Active sunscreen ingredients protect skin through two different types of filters, chemical filters and physical filters. The chemical filters convert UV radiation to heat that is then released from the body. Physical filters deflect suns rays before they can penetrate the skin. Physical sunscreen blocks both UVA and UVB rays.(1)
There has rightfully been a lot of scrutiny placed on chemical sunscreens lately, as skin cancer rates continue to rise. The FDA is currently reviewing four active sunscreen ingredients, azobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, and ecamsule, in sunscreens. An exploratory maximal use trial, a trial that determines the systemic absorption of drugs, found that all four were absorbed by the skin and found in plasma. The amounts found in the plasma were higher than the FDA recommended limit. This lead them to determine that further tests are needed to understand the effects of these chemicals on peoples’ health.(2) There have been a variety of studies done that have concluded many of these chemicals are possible cytotoxins, endocrine disrupters, harmful to reproductive health, skin irritants, and increase the bodies free radicals causing cell damage and in turn damage to the body.
Endocrine Disrupters according to the National Institute of Health are chemicals that may interfere with the bodies endocrine system and have adverse effects on the bodies developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune health.(3) There are many different kinds of chemical UV filters, the following are a few of the most popular used in todays sunscreens that are known endocrine disrupters, oxybenzone, homosalate, and oxtinxate. You will find these ingredients in spray sunscreen and lotion sunscreen.
Reproductive health which is anything to do with the female or male reproductive systems has also been shown in studies to be harmed by many chemical UV filters including, homosalate, octisalate, enzacamene, and OD-PABA. A study published by the National Institute of Health suggests that homosalate, octisalate, enzacamene, and OD-PABA may interfere with sperm function and impair fertility.(4) Oxybenzone has also been associated with a changes in female reproductive hormones and negatively impact female reproductive health.(5) It was also demonstrated in a study that it can effect the hormones enough to cause harm to a developing fetus. Oxybenzone is by far the most dangerous of the chemical filters, and it is in approximately 70% of sunscreens. (6)
A cytotoxin is a substance that inhibits or prevents the functions of cells and, or causes destruction of cells. Oxybenzone, octocrylene(7), and homosalate (8)(Cytotoxin and genotoxin) all are cytoxins increasing the risk for damage to cells and bodily functions.
Lastly, many of these chemical UV filters are negatively impacting our ocean life. Oxybenzone, octocrylene, and octisalate have been detected in fish and sea life all around the world and could have a negative impact on marine life and the food chain. Studies have shown that oxybenzone is responsible for bleaching coral reefs and inhibiting healthy growth of coral.(9) This has caused Hawaii to ban some of these harmful ingredients in sunscreen by 2021.
Physical sunscreens that work by reflecting the sun are the safest option for your health and the environment. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are the two main active sunscreen ingredients in physical sunscreens. Titanium dioxide absorbs mainly UVA rays and zinc oxide absorbs mainly UVB rays. Both of these ingredients together provide broad spectrum coverage. These ingredients do not penetrate the skin and absorb further into the body.(10) They are also not know as skin irritants which makes them the best choice for anyone with sensitive skin, especially young children and pregnant women.
When you apply sunscreen with the active ingredients of zinc oxide or titanium dioxide they are thicker and tend to leave a white film that some people do not like. Some companies have started to add zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in nanoparticle form to decrease the white film left after application, and make them easier to apply. There has not been enough research done on the effects of these nanoparticles to completely determine their safety, therefore non-nano zinc oxide and non-nano titanium dioxide are the top choices for healthy sunscreen protection.
MyChelle Sun Protection for the Face. Liquid Tint SPF 50
1 FL OZ
*This product also comes in a darker shade, and in a non-tinted version.
Hurraw Sun Lip Balm SPF 15
Suntegrity Natural Mineral Sunscreen for Body.
5 FL OZ
California Baby Super Sensitive Sunscreen