If you’re new around here, you might not know how strongly I feel about sunscreen – which kinds are bad and which are good, both for the planet and for you. Most people think sunscreen is the best way to avoid skin cancer. I partly agree. I also know that many ingredients in the most popular sunblocks are themselves carcinogenic (cancer-causing) and that vitamin D, which we can only get through sunblock-free sun exposure, actually prevents cancer and other health problems. Read on to learn more.
Here’s a brief post at the green tips website Green is Sexy that summarizes several of the things I’ve talked about in the past: green your sunscreen. It mentions a few harmful ingredients to watch out for and why.
Chemicals to avoid
Like the GIS post says, you should steer clear of the following ingredients in all your sunscreens (lip balms, sprays, and so on): octinoxate, oxybenzone, 4-methylbenzylidene camphor, and butylparaben (a preservative). Another one to avoid entirely, this one not mentioned in GIS, is retinyl palmitate, which may speed up cancer growth. Click on the links to read all about these treacherous chemicals.
In truth, all parabens have a bad reputation, so look out for those in the ingredients of your shampoos, conditioners, body lotions, deodorants, toothpaste, makeup, personal lubricants (!), etc. You’ll be surprised at how ubiquitous parabens are once you start looking for them! It’s scary, really. But that’s why educating yourself is the best thing you can do to protect yourself and the people you care about, as well as marine ecosystems (these toxic ingredients bleach corals!). Speaking of which, all the chemicals than end in –zone, such as the aforementioned oxybenzone, are supposedly unsafe – I recommend that you avoid them.
The cosmetic database of the Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a wonderful resource where you can look up chemicals and learn what they are, what they do, whether they are harmful, and if so, why and to what extent. The website is a gem. You can look up sunscreens by SPF and other products and it will tell you which specifically are the safest and which are the most dangerous and why.
I would also like to note that it’s perfectly healthy to spend a moderate amount of time each day in the sun without wearing any sunscreen. This is the most efficient way for the body to absorb the much-needed vitamin D (it’s actually a hormone). Interestingly, patients of many types of cancer, including that of the breast, have been found to have exceptionally low levels of vitamin D, and vitamin D has been shown to prevent multiple types of cancer as well as heart disease and other conditions. Some experts argue that it is a lack of vitamin D as well as the carcinogenic ingredients in sunblock that are causing cancer – not the sun!
Some articles by Dr. Mercola on the subject (I love Dr. Mercola, and although he does sell some products, which presents a conflict of interest, he doesn’t sell sunshine!):
- The Sunscreen Myth: How Sunscreen Products Actually Promote Cancer
- Four Out of Five Sunscreens May Be Hazardous to Your Health
- Does Too Much Sun Really Cause Melanoma?
- Trash Your Sunscreen and Other Summer Sun Tips (This one lists many harmful sunscreen ingredients.)
Posts right here on Save Eco Destinations:
Several friends have asked me what brands are safe to use, since most are loaded with the dreaded –zones and parabens.
I’ve tried Hawaiian Tropic Biodegradable sunblock SPF 50 in spray form and Kiss My Face sunspray lotion in SPF 30. They’re both good and I especially like the Hawaiian Tropic, which is very easy to apply and doesn’t need to be rubbed in. However, Kiss My Face is a much more trustworthy brand, as they don’t test their products on animals and they offer fragrance-free options. I bought the Hawaiian Tropic when I was abroad and it was the most eco-friendly sunscreen I could find.
Dr. Mercola, whom I mentioned above, sells some sunscreens that should be pretty swell. Instead of containing harmful chemicals, they use green tea and zinc oxide to protect the skin while avoiding artificial fragrances and toxic ingredients of all sorts, according to the website. The products are also hypoallergenic and water-resistant. Here’s a long article that explains all about his products.
On EWG’s cosmetics database you will find lots of safe sunscreens bunched by SPF. For example, here are the ones with SFP 30+. You’re sure to find some awesome ones there. I’d love to hear recommendations!
Stay safe, everyone.