Is Your Sunscreen Doing More Harm Than Good? – Part 2

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By Sharon Gnatt Epel

familyContinued from part 1 of this article…..

* Oxybenzone (a derivative of benzophenone) – is another chemical that has been implicated in causing hormonal disruption to the body. It can penetrate the skin and be absorbed by the body. The FDA has long approved its use as a broad spectrum SPF (blocking both UVA and UVB radiation) for anyone older than 6 months. But many toxicologists and consumer protection agencies like the Environmental Working Group and the European equivalent of the FDA disagree. In fact, in Europe, any product containing more than 0.5% of this chemical must display a warning label telling consumers that it “Contains oxybenzone.”

* Retinyl palmitate is another chemical that has recently come under scrutiny. A form of Vitamin A, research has shown that retinyl palmitate can potentially increase the risk of skin cancer (tumors) when exposed directly to the sun. This makes it all right for use in a night cream, but a questionable if not downright risky choice for use in a sunscreen.

* Avobenzone is one of the most popular sunscreens on the market and considered one of the less harmful SPFs. However, it is a free radical generator. Free radicals, you may recall, are atoms that have an odd number of electrons (unpaired) in their outer shell making them essentially unstable. They actively seek out other molecules from whom they can “steal” electrons, setting off a chain reaction that causes damage to the molecule and the cell that it is in. Free radicals are thought to be a major cause of degenerative disease and premature aging.

So what’s a responsible, health-conscious adult to do?

The answer may lie in seeking out safer, more natural alternatives.

One easy way to avoid sunburn is to don protective clothing. Specialty manufacturers now make broad-rimmed hats, shirts, jackets, gloves and socks that have an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF). Unlike SPFs which generally protect against UVA only, the UPF number indicates the effectiveness of the garment against both UVB and UVA ultraviolet rays. Just like SPF ratings, UPF scores range from low to high as an indicator of their efficacy. I am a fan of this clothing because it is light, comfortable, and perfect for children and adults who live in areas of high-elevation. It is also very helpful to those of us who are involved in water sports since water magnifies the sun’s rays and increases the risk of sunburn. You can Google “sun protection clothing” for links to companies that carry these types of garments.

Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are two safer sunscreen ingredient options that have been around for a long time and worth pursuing. That is, unless they have been micronized – oops! – a process also known as nanotechnology, that reduces the size of a molecule so drastically that it can pass through the layers of the skin and find its way into the bloodstream. This process was originally devised to reduce the amount of white residue left behind by zinc oxide and titanium dioxide that looked unsightly and tended to settle in people’s wrinkles.

The Environmental Working Group’s 2013 Guide to Sunscreens contains a list of safer alternatives, and other interesting information about sunscreen, high SPFs (are they really longer lasting?), the inclusion of SPFs in lip balms and cosmetics, and the latest research about their potential risk to your health.

In the meantime, please take precautions and use common sense when being outdoors for long periods of time. Remember: a sunburn may not hurt for very long, but the damage it causes will last forever.

– Copyright August 2013 by Sharon Gnatt Epel for La Isha Natural Skin Care

– Sharon Gnatt Epel is the CEO/Founder, La Isha Natural & Organic Skincare.