Smarten up before you slather up.
Whether you’re a beach bunny on summer vacation or taking a leisurely stroll in crisp, wintry air, sun protection is non-negotiable!
No matter the season, the sun emits two types of ultraviolet (UV) radiation that reach our skin: ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB). Both types damage unprotected skin — as such, it goes without saying that our skin needs to be protected against them!
However, many traditional, non-organic skincare and makeup products containing significant levels of SPF (Sun Protection Factor) are loaded with questionable, harmful chemicals. Several studies also suggest a toxicological nature for these synthetic, harmful chemicals (e.g. such as OMC, mentioned in a previously published article here) in humans and the negative impact on the wider environment (e.g. marine and land biodiversity).
It’s time to smarten up on the top 7 dubious, harmful chemical sunscreen filters you should avoid before you slather up, no matter the season!
Avobenzone AND Oxybenzone
Avobenzone and oxybenzone are incredibly effective at absorbing UVA rays to defend the skin against the adverse health effects of photoaging. However, a Danish study found that the former ingredient may mimic the female hormone progesterone and possibly interfere with sperm function, while an American study found traces of the former in human breast milk. Sun protection knows no gender; both women and men need to take note of this harmful chemical if babies are on your horizon!
Homosalate is a synthetic, harmful chemical sunscreen filter that works as a “penetration enhancer” in commercial non-organic skincare and makeup products with SPF. This is due to its ability to impart a smooth texture that sinks into the skin quickly, leaving no greasy residue or ghastly white cast behind. However, homosalate also ‘sinks’ quickly into the bloodstream — and once it has done so, it accumulates faster than our bodies can get rid of it. A certain study even revealed that homosalate can raise estrogen levels by up to three times after topical application than with oral consumption (Klimová, Z et al. 2013). This is particularly worrisome, as high levels of estrogen are a risk factor for certain cancers (e.g. breast, ovarian) and thyroid dysfunction!
Retinyl Palmitate is a potent antioxidant commonly found in non-organic skincare and makeup products marketed as anti-aging. It’s lauded for its abilities in protecting the skin well, particularly against UVA rays and photoaging. However, the compounds fromretinyl palmitate have also been found to be able to break down into carcinogenic, harmful chemicals upon sun exposure. A joint study conducted by the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) found that the breakdown may even accelerate the penetration of UVB rays, resulting in the development of malignant cells and skin tumors when applied to the skin prior to sun exposure! So much for a product that should protect skin from the sun, not leave it susceptible to such damage!
OMC is found in many SPF-infused skincare and makeup products from established, household brands. This is particularly worrisome, as OMC can break down into carcinogenic, harmful chemicals upon light exposure. Easily absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream, traces of OMC have also been detected in human urine and even breast milk! This a key harmful chemical sunscreen filter that is not pregnancy safe at all, especially for women who plan to breastfeed or are breastfeeding. Avoid at all costs to reduce the health costs to the next generation!
While octocrylene protects other UVA and UVB chemical sunscreen filters from breaking down, several literature studies have found it to be a potential irritant — particularly for children with contact dermatitis and adults with an often-associated history of photo-allergies from ketaprofen (a pain reliever). While researchers say that further studies are warranted to determine the true health impact of this harmful chemical, your best bet would be to opt for fully vegan, organic and natural octocrylene-free skincare and makeup products where possible!
Octisalate is an ester formed through the combination of a salicylic acid and 2-ethylhexanol. The latter serves as a fatty alcohol, imparting emollient and oil-like (water resistant) properties that enhance a sunscreen’s ability to fully coat and protect the skin from the sun’s damaging rays. However, Japan’s Standards for Cosmetics has fully banned in certain types of cosmetics due to its potential to trigger serious health allergies and immune effects (Environmental Working Group 2007-2019). Since octisalate is often used in conjunction with other harmful chemical sunscreen filters (e.g. avobenzone, oxybenzone), the best way to avoid octisalate is to choose fully vegan, organic and natural skincare and makeup products!
Where should I start? Liht Organics’ All-Day Perfection Foundation provides natural SPF protection from the sun’s damaging rays using physical sunscreen filters such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide (more information in our next article). It even serves as a handy touch up on the go! Protect your natural beauty by dusting on this SPF-infused organic treatment powder daily!