It is well known that using sunscreen can help minimize sun damage and help a person stay in the sun longer. But what is sunscreen really made of and what does it do?
After a recent test by Valisure of 294 sunscreen products, it was determined that 78 of them had high levels of benzene. Benzene is a known carcinogen and can build up in the body at unhealthy levels. The federal supervision of personal care products has not been updated since the 1930s. This was before a lot of the synthetic chemicals that are now added to them were used. The FDA has allowed these products to be sold without proper testing including sunscreen. The levels of benzene in some of the most popular brands is quite alarming. Benzene is considered a Class 1 solvent and should not be used in personal care products. However, the FDA allows it be used at a restricted level if a product has a significant therapeutic benefit and its use is unavoidable. Many sunscreen products don’t contain it which brings into question whether it is a necessary ingredient.
The National Health and Nutrition Examination Study from 2003-2004 showed that 96.8% of the sunscreen samples tested had measurable levels of benzophenone-3. This is another name for oxybenzone which promotes the ability of chemicals to enter the skin, including pesticides, insect repellent and toxic herbicides.
The FDA led two studies that showed certain ingredients found in sunscreen can build up to unhealthy levels. A FDA research team then performed a follow-up study of active sunscreen ingredients where the participants applied it over a 4 day period. Blood samples were then taken that revealed a concentration of over 500 times than was presumed safe after just a couple of days use. But the FDA continues to widely promote sunscreen use.
Some sunscreen products contain titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, which are ingredients known to be safe. But this safety level is not extended to the nanosized versions which measure less than 100 nanometers. By inhaling these nanoparticles it allows them to infiltrate areas in your lungs and body fluids that are difficult to clear. They can enter into your bloodstream and cause damage to organs, cells, immune system, heart, brain and the nervous system. Because of the size of these nanoparticles, they can cause toxic effects.
In addition to sunscreen you can also help protect your skin by taking the oral supplements Astaxanthin and Polypodium. These are powerhouse antioxidants that have been linked to healthier skin, heart health, endurance and joint pain. They have become extremely popular because of their myriad health benefits that are stronger than Vitamin C. But be aware that it will take a few weeks, taken daily, to build up the body’s protection. Astaxanthin is now being incorporated into a number of sunscreens which can be applied topically.
It is important that when you are in the sun a person does need to be cautious. Everyone needs some sun exposure to be healthy but in a careful way so as not to get burned. Using clothing and exposing 40% of your body for short periods daily helps the body produce vitamin D which can increase your levels so as to reduce the risk of cancers including melanoma. Only stay in the sun until the skin is a light shade of pink. Because the skin on the face is thinner and more prone to premature aging, when in the sun for longer periods of time protect it with a hat.
Use sunscreen or sunblock that does not contain benzene and contains titanium oxide or zinc oxide that is not nanosized. Using a cream or lotion that contains zinc oxide or Astaxanthin will provide the best protection from UVA rays. Eating a healthy diet of foods that contain natural oxidants such as fresh, raw and unprocessed ingredients will provide nutrients to maintain a healthy balance of oils in your skin that will help create a natural defense against sunburn.
Remember to always use a balanced and sensible approach to sun exposure.
To view the original scientific studies click below:
Concentrations of the Sunscreen Agent Benzophenone-3 in Residents of the United States: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003–2004
Valisure Detects Benzene in Sunscreen
Effect of Sunscreen Application Under Maximal Use Conditions on Plasma Concentration of Sunscreen Active Ingredients
Effect of Sunscreen Application on Plasma Concentration of Sunscreen Active Ingredients