Suncream is an essential part of sun protection, but not all are created equal. Some contain toxic chemicals that can cause harm to both humans and the environment. In this post, I want to discuss the dangers of toxic suncreams, explain some of the chemicals included, and provide some alternative ways to practice safe sun exposure.
Many suncreams contain known toxic chemicals that can be harmful to both humans and the environment. Here are some of the most common chemicals:
- Oxybenzone: This chemical is commonly used in suncreams as a UV filter. However, it has been found to be toxic to coral reefs and marine life, causing coral bleaching and disrupting the development of fish and other organisms. It has also been linked to hormone disruption and allergic reactions in humans.
- Octinoxate: Another UV filter commonly used in suncreams, octinoxate has been found to be toxic to coral reefs and marine life. It has also been linked to hormone disruption and allergic reactions in humans.
- Retinyl palmitate: This form of vitamin A is sometimes added to suncreams for its antioxidant properties. However, studies have found that it can increase the risk of skin cancer when applied to the skin and exposed to sunlight.
- Homosalate: This UV filter is commonly used in suncreams, but studies have found that it can disrupt hormones and cause reproductive problems in both men and women.
There have been many studies on the dangers of toxic chemicals found in conventional suncream, including their effects on human health and the environment. Here are a few examples:
- A study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology in 2008 found that oxybenzone was present in the urine of nearly all of the 2,500 people tested. The study authors noted that oxybenzone has been linked to hormone disruption, and called for further research on the potential health effects of the chemical.
- A study published in the journal Chemosphere in 2018 found that several common UV-filters, including oxybenzone and octinoxate, were present in high concentrations in the water and sediment of a popular beach in Hawaii. The study authors noted that these chemicals can harm coral reefs and other marine life.
- A study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology in 2011 found that application of a sunscreen containing retinyl palmitate on mice increased the number of skin tumors they developed when exposed to UV radiation. The study authors cautioned that more research is needed to determine the potential risks to humans.
- A study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives in 2016 found that exposure to homosalate, a common UV-filter, was associated with decreased sperm count and motility in men. The study authors noted that more research is needed to confirm the findings and determine the potential risks to human health.
Fortunately, there are alternatives to toxic suncream that are safer for both humans and the environment. Here are some options:
- Mineral sunscreens: Mineral sunscreens use natural minerals like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to block UV rays. They are safe for coral reefs and marine life and do not contain harmful chemicals.
- Sun-protective clothing: Clothing with a tight weave can block UV rays and provide sun protection. Look for clothing with a UPF rating of 50+ for the best protection.
- Shade: Whenever possible, seek shade to reduce your exposure to UV rays.
Not only are we encouraged to lather ourselves with toxic suncream every time the sun comes out and therefore covering our skin and body in these harmful chemicals, it is blocking out the myriad of health benefits that we get from sun exposure.
Sunlight is a primary source of vitamin D, a crucial nutrient for overall health. Vitamin D is essential for strong bones and teeth, and it also plays a role in immune system function, cell growth, and inflammation reduction.
In addition, sun exposure can help regulate our circadian rhythm, which is our body’s internal clock that regulates sleep, mood, and other physiological processes. When we get enough natural sunlight exposure during the day, it can help us feel more awake and alert during the day, and improve our sleep quality at night.
Sunlight exposure can also stimulate the production of endorphins, which are the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. This can lead to improved mood and feelings of well-being.
Whilst I do not intend to promote excessive sun exposure to the point of burning (that would be silly), I instead hope to encourage a different way of thinking when it comes to our relationship with the sun and sun exposure. We all have incredibly unique skin types, some can tolerate the sun more than others, and different means of sun protection will work better for some than others too and because of those two factors, our practice with the sun will be unique. I never see any need to use known toxic and harmful chemicals on our skin, that seem to contribute to the problem rather than help it.
Let us know your thoughts below!