Sunscreen use has risen in past decades, as media outlets and doctors tout the benefits of sunscreen for protecting against skin cancer and sunburn. The problem with this billion dollar a year market: not all sunscreens are created equal – and in many cases, sunscreen is harmful, not helpful. The state of Hawaii has banned sunscreens containing oxybenzone from be sold or distributed on all islands. The state of California is the only state that allows sunscreen in public schools.
Here’s why: There are two ways that a sunscreen can protect the skin from sun damage: with a mineral barrier or a chemical one. Mineral sunscreens typically include ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which create a physical barrier to protect the skin from the sun. Chemical Sunscreens… Chemical sunscreens use one or more chemicals including oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, and octinoxate. A good safety rule for any health-conscious individual is that if you can’t eat it, you shouldn’t put it on your skin. However, these sunscreen chemicals raise some special concerns because they can cross into skin and other tissue.
Knowing these risks, it is important to ask questions such as: Will this cross the skin and get into other tissue in my body? Does this chemical have the potential to disrupt hormones, especially in children? Are there long-term or allergy reactions to these chemicals? New research by the Environmental Working Group reveals that the chemicals commonly used in sunscreen are endocrine disruptors, estrogenic and may interfere with thyroid and other hormone processes in the body. The most common sunscreen chemical, Oxybenzone, was found in 96% of the population by a recent study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. This is especially alarming since oxybenzone is considered an endocrine disruptor, can reduce sperm count in men and may contribute to endometriosis in women. The EWG warns against using oxybenzone, especially on children or pregnant/breastfeeding women.