Sunscreen is one item that should always go into an emergency kit along with a good pair of sunglasses but the type of sunscreen you choose is a very important decision to your health…the wrong kind of sunscreen can actually be quite toxic and dangerous to your health.
Types of Sunscreens:
There are basically three categories of sunscreen: Chemical, Physical Barrier and Internal Sunscreen.
Let’s start with chemical sunscreens. Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing sunlight. In sunlight many chemical sunscreen chemicals release free radicals that can damage DNA and cells, promote skin aging, possibly raise risks for skin cancer, mimic estrogen and disrupt hormones in the body and contain very toxic chemicals.
Chemical Sunscreens Have Three Primary Dangerous Attributes:
1. They are powerful free radical generators. Their free radical generation increases cellular damage and changes that lead to cancer. Vitamin A, added to forty one percent of all sunscreens to slow skin aging, might sound like a good thing, but an FDA study recently indicated that a form of vitamin A, retinyl palmitate, applied to the skin in the presence of sunlight, may speed the development of skin tumors and lesions (NTP 2009). Scientists have known for some time that vitamin A causes excess skin growth, and that in sunlight it can form free radicals that damage DNA (NTP 2000).
2. They often have strong estrogenic activity
Estrogenic – “Gender Bending” – chemicals interfere with normal sexual development creating a host of secondary medical problems. Chemicals with estrogen-like actions can also cause severe developmental problems in nature such as turning fish into hermaphrodites…and with all the ads on TV for Viagra and ED issues you have to wonder what it is doing to humans as well.
Also, the greatest increases in human cancers over the last 30 years have been those of the breast, ovaries, testes, and prostate, all tissues that are sensitive to sex hormones.
Margaret Schlumpf and her colleagues (Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Zurich, Switzerland) have found that many widely-used sunscreen chemicals mimic the effects of estrogen and trigger developmental abnormalities in rats.
Schlumpf , Margaret; Beata Cotton, Marianne Conscience, Vreni Haller, Beate Steinmann, Walter Lichtensteiger. In vitro and in vivo estrogenicity of UV screens. Environmental Health Perspectives Vol. 109 (March 2001) pp 239-244
Her group tested six common chemicals that are used in sunscreens. Five of the six tested chemicals (benzophenone-3, homosalate, 4-methyl-benzylidene camphor (4-MBC), octyl-methoxycinnamate and octyl-dimethyl-PABA) behaved like strong estrogen in lab tests and caused cancer cells to grow more rapidly.
Uterine growth and endometriosis
One very common sunscreen chemical, 4-MBC, was mixed with olive oil and applied to rat skin. This caused a doubling of the rate of uterine growth well before puberty. “That was scary, because we used concentrations that are in the range allowed in sunscreens,” said Schlumpf. Three of the six caused developmental abnormalities in animals. The major cause of sterility in women in the USA is endometriosis, a condition afflicting 5.5% of American women. Exposure to excessive estrogen, that may have come from such sunscreens, is felt to be the primary cause of endometriosis.
3. They are synthetic chemicals that are alien to the human body and accumulate in body fat stores.
The human body is well adapted to de-toxify biologicals that it has been exposed to over tens of millions of years. But it has often has difficulty removing new and non-biological compounds such DDT, Dioxin, PCBs, and chemical sunscreens.
Chemical sunscreens are the most commonly used and are available in a variety of formulations. They contain one or more of the UV radiation-absorbing chemicals:
PABA and PABA esters - (p-aminobenzoic acid, ethyl dihydroxy propyl PAB, glyceryl PABA, p-aminobenzoic acid, padimate-O or octyl dimethyl PABA) – Attacks DNA and causes genetic mutation when exposed to sunlight.
Cinnamates - (cinoxate, ethylhexyl p-methoxycinnamate, octocrylene, octyl methoxycinnamate) – Used to absorb UVB rays, actually kills skin cells!
Salicylates – (octylsalicylate, homosalate), can cause:
Changes in skin color
Irritated and itchy skin
Hives, rashes and mouth ulcers
Itchy burning, inflamed or puffy eyes
Swelling of the face or lips
Wheezing and coughing
Swelling of the hands and feet
Anthranilates (methyl anthranilate) – Used to absorb UVA and UVB rays, is also a skin and eye irritant.
Benzophenone (and similar compounds) – Used for UVA and UVB radiation protection, is one of the most powerful free radical generators known. It is used in industrial processes as a free radical generator to initiate chemical reactions. Benzophenone is activated by ultraviolet light energy that breaks benzophenone’s double bond to produce two free radical sites. The free radicals then react with other molecules and produce damage to the fats, proteins, and DNA of the cells – the types of damage that produce skin aging and the development of cancer.
Many sunscreens also contain triethanolamine, a compound that can cause the formation of cancer causing nitrosamines in products by combining with nitrite used as preservative and often not disclosed on sunscreen labels.
Adding to the problem is that large amounts of applied sunscreens can enter the bloodstream though your skin. In the 1970s, Prof. Howard Maibach warned that up to 35 percent of sunscreen applied to the skin can pass through the skin and enter the bloodstream but this had little effect on sunscreen promotion or safety testing. The longer sunscreen chemicals are left on the skin, the greater the absorption into the body.
(Maibach, H. “NDELA-Percutaneous Penetration.” FDA Contract 223-75-2340, May 19, 1978)(Bronaugh, R.L., et al. “The effect of cosmetic vehicles on the penetration of N-nitrosodiethanolamine through excised human skin, J Invest Dermatol; 1981; 76(2): 94-96.)
Avobenzone [butyl-methyoxydibenzoylmethane; Parsol 1789] – This is the only chemical sunscreen currently allowed by the European Community. However, its safety is still questionable since it easily penetrates the skin and is a strong free radical generator.
Mineral oil – The primary oil base for most all of the chemical sunscreens on the market, coats skin like plastic and clogs pores, trapping toxins in, slows skin cell growth, disrupts normal hormone function and is suspected of causing cancer….it’s also a petroleum derivative…so you’re basically rubbing gasoline on your body…
Are chemical sunscreens still sounding like something you want to put on your skin?
To read a more in depth study on chemical sunscreen toxicity visit: http://www.skinbiology.com/toxicsunscreens.html
So let’s move on to physical barrier sunscreens.
Physical barrier sunscreens are opaque, solid colored substances, that are very effective in blocking both UVA and UVB radiation. Physical barrier sunscreens do not selectively absorb UVR, but reflect and scatter all light.
UV light is divided into three wavelength bands: UVA, UVB and UVC. UVA and UVB are the two that reach the earth and Physical Barrier sunscreens are effective at blocking both.
Most physical barrier sunscreens contain either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Zinc oxide is the safest & most effective option between the two – and zinc oxide has been used on the skin for hundreds of years.
Titanium dioxide has recently been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as an IARC Group 2B carcinogen “possibly carcinogen to humans“. A carcinogen is a substance that causes a cellular malfunction, causing the cell to become cancerous and thus potentially lethal to the surrounding tissue and ultimately the body as these rapidly growing mutated cells take over….so not the healthiest option for sunscreen or cosmetics of any kind although it is found in nearly every cosmetic and sunscreen.
So this leaves only zinc oxide as a safe and natural physical barrier sunscreen option.
A great organic zinc oxide sunscreen that I personally use and recommend is Badger Sunscreen.
And last we come to internal sunscreen. Internal sunscreen? Many people aren’t even aware that such an item exists…but this is also a really cool natural sunscreen option you might consider to complement your physical barrier sunscreen. This has actually been used as a sunburn remedy by native American Indians for centuries. It’s an extract from the fern plant Polypodium leucotomos.
Life Extension Foundation has formulated an extract from this fern plant and named it appropriately enough…Fernblock®. FernBlock® has shown remarkable effectiveness in shielding skin against dangerous ultraviolet exposure. Studies have shown that this fern extract has a high affinity for skin tissue and helps protect against ultraviolet damage shown to cause premature skin aging and wrinkling.
The highly targeted action of FernBlock® safely inhibits the absorption of harmful ultraviolet rays and quenches dangerous free radicals. FernBlock® also helps mitigate the consequences of excessive ultraviolet radiation by reducing the number of skin cells that indicate sun-induced injury. Additionally, it helps inhibit pro-inflammatory cells that cause redness and itching, blocks protein-destroying skin enzymes that decrease skin elasticity, and preserves the skin’s antioxidant status.
FernBlock® is designed to complement topical sunscreens for intense sun exposure. Topical sunscreens are effective if properly and regularly applied, especially for long periods of sun exposure. FernBlock® supplements the effects of sunscreens by protecting the entire skin surface and has an obvious advantage since it cannot be removed by perspiring or bathing.
For intense sun exposure, two to three capsules of FernBlock® and an effective sunscreen provide convenient and complete day-long protection. For short periods of sun exposure (such as walking to the car) that can add to cumulative ultraviolet damage, just one FernBlock® capsule should provide adequate protection.
For long periods of sun exposure, you should use FernBlock® along with a topical sunscreen to ensure complete sun protection.
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