September 04, 2020 5 min read

So, you might not be an ingredient junkie, but there are a few chemicals that you need to avoid in your sunscreen.  We should note that the renewed look at ingredients in sunscreen is due to a study completed this year (2020) in which 48 participants (all races with a mean age of 38.7) used sunscreen for 21 days.  The primary purpose was to see at what level the chemicals in commercially available sunscreen were being absorbed into the bloodstream.  Throughout this time the study participants had their blood drawn to check what level any of the following chemicals were present in their blood stream after use.  It’s important to note that on some occasions the dosing was simply once a day, on other days the sunscreen was applied 4 times a day as recommended by the manufacturer.  At every instance the chemicals were found in the blood stream, sometimes up to 21 days after participants had used it, at what the FDA has termed higher than acceptable levels for safe use.

Here are the ingredients to look out for:

  • Oxybenzone
  • Octinoxate
  • Avobenzone
  • Octocrylene
  • Ecamsule

How bad could they really be…

A total of 6 travel destinations have banned or are banning sunscreens with these ingredients as of 2020, most specifically they are banning ones that have oxybenzone and octinoxate.  They are the US Virgin Islands, Aruba, Hawaii, Key West (Florida), Bonaire and Mexico (pending).

Why are they banning them?

In the words of Stream2Sea “One drop of sunscreen with oxybenzone is the equivalent of six-and-a-half Olympic-sized swimming pools has a toxic effect. I did a lot of research and reading to find that statistic – I found it in the Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology. It was a tough read.”

If it’s toxic to sea animals and contributing to coral bleaching, should you really be putting it on your skin? 

We don’t think so…  We have not used sunscreen in years, because we try to keep as many chemicals off of our skin as possible (it’s your largest organ).  Instead we have turned to a mix of raspberry and carrot seed oil, and for extra protection we add non-nano zinc oxide.  Here is a breakdown of what we know about those 5 chemicals and what they do:

Oxybenzone – It is a suspected endocrine disruptor, your endocrine system is what regulates the hormones in your body.  It can affect your mood, ability to sleep, thyroid gland and a whole host of other bodily functions.  Another thing is that it’s a UV absorber, not a block, which means it has to be absorbed into your skin.  More than that it allows the UV rays to soak into your skin while protecting your from getting a sun burn.  To do this, it has to soak into your system… remember what I wrote above, this chemical can remain in your system long after you’ve used it.

Common synonyms on ingredients labels to be aware of:

(2-Hydroxy-4-methoxyphenyl)phenylmethanone; 2-Hydroxy-4-methoxybenzophenone; Benzophenone-3; Methanone, (2-hydroxy-4-methoxyphenyl)phenyl-; Oxybenzone; Benzophenone, 2-hydroxy-4-methoxy-, BP-3;  Phenyl- Methanone; (2-hydroxy -4-methoxyphenyl) phenylmethanone; 2-benzoyl-5-methoxyphenol; 2-hydroxy-4-methoxybenzophenone; 4-methoxy-2-hydroxybenzophenone; advastab 45; anuvex; b3 [4, 5, 6].

Octinoxate – Another suspected endocrine disruptor that has been extensively tested on animals (which drives me nuts).  However, some studies found it in human breast milk and urine.  It has been thought to be a cause for low sperm count in men and in women with extended exposure it could cause a change in the size of the uterus.  There is also evidence to suggest that extended use could be a contributing factor in breast cancer.  Where the ocean is concerned, a 2015 study proved that it is a factor in coral bleaching.

Common synonyms on ingredients labels: ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate, ethylhexyl p-methoxycinnamate, octyl methoxycinnamate, parsol

Avobenzone – Is the most common stabiliser chemical for octocrylene, suspected endocrine disruptor, it can cause rashes, acne and skin breakouts.  It breaks down in the sun which may result in free radicals being released into your body.  Worse yet, it can become toxic when exposed to chlorine according to multiple studies.  According to Dr, Albert Lebedev, MD “one could make a conclusion that a generally safe compound [can] transform in water and form more dangerous products.....  In spite of the fact that there are no precise toxicological profiles for the most established products, it’s known that acetyl benzenes and phenols, especially chlorinated ones, are quite toxic.” 

Common synonyms on ingredients labels: Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane and Parsol 1789

Octocrylene – Absorbs UV rays and then produces oxygen radicals that may cause damage or mutation to cells.  It has already proven to cause mutation to sea life DNA and has actually been found in accumulating amounts in seafood.  In order for it to work it has to be absorbed into your body, and we now know that it accumulates within your body.  Lastly it has already been tested and proven toxic to the ocean and sea life in general.

Ecamsule – This is the newest sunscreen ingredient that was created by L’Oréal, approved in the EU in 1991 but only received approval in the US in 2006.  As of 2015 L’Oréal had been denied the ability to sell products with a higher concentration of ecamsule because the studies submitted were only tested up to .33% of the total product.  Given the fact that this is now one of the drugs showing up in a higher than acceptable ratio within blood work and that it has not been tested at high ratios, it may be good to avoid it until more conclusive data is available.

What is an Endocrine Disrupting Chemical?

Avobenzone, Octinoxate and Oxybenzone are considered to be Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDC’s) though we have listed them as “suspected”, that’s only because we would like to see more research completed proving these links.  However according to the UK’s an EDC is any chemical that interferes with the normal production of hormones in both humans and animals.  While it is possible to find things in nature that are EDC’s, most of the ones commonly used in skin care are compounds made from synthetic chemicals and should be avoided.

Why should you avoid Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals?

The problem with these chemicals is that they can imitate and destroy hormones that your body naturally produces.  This creates an internal signaling problem which can lead to the premature death of your cells.  If that weren’t enough, they also tend to accumulate in hormone producing organs, which can result in irreversible damage. 

Everyone needs to wear sun protection, even if you’re largely inside, as climate change increases the amount of UV rays, it’s important that we are all protected.  We just hope that you’ll think more about what you put on your skin after reading this.  If you’d like to know more, please check out raspberry and carrot seed oils on our ingredients page, it’s nature's answer to sunscreen. 

Our daytime oils are made with raspberry seed which gives you UVA - SPF 8 and UVB - SPF 25-50, if you're looking for more than this you can always add 1 TSP of Non-Nano Zinc Oxide to your Glow Baby or Glow Man to give you a full spectrum 

Here at i.anka-eo we believe that you are what you put on your skin, after all it’s your largest organ.  Shouldn’t it be the cleanest and best ingredients possible?  We think so!  It’s why we only use 100% Soil Association organic essential oils in our blends.

As always, we advocate for a sustainable skin care routine, free of chemicals because we believe that having great skin shouldn't wreck the planet or mess with your body.  Instead using what the earth has given us can enhance and protect the skin we already have.  Would you like to read more?  Here are some of our most popular blogs:

Need a Skin Reset?

5 Ways Your Skin Care is Messing with the Planet

Is Water Good for your Skin?

How Active is your Skin Care?

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