Is Your Sunscreen Putting You at Risk for Skin Cancer?

With new studies exposing the FDA’s outdated and unsafe guidelines, it’s become increasingly clear that, as consumers, it’s our responsibility to take our health and safety in our own hands. Here at Blush, we want to inform and educate our readers and ourselves on what we put into our bodies and how we affect the environment. Today, we delve into a summer staple: sunscreen.

Let’s start with the basics. The sun’s ultraviolet rays produce free radicals that damage DNA and skin cells, speed up aging and put you at risk for skin cancer. Your sunscreen is supposed to protect you from this. It sounds ridiculous and counterintuitive that it might actually be putting you at risk for even more health issues and diseases, yet it’s true: chemicals used in sunscreen can cause serious damage. They’re heavily linked with things like endocrine disruption, allergies, and cancers. Even the highest recommended ingredients to use on your skin for sun protection (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) have not been tested on their environmental impact.

First, let’s learn a few fun facts:

There’s a difference between sunscreen and sunblock. Sunblocks are physical sun protectants, like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These work by blocking ultraviolet rays from penetrating the skin. Sunscreens, on the other hand, are made from chemical filters like avobenzone, oxybenzone, octinoxate, homosalate, octocrylene. The distinction is important because, sunscreens- despite their name- actually absorb the rays andturn that into heat through a chemical reaction in the skin.

SPF does not necessarily mean effective. Many sunscreen products sold in the US do not contain enough broad spectrum protection to even be legally sold in Europe, where safety standards are much higher. Chemical filters to prevent only sunburn- leaving you at risk to the other harmful effects of UV rays. Sunscreen companies are quick to increase the number of SPF on the label to catch consumer’s attention, but SPF doesn’t directly equate to “safe.”  

Now, let’s check out some ingredients to avoid: 

Retinyl Palmitate, a form of vitamin A, makes you more susceptible to skin cancer. Many sun protectant products contain retinyl palmitate (also known as retinyl acetate, retinyl linoleate and retinol). The ingredient is often used in anti-aging products, however, it has a very different effect on your skin when exposed to the sun. Nearly a decade ago, the National Toxicology Program, FDA, and NTP conducted a study that found that mice dosed with retinyl palmitate and ultraviolet light developed many more tumors, and much faster, than the mice that weren’t exposed to retinyl palmitate. This study proves that applying retinyl palmitate, or vitamin A, will make you more vulnerable to the sun’s effects, which then increases your risk of skin cancer. The EWG recommends consumers avoid this ingredient in sunscreens.

Methylisothiazolinone, a chemical filler ingredient, is an allergen and skin irritant. However, this preservative is often found in bodycare- even in those that are distinctly labelled

Another chemical filler, oxybenzone, affects hormone levels. A study done in 2016 by the CDC shows that shows that substantial skin absorption of oxybenzone, and its potential to affect hormone levels, especially in children since their skin is more susceptible to absorption. 

So, what sunscreens are safe??

Take a look at EWG’s detailed recommended sunscreens here. Below, check out a few of Blush’s (zero waste!)  fave sun protectants:

Raw Elements Certified Natural Sunscreen Face + Body

EiR Surf Mud



Outerbean Oranics Healthy Sunscreen Sport Stick

So, moral of the story: let’s keep our skin and environment as lush and damage-free as possible!