Updated: Apr 6
Confused? It's never really dawned on me that sunscreen could actually be bad and it wasn't until I started on this natural journey that I even looked at what was in sunscreen, we just naturally assume its ok for us as we're told its protecting us from the sun but google 'is sunscreen toxic?' and it brings up a whole host of controversy.
So, this year, ahead of our hopefully sun-drenched summer holiday, I decided to do a little research and here's what we've found out. Questions I asked myself: is sunscreen poisonous, should you be wearing it every day and is there such a thing as a safe tan?
The message from Cancer Research UK is clear. “In the UK almost 9 in 10 cases of melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, could be prevented through enjoying the sun safely and avoiding sunbeds” states the charity. Plus the charity still advocates it, along side shade, and summer hats. So far, so good – until, that is, a headline like “Sun Cream Causes Cancer” comes along.
Breast Cancer Org says ''While chemicals can protect us from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays, research strongly suggests that at certain exposure levels, some of the chemicals in some sunscreen products may cause cancer in people.''
''Many of these chemicals are considered hormone disruptors. Hormone disruptors can affect how estrogen and other hormones act in the body, by blocking them or mimicking them, which throws off the body's hormonal balance. Because estrogen can make hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer develop and grow, many women choose to limit their exposure to these chemicals that can act like estrogen.''
This leaves me to question, are sun creams offering a false sense of security? People apply sun cream thinking that they can stay out in the sun for longer, ergo more skin damage and an increased risk of skin cancer.
Here is the problem:
Two such controversial chemical filters contained in sun cream and thought to produce free radicals in the skin include oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate. Oxybenzone converts UV light to heat and is believed to cause hormonal disruption and cell damage, which can lead to cancer, while retinyl palmitate has been shown to speed up malignant cell growth and the spread of skin cancer. Unlike physical filters, which sit on the surface of the skin deflecting rays, these chemical filters absorb UV rays and partially penetrate the skin, which is where the damage could happen.
I've also managed to find out that there are more cases of allergic dermatitis, thanks to strong active chemicals that some brands use, as well as added fragrances, preservatives and lanolin.
If you are worried I would recommend patch-testing sunscreen, especially if you suffer from sensitive skin, but there are suggestions on line by dermatologists suggesting that physical sun blocking agents such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide may be more suitable than their chemical counterparts.
Whatever side of the fence you choose to sit on, there is one overriding message that nobody can truly ignore: ultraviolet radiation from UVA and UVB is the number one cause of skin cancer. What the beauty industry, myself included, has failed to recognise, however, is the danger sun creams pose when used irresponsibly. While creams may protect our skin from UV damage up to a point, they also serve to suppress our natural warning signs – and our fear of skin cancer.
If you want a DIY recipe for sunscreen check out wellnessmama.com on our pinterest
or I've found a link to mineral sunscreens too which may be useful at Harpers Bazarr