Skin cancer rates in America continue to rise, despite the amount of sunscreen people are slathering on. Now, new FDA testing shows that the active ingredients in sunscreen, normally absorbed into the body, may remain for days or even weeks. In addition, their testing found that even a single application of sunscreen seemed to leach high concentrations of chemicals into the bloodstream — beyond what the FDA considers safe. So, what exactly are these ingredients and how harmful are they?
Six scary ingredients
Summer’s here, and that means a little fun in the sun — and a lot of sunscreen. But while slathering on sunscreen may seem like a good idea, new data has emerged that may make you think twice about what you’re putting on your skin.
In May 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a study that looked at sunscreens. The main objective was to show how the active ingredients in sunscreens (when used as per the product’s label) absorbed into the skin and body. More recently, the FDA published a new follow-up study based on the findings from last May. The study describes the results of a clinical trial, which evaluated the absorption rate of a wider range of ingredients found in sunscreen — mainly six:
Study participants used one of four sunscreen products — lotion, aerosol spray, non-aerosol spray, and pump spray. Sunscreen was applied to 75 percent of body surface area at 0 hours on day one and four times on day two through day four, at 2-hour intervals. Blood samples were then collected from each participant over the course of the study.
The study concluded that each of the six active ingredients found in all four sunscreen formulations were absorbed into the blood – even after a single use. And what’s really scary is that researchers found that after absorption, these six ingredients remained in the body for a lengthy period. However, the FDA is quick to point out that absorption does NOT equal risk, and that they recommend sunscreen be used year-round. Here’s the problem…
These six questionable ingredients that absorb quickly and effectively into the bloodstream can induce adverse effects on your skin and body including:
- Becomes toxic when exposed to chlorine and sunshine
- Allergic reactions
- Disrupting hormones
- Damaging skin cells
- Causing premature aging
It starts with a sunburn
Your skin still needs protection from the sun, even if you decide sunscreen is too risky to slather on. Too much ultraviolet radiation from the sun can damage the DNA in your skin cells, suggests Cancer Research. If enough DNA becomes damaged, over time, cells grow out of control, which leads to skin cancer. While anyone can develop skin cancer, some have a higher risk — and it all starts with a sunburn.
Sunburn may grow into a golden tan, but in reality, it’s skin damage. It’s your body’s way of warning you that there’s potential ahead for DNA damage. In fact, getting sunburnt just once every two years is enough to triple your chances of getting skin cancer. So, if commercial sunscreens seem suspect to you (and with good reason) try these healthy, all-natural alternatives to keep sunburn at bay.
Dress to protect
First and foremost, dress to protect. Clothing is the best sunblock, since it reflects sunlight and protects your skin. If you’re enjoying the sun at the beach or just hanging around the pool, throw on a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and cover-up after 20 minutes of exposure. Remember, white clothes reflect light and generally keep you cooler on hot, sunny days.
Eat your antioxidants
UV radiation is the most important environmental factor in the development of skin cancer and skin aging. A sunburn can go away relatively quickly, but the damage it causes could last hours, days, or even years, according to a Cambridge study. So, beyond lowering your exposure to ultraviolet rays, you’ll also need to increase your levels of antioxidants to protect your cells against skin cancer-causing free radicals. Antioxidants are not produced in the body; they must come from supplements or foods you eat. The best antioxidants for the prevention of skin cancer include:
- Vitamin E, found in nuts, seeds, and leafy greens.
- Vitamin C, found in citrus fruits, cruciferous vegetables, peppers, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes.
- Vitamin D, found in fatty fish, dairy products, orange juice, soy milk, egg yolks, and cheese.
- Beta-carotene, found in carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash, spinach and kale, and fruits like apricots and cantaloupe.
- Zinc, found in red meat, poultry, baked beans, chickpeas, and nuts like cashews and almonds.
- Selenium, found in pork, beef, chicken, turkey, fish, shellfish, and eggs.
- Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish and seeds such as flax and chia seeds, as well as nuts such as walnuts. In addition, you can get your omega-3 fatty acids from flax, soy, and canola oil.
- Lycopene, found in tomatoes, grapefruit, watermelon, papaya, sweet red peppers, persimmon, red cabbage, asparagus, and mangos.
- Polyphenols, found in pomegranates, flax seed, EV olive oil, grapes, and pecans.
Natural sunscreen alternatives
Red Raspberry Seed Oil — This is one of the best seed-oil sunscreens you can use. Raspberry seed oil offers UVA and UVB protection similar to titanium dioxide according to research and provides an SPF of 28 to 50 against UVB rays.
Coconut oil — Coconut oil blocks about 20 percent of the sun’s damaging rays, suggests the Mayo Clinic. However, the recommended SPF is 30 or higher, which blocks 97 percent of the harmful rays. That said, proponents of coconut oil find it to be a great alternative to chemically-laden commercial sunscreens, particularly when combined with red raspberry seed oil.
Most people understand the reality of extended sun exposure and the damage it may cause. Remember, you have options. Get informed about what you’re putting on your skin. If the chemicals inside the package seem dubious — they likely are. But that doesn’t mean you should go without. Just find a better, healthier solution.