Were you a child of the 60’s and 70’s?
Then you’ll remember that you weren’t allowed to go out in the middle of day in Summer when the sun was at its hottest. And when you did get to the beach or local swimming pool your Mother slathered thick white greasy zinc across your nose and cheeks. It worked because it was a physical barrier – like paint on your house – blocking the sun’s damaging rays.
You were told to stay out of the sun during the hot scorching midday sun (even though you begged to go out). Sometimes your begging worked, but you had a time limit and, if like me, were made to wear sun ponchos over your bathers with a big hat that was terribly unfashionable.
Once we got to our teen years, and our parents weren’t tracking us, we threw caution to the wind and slathered ourselves with olive oil or coconut oil and laid in the sun for hours (against our mothers’ wishes) in the hope of a strapless all over tan. In fact, I wanted a tan SO MUCH.. ( and being a 2hr bus ride from the beach and no having no pool)… I used to fill my Dad’s wheelbarrow with water and lay in there with just my bikini bottoms for what felt like hours at a time. I paid the price with a melanoma being removed from my tummy.
Now Fast forward to present day…
Those cover-up-days with super daggy zinc slathered all over us, ponchos and hats are over. Although there is the new SPF bathers for kids, there isn’t much in the way for adults or fashion conscious teenagers right?
Our zest for outdoor activities – all day beach jaunts, swimming, water-skiing, sailing, outdoor picnics etc are incompatible with greasy zinc, daggy hats and sunlight curfews. So in come long-use chemicals sunscreens… cheap, simple to apply and more importantly they last for hours and can be re-applied time and time again allowing us to stay outdoors far longer than nature intended.
But CHEMICALS??? ON the SKIN???
Which ultimately means IN our BODIES??
Now before you freak out… NOT all ‘chemicals’ are ‘dangerous’, even if they do have unpronounceable names. Some are safe and cause no harm at all. And for that matter… ‘natural’ doesn’t necessarily mean safe e.g. Arsenic. So, you must be vigilant and look carefully into these products.
But who has the time? Well me! Because it’s my job to make sure that health is in tip top shape – and that means teaching you all about what goes IN and ON your body.
So, grab a cuppa, and read on…
Here are the ingredients of a very popular 30SPF, TGA approved (Aust) sunscreen…
Phenoxyethanol an anti-microbial preservative that stabilizes products. There have been links to eczema 1 and other allergic reactions. Considered an irritant by the EU and Japan, it can only be used in products if under 1%. However, it is reported that some people still react to amounts of less than 1% .
Octocrylene functions as UV Light Absorber and filter. Deemed safe, and used in many sunscreen products, however there have been some studies about this chemical and its effects on the body. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has concerns about bioaccumulation and cellular level changes. And that it may cause irritation to the eyes, lungs and skin . Another study showed that Octocrylene was found in human breast milk. Out of 78.8% of women used some cosmetic products containing UV filters, of which Octocrylene was one of them, 76.5% was found in human milk samples . Research is showing that these ingredients may mimic estrogen and can result in alterations of the reproductive system and result in an increased risk for conditions such as endometriosis. 
Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane (Avobenzone) absorbs UV rays. Although considered safe, a study at Lomonosov Moscow State University, Faculty of Chemistry, simulated a real situation and found when Avobenzone comes in contact with chlorinated water and ultraviolet light it can disintegrate. In fact, the UV-A light in a day of sunlight is sufficient to break down most of the compound. Doctor of Chemistry, Albert Lebedev, stated “On the basis of the experiments one could make a conclusion that a generally safe compound transforms in the water and forms 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.” 
Phenylbenzimidazole Sulphonic Acid (Ensulizole) works by absorbs UVB rays (not UVA rays) and converts ultraviolet radiation into less damaging infrared radiation (heat). It is water-soluble, and gives sunscreens a non-greasy texture. Considered to be relatively safe, as there are few studies on this chemical, but may cause dermatitis and/or allergic reactions in some people.
So there you have it… What do you think? Would you put a sunscreen made with these chemicals on your skin? Or your child’s or grandchild’s skin?
Even though regulators of these chemicals in sunscreens put limits on the amounts that can be used in formulations, you really have to ask yourself… “What are the effects if I use them regularly?” We know that mixtures of UV filters accumulate. And it cannot be excluded that sunscreen formulations may have estrogenic and other effects on us. And these chemicals are not just in sunscreens but can be found in our personal care products too.
But don’t despair as there are alternatives – you just have to look.
In regard to being sun safe… these are you options
Look for water resistant, biodegradable, natural low irritant, organically sourced ingredients. Although they are thicker and greasier (actually a good thing – like the old zinc) they are safe and do the job. My favourites are Soleo Organics and Wot Not brands. I’m not affiliated with these brands, I just like them (ALOT). There are MANY fantastic natural sunscreens – do your homework – check the label. If unsure of an ingredient, email the company and ask them. It may seem like hard work, but believe me when I tell you…. being ‘sick’ is harder work!!
- Don’t lay out in the sun between 10am to 3pm.
- Use a 30+SPF Natural sunscreen
- Sit in shade where possible, or use a SPF umbr.ella (I used to be embarrassed at doing this, but not anymore – especially after living in Japan and seeing their beautiful skin)
Wear on protective SPF beachwear
- Wear a hat
- Wear sunglasses
And remember that the cause of sunburn is UV radiation, and this is not related to temperature, so it can happen on the cloudiest of days. (check the daily UV Index).
Happy Summer. Nat xx
- Bohn, S., & Bircher, A. J. (2001). Phenoxyethanol‐induced urticaria. Allergy, 56(9), 922-923.
- Environmental Working Group (EWG). https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredient/704206/OCTOCRYLENE/
- 2008. Endocrine Active UV Filters: Developmental Toxicity and Exposure Through Breast Milk.
- 2012. Urinary Concentrations of Benzophenone-type UV Filters in U.S. Women and Their Association with Endometriosis. Environmental Science & Technology, 2012; 46 (8): 4624 DOI: 10.1021/es204415a
- 2017. Stability and removal of selected avobenzone’s chlorination products, Chemosphere,Volume 182, Pages 238-244. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chemosphere.2017.04.125.
- 2001. Environ Health Perspect. In vitro and in vivo estrogenicity of UV screens.
- 2012. Sunscreens: are they beneficial for health? An overview of endocrine disrupting properties of UV-filters. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2605.2012.01280.x.
- 2005. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. Additive estrogenic effects of mixtures of frequently used UV filters on pS2-gene transcription in MCF-7 cells.