Whether you are thinking spring break or already looking to the summer, if the sun in involved, then you are likely thinking about sun protection, i.e. sunscreen. And while that liquid layer most definitely does protect you from damaging rays and sun cancer, what lurks inside those lotions and sprays may pack an even more dangerous punch.
Turns out, many of the most common sunscreens on the market contain potentially harmful ingredients that may be great at protecting you against damage from the sun, but are causing damage internally.
There are several questionable ingredients, but the five worst offenders include:
- para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), including octyl-dimethyl PABA
- benzophenones, (especially benzophenone-3);
- cinnamates, (namely octyl-methoxycinnamate or OMC);
- homosalate; and
- 4-methyl-benzylidene camphor (4-MBC).
PABA is one of the most common ingredients in sunscreen, but can cause and itchy rash for many people. If you have sensitive skin or if you get a rash after applying some skin products, avoid any product containing PABA.
The next four ingredients (benzophenone-3, OMC, homosalate, and 4-MBC) have all been found to contain estrogenic properties when absorbed through the skin. This means that they not only disrupt hormone production, they can also affect brain development and reproductive function.
Your best bet is to choose a sunscreen that contains zinc oxide as it primary active ingredient. And don’t forget to load up on vitamin D (1,000-2,000 IU/day) as well, as sunscreen also blocks the production of this critical nutrient.