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4 Ingredients to Watch Out for in Your Sunscreen

May 13, 2014

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With my fair skin, painful sunburns happen very, very easily. Aside from the standard discomfort, peeling, itching, and stinging, extended sun damage can result in sun poisoning and even worse – skin cancer. So, naturally, I do what I can to protect my skin from the sun’s rays.

But I’ve found that it’s a double-edged sword, because it turns out that slathering on the highest SPF could be just as harmful as baking protection-free. Most chemical-based sunscreens contain unsafe ingredients that are quickly absorbed through our pores and can be damaging to our bodies.

Fortunately, it’s possible to find natural sunscreens that don’t contain these ingredients, as long as you know what to look out for. So next time you’re at the drugstore stocking up on your favorite skincare products, make sure to check the labels and avoid any brand of sunscreen that contain these four toxic ingredients.

Avoid These Sunscreen Ingredients:

  • Oxybenzone: This is public enemy number one in most chemical-based sunscreens. Oxybenzone actually blocks the good stuff we can get from the sun, like UVB rays that provide much-needed vitamin D, while allowing in harmful UVA rays. Not to mention the fact that when it’s absorbed into the skin it can cause the kind of cell damage that leads to skin cancer (which is what we’re all trying to prevent in the first place!).
  • Parabens: You’re probably already mindful of the harmful parabens in deodorant, shampoo, and most other cosmetics, but make sure to look for them in your sunscreen too. Propylparaben, ethylparaben, mythylparaben, and butylparaben are used as preservatives to lengthen the shelf life of these products, but can end up causing allergic reactions and hormone deficiencies. Some studies even link parabens to an increased risk of breast cancer.
  • Octinoxate: Not only can octinoxate impair hormone production, but it also allows other damaging chemicals, like the ones mentioned in this article, to be more easily absorbed by the body. This can lead to a host of side effects including the production of skin-damaging free radicals and premature aging.
  • Retinyl palmitate: While the jury is still out on whether retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A, increases our risk of cancer when applied to skin that’s exposed to sunlight, government studies show that it can produce free radicals and tumors in mice. I don’t know about you, but that’s enough for me to stay away from it.

Luckily, there are alternatives! These all-natural sunscreens can be found at your local pharmacy or health food store, and you can also up the amount of sun-protecting foods in your diet!

What’s your favorite brand of mineral-based sunscreen? Tell us in the comments section below!