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Five Sunscreen Ingredients to Avoid

by Cindy Gray

As the weather warms, people pull out the sunscreen, but sun lovers may want to read labels before slathering up.  Many sunscreen products contain ingredients that cause allergic reactions, disrupt hormones, and promote premature aging.  Look out for five sunscreen ingredients in particular. 

Check for five harmful sunscreen ingredients before slathering up.

Octyl-dimethyl PABA:  This chemical causes sensitivity in some people, either through direct contact or through an interaction with UV rays.  It is also one of several sunscreen ingredients thought to be an endocrine disrupter, meaning it inhibits the function of certain hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.

Related: Add Omega 3 to Your Skincare Routine

Benzophenone-3:  Also known as oxybenzone, benzophenone-3 has been linked with cell damage, allergies, and xenoestrogenic (behaving like the hormone estrogen) properties.  To show how prevalent this chemical is, a study conducted by the Center for Disease Control on 2,500 subjects ages six years and up found oxybenzone in the urine of 97 percent.  Another study concluded that mothers with high levels of oxybenzone in their systems were more likely to deliver baby girls that were underweight.

Octyl methoxycinnamate (OMC):  One of the most frequent sunscreen ingredients, OMC causes sensitivity and allergic reaction as a result of interaction with UV rays.  Research indicates that it may also have xenoestrogenic properties.

Homosalate:  Used by many manufacturers, Homosalate helps sunscreen penetrate the skin.  Accumulating in the body more quickly than it is disposed of, it may become toxic and interfere with hormones.

4-MBC:  Research shows that 4-MBC accelerates the spread of estrogen-dependent breast cancer cells, proving its xenoestrogenic behavior.  In animal studies, male rat babies born to mothers exposed to 4-MBC showed delayed puberty, smaller testis, and a smaller adult prostate.  A study from a university in Switzerland found estrogenic properties in all five of the sunscreen ingredients mentioned above, and 4-MBC was the most damaging.

Safe Sunscreen Tips

Make surge to read ingredients carefully before purchasing sunscreen.  Choose products that list zinc oxide or titanium dioxide – both effective mineral sunscreens – as the only active ingredients, with natural bases like olive oil, jojoba, and shea butter.  Follow instructions on the package for proper sunscreen application. 

Hats off to common sense sunscreen protection!  In other words, wear hats to help protect your head, face and neck from sun exposure.  Umbrellas can also be useful, especially on a sunny day.  Wear clothing to protect your skin too, such as long sleeved shirts and pants—some even contain an SPF, sun protection factor as well.  Don’t forget to avoid the sun during peak hours, and take advantage of shade whenever possible.

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