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Toxic Sunscreens + Natural Alternatives

If you live in the Southern Hemisphere you’ll know things are heating up. Summer is well and truly on the way which means long days spent at the beach soaking up the glorious sunshine and swimming in the deliciously blue ocean. This also means sunscreens are out in full force, being slathered silly on bodies across the country.

Sunscreens are designed to block the UV rays from the sun and they do this job extremely well. There are two types of sunscreens and as you will come to realise as you continue to read both are not created equally.

Chemical Sunscreens

These sunscreens contain a whole host of chemicals such as oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate. These chemicals once rubbed onto the skin quickly find their way into the bloodstream (within a matter of minutes) and have been found in breast milk, urine and blood two days after a single application.

What’s worse is that most sunscreen ingredients lose their effectiveness in the sun after just an hour, meaning we must keep reapplying. This means we can be absorbing these chemicals on some days four times over. This would be fine if the sunscreen ingredients weren’t harmful to human health, but they are. Of the 17 sunscreen ingredients approved by the FDA 9 are these are known endocrine disruptors.

What’s an endocrine disruptor?

An endocrine disruptor disrupts the effects of our hormones oestrogen, testosterone and progesterone. They can cause abnormal development of foetus, early puberty in girls, low sperm count in men, breast cancer in women, thyroid issues, fibroids, cystic breasts, fertility issues, the list is endless.

The Worst Offender

The Environmental Working Group listed Neutrogena as the number 1 sunscreen brand to avoid, as it contains high concentrations of oxybenzone and other endocrine disrupting chemicals in addition to misleading claims about their SPF claims.

Another Worrysome Ingredient

Retinyl palmitate is a combination of retinol (vitamin A) and palmitic acid which is commonly found in things like coconut oil and palm oil. It’s worrisome because when this ingredient is exposed to the sun the retinol breaks down into free radicals damaging our DNA which can ultimately lead to the development of cancer.

The Vitamin D Debacle

We’ve been so good at slathering on sunscreen we’re now facing an epidemic of vitamin D deficiency in Australia. Vitamin D acts more like a hormone in the body and is crucial for immune function, with links to conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, rosacea and asthma. It also plays a significant role in mood disorders particularly low vitamin D levels has shown a strong correlation for depression.

“Despite Increased Awareness Melanoma is rising 4.2% annually”

Skin Cancer is on the Rise Despite Increased Sunscreen Use

Awareness surrounding skin cancer has dramatically increased during recent decades which has seen us spend more time indoors with more sunscreen on our skin than ever before yet melanoma is rising at 4.2% annually. How can this be? In a nutshell, there is more to skin cancer development than just sun exposure, I’ve seen people develop skin cancer on the bottom of their feet.

If sun exposure was the only causative factor then this wouldn’t occur. Except it does. My own skin cancer doctor says our environment has a huge part to play, of course the sun is listed as a carcinogen by the FDA but the sun was around a long time before sunscreen was invented. It seems the more we try to prevent skin cancer with the use of chemically laden sunscreens the more skin cancer we see.

For me it makes zero sense to cover myself and my daughter in a chemical sunscreen, especially if a huge proportion of the sunscreen ingredients used on the market today are known carcinogens. Are you freaking kidding me! It’s appalling that these ingredients are even allowed when they are known to disrupt the delicate orchestration between our hormones. I’m in no way saying we shouldn’t use a sunscreen especially if we plan on being outdoors for hours at a time but use a mineral based sunscreen which contains zinc oxide - a much safer option.

Mineral Sunscreens the Better Option

These are for the most part the better sunscreens to use, their active ingredients include zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, the latter still has questionable toxicity. However, make sure these ingredients don’t come in the form of nano particles as the smaller size allows these ingredients to enter the bloodstream and carry risks as well.

Natural Alternatives Safe for all Ages including Pregnant Women, Babies & Children

As you can imagine I’m fussy with what sunscreen I wear especially what sunscreen I use on Olive. In fact, if I can’t use it on Olive then I won’t use it on myself.

Sunscreens I would recommend (and there aren’t many):

  • WotNot Sunscreen - contains the mineral based active ingredient zinc oxide but it’s also loaded with nourishing ingredients like aloe, shea butter and sesame oil. I’ve used this on Olive since birth and she’s never burnt.

  • Badger Sunscreen – contains the mineral based active ingredient zinc oxide and other goodies like sunflower oil, beeswax and sea buckthorn extract

  • Eco All Natural Sunscreen - Baby SPF 30+ - zinc oxide is the active ingredient but it also contains grapeseed oil, green tea, cucumber seed extract, carrot oil, rosehip oil plus a bunch of other delicious ingredients

Best Bet

Source a sunscreen that uses non-nano zinc oxide like the those I’ve mentioned above. Better still take an umbrella to the beach, wear a hat and limit total sun exposure to a maximum of 20 minutes a day.

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