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Jun 24, 2011

Sunscreen Safety Update

Now that summer has finally arrived, it’s time to consider the best options when it comes to protecting your skin and overall health from increased sun exposure.  Contrary to popular belief, protection and safety is not as simple as slathering on the cheapest SPF-50 available.  Many sunscreens on the market today are loaded with potentially toxic chemical compounds, and safety concerns have arisen.  According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), many products still contain a form of vitamin A known as retinyl palmitate.  Research by the FDA indicates this chemical may raise risk of skin cancer when used on skin exposed to sunlight.  Other research has shown that one of the commonly used ingredients in sunscreens called oxybenzone, may mimic the effects of estrogen in the body, thus promoting the growth of cancer cells.  

Although sunscreens help lower UV-related free radical damage by interfering with penetration of radiation into the skin, a large number of these same sunscreens contain ingredients that generate free radicals upon their own exposure to UV rays.  This is concerning since products applied to the skin are generally easily absorbed into the bloodstream.  The EWG states “an effective sunscreen prevents more free radical damage (from UV radiation) than it creates through its own free radical generation. It reduces UV exposure without itself damaging skin.”  Since antioxidants help counteract the damaging effects of free radicals, many good sunscreens will also contain ingredients with antioxidant activity.     
Don’t let the bad sunscreens out there stop you from using all sunscreens!  Although a majority of sunscreens may be more damaging to the body than they are protective, a well-selected sunscreen is an essential part of protecting your skin from excess ultraviolet radiation.  Some of the top-rated sunscreens to look for include those that are mineral-based and do not contain oxybenzone or vitamin A.  To check how your sunscreen is rated and to read more great tips about sun safety, visit EWGs website at

Shana McQueen, N.D.