Wednesday, 23 May 2012

What women should know about sunscreen.

'Everybody's free to wear sunscreen'... Sorry Baz,... I love that song and although it's full of good advice, the one thing you are wrong about is the sunscreen!

It's funny when I have loads of blog ideas lined up, then one thought will lead me on a trail of research and reading and I end up blogging about something completely different.  I was sat in the garden this morning.  The UK is FINALLY seeing some nice weather.  The Sun is out, the air is warm, and everyone is feeling more cheery.

I found myself wondering about coconut oil, as I had read that it can be used as a natural sunscreen.  I'm at that point in the year when I will be looking for good deals on sun lotions to prepare us for the coming summer.  As I searched for recipes and information, I come across information about sunscreens containing oxybenzones.  All this info hit the UK news a few years ago, but I had obviously missed the info being released, or was just too busy with everyday life to pay attention.  The headlines were 'Sunscreens cause cancer' and everyone got all fired up about being one minute told to protect themselves and children in the Sun, and then being told that the very product they were using could have cancer causing effects.  Here is an article from the Daily Mail explaining what sun screens can do to the skin http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-134252/What-ingredients-sun-cream-health.html

Most sun screens available on the high street contain oxybenzones.  It is this product that soaks up the UV rays and allows us to stay in the sun longer.  Oxbenzone is an organic product that is traded under the names of Eusolex 4360 and Escalol 567.

This quote from Wikipedia highlights the controversy surrounding this as an ingredient in cosmetic products..
In the EU products intended for skin protection with 0.5% or more oxybenzone must be labeled "contains oxybenzone". This organic compound has been shown to penetrate into the skin where it acts as a photosensitizer. This results in an increased production of free radicals under illumination, possibly making this substance a photocarcinogen.[citation needed] This study concludes that "determining what, if any, type of damage is done by ROS generated by UV filters needs to be explored." This study is of oxybenzone and two other sunscreen active ingredients. Two years after the study this information is now reaching consumers,. Oxybenzone is a derivative of benzophenone, which can attack DNA when illuminated. It generates strand breaks and various photoproducts. Already in 1993 the use of oxybenzone had been strongly criticized, based on its similarity to benzophenone.
Oxybenzone can be found in a number of products, including lip balm, make up and moisturisers, especially if they have an SPF (Sun protection factor).  When doing a search for oxbenzone on EWG's Skin Deep Cosmetic Database, it returns 1171 products.  Environmental Working Group is a USA based site, but a quick scroll down, and I saw lots of brands I recognised.. Hawaiian Tropic, Avon, LaRoche, Vichy, L'Oreal, Blistex and Neutrogena to name a few.

So whats the deal?  Oxybenzone, although providing protection from sun burn, also effects other things in the body.  It absorbs easily, it also aids absorption, allowing other chemicals easy entrance through the skin into the body.  It can damage cells and can trigger allergies.  The worst thing about oxybenzone from a PMDD point of view is the fact it can upset the endocrine system, therefore cause or add to hormone problems.  It has been labelled as a 'hormone disruptor'.

Now, 'they' will have you believe that this is in these products in such a small amount that it will not cause any ill effects.. but what if you are re-applying this product repeatedly every day? As per government health recommendations.  Through the summer months, or if you live in a sunnier climate, you may plaster yourself in sun screen every day.  What if, on top of your sunscreen, your moisturiser, lip balm and make up also contain oxbenzone?  Is that still a small amount in the system?

As a hormone disruptor, oxybenzone mimics hormones, namely estrogen. It also effects the adrenal hormones.  It is claimed this is a weak effect, but what could that mean in someone whose hormones are already super sensitive?  As women with PMDD, we know that any upset to our delicate hormone system can cause massive impacts on our everyday life.  Some of us watch what we eat for this very same reason.. processed foods with unhealthy additives can also go towards making symptoms worse, so why not the chemicals we add through our skin.  Imagine someone who ate unhealthy foods regularly, used products that were full of these chemicals, maybe on the pill, or taking medications regularly... toxic overload to the body!

When they tested people in America, 97% had traces of oxybenzone in their system.  It has been linked to a low birth weight in baby girls, as it is easily absorbed into the mother's system and passes into the placenta.  I also need to mention that what isn't absorbed into our bodies, is washed into our water and absorbed into our earth.  This in turn causes hormone deficiencies in the fish that swim in our waters.. and who will be eating those fish?  The cycle continues.

There are also other ingredients you should try to avoid when buying sunscreen,  Retinyl Palminate is a source of vitamin A, and is sold as an anti aging product.  What they don't tell you is when in contact with the sun's rays, it heats up and breaks down, releasing free radicals which in turn INCREASES your risk of skin cancer.  Think of how many times your bottle of lotion is sat warming up in the sun, allowing chemicals to release from the plastic packaging and changing the chemicals in the cream.  Hence the 'Sunscreen causes cancer'  headlines.

Sunshine brings many benefits:

It helps to fight depression and SAD - sunlight is a natural mood enhancer.
It increases the body's production of melatonin and serotonin.  These are essential neurotransmitters which play distinct roles in regulating mood and health.  Sunshine also helps regulate sleep patterns by regulating the body clock, which in turn can help with a number of disorders.
Vitamin D helps to prevent cancer - When sunshine hits the skin, vitamin D is produced.  It also helps to prevent the development of various types of cancer such as prostate, ovarian, colon, lung and breast cancers.  Recent studies also show that vitamin D deficiency contributes to these types of cancer.  It also helps improve skin conditions like eczema, acne and psoriasis.  Read more about vitamin D here, http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/161618.php
It helps to improve sleep - Sunshine can help to regulate our body clocks, which then helps sleep patterns, depression and mood.

If you wear sunscreen, you effectively block all the goodness giving rays of the Sun.  Vitamin D will not be produced, as the Sun cannot penetrate the layer of sunscreen.  Add to that the chemical reaction that could be going on that is actually increasing free radicals into the skin and increasing the risk of cancer, and to top it off the fact that these lotions could actually make your PMDD worse, unsettle hormones and cause more stress on the body.

Look for these names on your bottle of sunscreen.  If they are there, your lotion contains oxybenzone:  BUTYL METHOXYDIBENZOLMETHANE, OCTYL DIMETHYL PABA, ETHYLHEXYL METHOXYCINNAMATE, RESORCINOL,BENZOPHENONE-3, 2-BENZOYL-5-METHOXYPHENOL; 2-HYDROXY-4-METHOXYBENZOPHENONE; (2-HYDROXY-4-METHOXYPHENYL) PHENYLMETHANONE; METHANONE, (2-HYDROXY-4-METHOXYPHENYL) PHENYL-; (2-HYDROXY-4-METHOXYPHENYL) PHENYL- METHANONE; OXYBENZONE(BENZOPHENONE-3) ; OXYBENZONE 6; METHANONE, (2HYDROXY4METHOXYPHENYL) PHENYL; B3; DURASCREEN; SOLAQUIN

If it contains any of the following names, it contains retinal palmitate: RETINYL PALMITATE, AXEROPHTHOL PALMITATE; RETINOL, HEXADECANOATE; RETINOL PALMITATE; VITAMIN A PALMITATE;HEXADECANOATE RETINOL; AQUASOL A; AROVIT; OPTOVIT-A; RETINOL PALMITATE; VITAMIN A PALMITATE

I decided to check the kids sunscreen I used on my 6 year old daughter today... yup.. it contains butyl methoxydibenzolmethane.  It actually contains 23 chemicals... some safer than others.

I for one will be looking into natural products and ways to stay safe in the sunshine.  I am lucky enough to have Anglo Indian skin, which tans but rarely burns.  I have used sunscreen in the past, but tend to prefer sitting in the shade or covering up with a scarf.  After discovering this, there is no way I will happily smother myself or my kids in this stuff again.  When there are alternatives out there, I think it easy enough to switch and not take the risk to my health, and to feel like I'm doing my bit for Mother Earth too.

Look out for my next post about sun safety and chemical free sunscreen alternatives!

More reading:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxybenzone
http://www.thedailygreen.com/environmental-news/latest/oxybenzone-sunscreen-ingredient
http://www.thedailygreen.com/environmental-news/latest/retinyl-palmitate-vitamin-a
http://blog.canceractive.com/tag/oxybenzone/
http://fishcreek.ca/blog/?p=109
http://www.ewg.org/analysis/toxicsunscreen

1 comment:

Jane said...

Really interesting article, we do use sunscreen and high factor as we're fair skinned, but we're not 'sun worshippers' so don't often hit the beach at the height of the day or for long enough to worry really, also we holiday in Britain so sun is in shorter supply than it would be abroad. Therefore our use is pretty limited I guess, but natural definately appeals. Thanks for a thought provoking post.

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