begin with.
  2. sunscreens only protect from UVB rays and not UVA.
  3. people who use sunscreens stay out in the sun for hours thinking they’re protected and safe.
  4. sunscreens are often not applied properly.
  5. sunscreens block vitamin D being absorbed into the skin which protects us from certain cancers.
  6. sunscreens potentially contain carcinogenic ingredients.

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