• Carl Weston

What's with all the hype and concern around sunscreen!



So the science on sun exposure is clear: too much of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation leads to sunburns, rapidly aging skin, and potentially, skin cancer one of the leading cancers in the world. An estimated 20 percent of north Americans will develop skin cancer during their lifetimes, making it the most common form of cancer in the country. To lower their risk, many people turn to sunscreens—sprays, lotions, and even powders to protect their skin from the worst of the sun's effects. But unfortunately, while the choice to protect yourself from the sun is a no-brainer, the question is how to do so and be safe and healthy and consider the impact on the planet. A greater concern coming from a new study published recently and the lasting effects of sunscreen and the absorption of specific chemicals linked to sun screen.

Recent studies found that It took just one day of use for several common sunscreen ingredients to enter the bloodstream at levels high enough to trigger a government safety investigation, according to a pilot study conducted by the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, an arm of the US Food and Drug Administration.

The study published in the medical journal JAMA, also found that the blood concentration of three of the ingredients continued to rise as daily use continued and then remained in the body for at least 24 hours after sunscreen use ended. This is equally as concerning as the risk of cancer because all 4 listed concerns are highly carcinogenic and listed or believed to disrupt hormones.

The four chemicals studied or listed as potential harmful or unsafe are - avobenzone, oxybenzone, ecamsule and octocrylene -- these are the most common and are part of a dozen that the FDA recently said need to be studied more before they could be considered and generally regarded as safe and effective. Don't freakout though as I for one have been using sunscreen for my entire life and I have fair skin but why just now we are being told that it may be harmful. Well no surprise here that as always big Pharma always uses loopholes and back doors to get by the FDA, but sadly yes, we've been lathering ourselves with toxic lotion and sitting in the sun for a lifetime with increased risk and concern.

Sunscreens were originally introduced as cosmetics and beauty enhancers, but because they made health claims (using sun screen will stop sunburn) the Food and Drug Administration made the decision to regulate them as drugs in 1978. But sunscreens that had been in use before 1978 weren't subject to the torrent of tests faced by new drugs. As long as companies could prove efficacy, their products were more or less grandfathered in, with ingredients occupying a category called Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS). Thankfully this is now being recognized and more is being done. And not only are most sunscreens being labelled as toxic these toxic chemicals also damage and destroy our planets beautiful reefs. I always question if it can kill other living creatures what is it doing to our amazing bodies.

Oxybenzone or a category of Benzophenones, is a chemical ultraviolet light absorber used in various products ranging from sunscreens and hair sprays to plastic lens filters for colour photography. It has a history for use as a preserver to extend the shelf life of paints, varnishes, and other industrial products, and benzophenones were added to sunscreens in the 1950s. Other personal care products that may contain benzophenones are hair dyes, perfumes, shampoos, detergent bars, and nail polishes. The agents are still used in number of industrial applications, including plastic lens filters for colour photography, aerosol sprays to protect colour prints, and transparent shades to protect window displays and is one of the more widely studied chemicals listed in nearly all sunscreen. Oxybenzone has been linked in past studies to hormone imbalancing, however more studies in rats have been done. In 2008, the us centre for disease control and prevention analyzed urine samples collected by a government study and found oxybenzone in 97% of the samples. Since then, studies have shown a potential link between oxybenzone and low testosterone levels in adolescent boys, hormone changes in men, and shorter pregnancies and disrupted birth weights in babies, but researchers caution about assuming association. But while the jury is still out on oxybenzones safety, we know that our bodies absorb it and only in one application of sunscreen and it lasts in your body for 24 hours. A 2002 study found that adults who put on sunscreen containing four percent oxybenzone (the US allows up to six percent) in the morning and evening as per a vacation per say continued to excrete the chemical in their urine for five days afterwards, suggesting that it was being stored in the body. This is the main concerning one but let's look at the other which pose a risk for those who use sunscreen.

Avobenzone is another full UVA blocker and stops the rays getting to the skin, studies are less in this but concern the same tendencies as oxybenzone, we know not all sun screens are equal in effectiveness and or health values, but there are only two effective UVA blockers, one chemical and one mineral (Avobenzone and Zinc Oxide). Avobenzone was approved by the FDA in 1988 for its ability to absorb UVA rays, which cause premature aging and skin cancer. For that reason it is used by millions looking to protect themselves from the sun. But this is problematic for people worried about the toxic effects of what they are putting on their skin. Why?

Avobenzone breaks down super quick when exposed to sunlight, avobenzone alone only offers about 30 minutes of protection. Since UVA rays do their damage deep within the layers of your skin, you wouldn’t even know it until many years later. Because many chemical sunscreen companies still use avobenzone for UVA protection, they then have to add some other, even more unsafe, chemicals like octocrylene, homosalate, or octisalate to make the avobenzone work longer than 30 minutes. Many studies have found that Avobenzone Containing Sunscreens Often Cause Skin Allergies, there are a number of articles in the literature about Octocrylene - the most common avobenzone stabilizer chemical - causing skin irritation, including rashes and acne. Avobenzone Containing Sunscreens have been shown to and can cause hormone disruption - and are even more toxic when exposed to chlorine which is used in most pools by people in summer months. Avobenzone degrades when it is exposed to the sun (remember its short 30 minute life?), which results in harmful free radicals being released into your system. free radicals are know to accelerating cancer. These free radicals can actually accelerate the aging process and increase the risk of illness including all cancers. Making this worse, because of its short life - Avobenzone is always linked with other chemical ingredients, Octocrylene, Homosalate or Octisalate, to stabilize it, which each have dangerous side effects:

Octocrylene is most often found with Avobenzone. Too much of this chemical can have harmful side effects. Because it is absorbed into the skin so easily, it can penetrate to the deepest layers of the skin and has more interactions with other chemicals which causes changes deep in the skin, producing oxygen radicals that can damage cells and cause mutations.Homosalate helps sunscreen to penetrate your skin, it is fast absorbing, accumulating in our bodies faster than we can get rid of it, becoming toxic and disrupting estrogen, androgen and progesterone levels.

Ecamsule aka terephthalylidene dicamphor sulfonic acid) is an organic compound which is added to many sunscreens to filter out UVA rays. It is a benzylidene camphor derivative, many of which are known for their excellent photostability. But is an acid and needs to be balanced to add to sun screen. Very little research had been done since L'Oreal patented this chemical in 1982, but was only approved by the FDA in 2006 and only when present in sunscreen. common reactions were dermatitis, dry skin, acne, itching, redness and skin discomfort. Further long-term human safety studies are required and still yet to be taken.




So far no studies have been conclusive on the safety of these chemicals. Most studies have been done on oxybenzone and are all inconclusive and or lack any real evidence or science around the safty. But they have been shown to affect hormones in humans. A study on human cells found that oxybenzone can mimic estrogen and block testosterone, especially in breast cells but this again is inconclusive in actual humans functioning as a whole. Not at cellular level.

It might be tempting to for go chemical sunscreens entirely for a less worrisome alternative. For most people, that means using mineral sunscreens, which contain nanoparticalized titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. While chemical sunscreens work by absorbing solar radiation, mineral sunscreens work by reflecting them. They are increasingly the only sunscreens that can be worn in areas near coral reefs, because oxybenzone has also been found to kill coral—just one more reason to switch, recently Hawaii and many other pacific islands have banned sun screens containing such chemicals to help protect the reefs in 2018.


So I'm no scientist, but I am very health conscious outdoor lover and sun lover with fair skin. I am a health coach and holistic health practitioner who is trying to spread good and clean information with absolutely no direction in brands and sales. But here are my personal recommendations to help coming into the summer and protecting your amazing body and especially the little bodies of the kids on the planet.


1- Wear clothes that are UVA protecting, some of the top surf brands offer great clothing that offers protection from UVA and UVB and the likes of Ripcurl and Quicksilver are very planet conscious and health orientated.

2- Wear a hat at all times when you are facing long exposure in the sun. Just cover up and protect your face at all times.

3- Pick your times that you sit in the sun and avoid sitting in the sun in the strongest of times usually midday 12-4pm.

4 - Pick your sunscreen wisely, I like All good SPF30, Sunbum, any of the badger lines of sunscreen, butterbean organics, thinksport safe sunscreen, tropical sands, cabana green screen d, These are some that are know to be safe but not all are, so do some research and find what is best for you.

5- Be smart, stay hydrated, watch your skin, and look for any abnormalities.


But overall guys enjoy and love life, summer brings so much joy and fun to everyone, especially those of us who have to face winter and only get a few months a year of real summer.


When going outside, the american academy of dermatology recommend applying at least 1 ounce of sunscreen to all exposed skin every two hours or after swimming, including "back, neck, face, ears, tops of your feet and legs. If you have thinning hair, either apply sunscreen to your scalp or wear a wide-brimmed hat. To protect your lips, apply a lip balm with a SPF of at least 15," the academy says, adding that since UV rays are always present, sunscreen should be applied to exposed skin even on cloudy days and in the winter.



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