Now Even Your Sunscreen Will Kill You


There are pesticides on our food, so we eat organic. There are chemicals in our products, so we buy eco-friendly. There is danger in the sun, so we wear sunscreen. But a new study from the Environmental Working Group shows that skin cancer may be on the rise, partially from the overuse of chemical-laden sunscreens. Now everyone say it with me – “We. Can’t. Win.”

So the real dangers of the sun may not be from overexpose, but from the sunscreen we’ve been told to slather on since childhood? One fact is indisputable – melanoma, cancer of the skin, is on the rise. As we just reported, some experts feel this is because of the overuse of tanning beds.

But now authorities from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) propose that the extensive presence of chemicals in sunscreen may be causing damage on the cellular levels. And that the false sense of security provided by sunscreen may also be complicating the matter. In other words, people put on one coating of sunscreen and then spend the day in the sun sporting around chemically-sunscreen and a false sense of security. (So yes, you can either use too much sunscreen or too little. Your pick!)

Here are the facts as recently reported. Common sunscreens contain cinnamates, benzophenones and amino benzoic acid, which counteract sunlight when it is absorbed by the skin, thus causing genetic-material to damage. It doesn’t stop there. The EWG points out that 60 percent of beach and sport sunscreens contain the hormone-disrupting oxybenzene chemical. Another 40 percent include retinyl palmitate, a type of vitamin A that “may accelerate skin cancer-growth.”

So where is the FDA in all this? As Columbia Doctors East Side dermatologist Dr. Monica Halem told reporters, the FDA is developing a four star rating system for sunscreens – that they have been working on since 1978. Yes, the FDA has been writing this report for 32 years.

According to Dr. Halem, “The FDA is still trying to implement this four star monitoring system and hopefully within the next year or two this will be out so that patients are aware that they’re not just being covered by UVB but they are also being covered by UVA.”

The take-away from all this? It seems that safe guidelines to sun are about as complicated as a Real Housewives of New Jersey’s bank account. (Garden State love!) So we will try to keep it simple. Stay out for ten minutes without sunscreen, but slather on once you’ve gotten your allotment of vitamin D.

Keep your sunscreens and sun blocks eco-friendly. Why? Because they do contain less chemicals that traditional brands. Click here for safer face sunscreens. And here for safer body sunscreens. In the meantime, can someone please come hold my hand while we wait for the next news to break about the dangers of beauty?

For further reading:
Study reveals sunscreen’s darker side.

Image: Tom Purves

Katherine Butler

Katherine Butler is the Beauty Editor of EcoSalon and currently resides in Los Angeles, California.