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How Green Is Your Organic Sunscreen?

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With so many sunscreen options that are widely available these days, finding the perfect one for you might be challenging. However, the most important factor to consider when choosing sunscreen is how effectively it protects the skin from UV rays. 

Sun exposure raises our risk of developing Melanoma cancer, a deadly form of skin cancer. This raises concerns about the most effective methods of protecting ourselves from the sun’s harmful radiation. Because many consumers prefer ‘organic’ products, shops are now selling sunscreens made with ‘organic’ substances that promise to be equally effective as with sunscreens that are chemical-based. Is this true, or are you putting your money – and your skin – at risk by opting for an organic sunscreen

The objective of sunscreen is to protect your skin from harm (sunburn, skin cancer, etc.) caused by the ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) that the sun emits. The best product to protect us will be by using organic sunscreen. As such, why are there so many sunscreens on the market that include hazardous chemicals and other possibly harmful ingredients? 

Many sunscreen ingredients penetrate the skin, exposing you to potential short- and long-term damage, depending primarily on the chemical components in the product. 

Sunscreen is classified into two categories: 

  • Mineral sunscreen is applied directly to the skin and forms a barrier against the sun’s rays. On the label, you may find the ingredients zinc or titanium. These chemicals can be a little bit hard to rub in. They are intended to remain on the surface of the skin; that is why it leaves the skin with white residues.  Mineral sunscreen begins working immediately upon application, although it is easily taken off with water or sweat. 
  • Chemical sunscreen shields the skin from the sun’s rays by absorbing it like a sponge. It transforms the photons to heat and then dissipates it via the skin. Because it seeps into the skin’s top layer, it does not leave the white coating that mineral sunscreens do, and it also does not wash off as easily. However, it may take between 15 and 30 minutes before it works. 

Sunscreens come in various forms, including creams, sprays, gels, and sticks. Creams are ideal for areas that have dry skin, sticks are best for around the eyes, and gels are best for hairy areas (like the scalp).

Hazardous chemicals that are not present in organic sunscreen 

Fortunately, there are organic sunscreens available that are 100 percent mineral-based rather than chemical-based. Mineral sunscreens typically contain the minerals titanium dioxide and zinc oxide that act as a barrier to the skin rather than permeating it. Attributed to the reason that these ingredients physically block or reflect the sun’s UVA and UVB rays, they are frequently referred to as sun blockers. 

Here are nine hazardous sunscreen chemicals to avoid:

Why else would you choose a sunscreen that is 100% organic? To avoid exposure to the substances listed below and the dangers connected with them. If any of the following components appear on the label when purchasing sunscreen, return the product to the shelf.

  • Retinyl palmitate. Vitamin A in this form is a mixture of retinol and palmitic acid. The compound retinol breaks down when it is exposed to ultraviolet rays. This will produce free radicals that are cell-damaging, which can damage DNA and eventually cause cancer. When used as an ingredient for sunscreen, retinyl palmitate has been proven to hasten the development of skin cancers and lesions. 
  • Oxybenzone. This extremely prevalent sunscreen component facilitates the penetration of other chemicals into the skin. While oxybenzone blocks UV rays, it may interfere with hormone activity and possibly trigger allergic skin reactions. The chemical was detected in 96% of urine samples collected in the United States and 85% of breast milk samples collected in Switzerland. These qualities make oxybenzone particularly concerning for pregnant and nursing women, as well as children.
  • Parabens. The paraben family is widely used in personal care products and has been linked to hormonal disruption, allergic responses, and reproductive problems, and developmental toxicity.
  • Octinoxate. This substance is a hormone disruptor as well as a skin irritant. It is absorbed rapidly by the skin and aids in the absorption of other components of sunscreens. It has been found in animal studies to have an effect on thyroid activity and behaviour. 
  • Homosalate. It has the potential to interfere with estrogen, progesterone, and androgen activities. 
  • Avobenzone. While this chemical is not known to affect hormones, it does have a somewhat high rate of causing skin allergy. 
  • Octisalate and octocrylene. Both of these compounds pose a moderate risk for skin toxicity reactions. 
  • Methylisothiazolinone. This is a non-active component that acts as a preservative in several sunscreens. MI was selected as the ‘allergen of the year’ by the American Contact Dermatitis Society in 2013 due to its association with severe skin allergies, particularly in children. 

Ingredients that should be present in an organic sunscreen

As previously stated, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are two natural sun blockers. Zinc is preferred because it absorbs both UVA and UVB radiation and is more resilient than titanium. Titanium dioxide can not block UVA rays as effectively as zinc, and the particles are less stable, which might result in oxidative cellular damage when exposed to sunlight. 

Titanium dioxide is classified as a ‘moderate’ health hazard by the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep website. Many sunscreens that fit the EWG’s requirements, on the other hand, feature both zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. If you have concerns about titanium dioxide’s safety, use a sunscreen that has just zinc oxide as an active ingredient. 

Other ingredients present in an organic sunscreen should be purely natural and should include a variety of antioxidants (for example, vitamin E [tocopherol], plant oils, shea butter, stearic acid, xanthum gum, and plant extracts. 

How to effectively use your organic sunscreen 

To receive the most protection from your sunscreen, follow these guidelines from the American Academy of Dermatology: 

  • Look for products that are ‘broad-spectrum’; this implies that it protects the skin from both UVA and UVB rays. 
  • The sunscreen must have an SPF of 30–50.
  • You should apply sunscreen 15–20 minutes before going out.
  • When you are outdoors, reapply organic sunscreen every two hours.
  • If possible, use broad-brimmed hats, light-weight, and long-sleeved shirts, and pants to keep skin from being directly exposed to the sun.

Robert Haynes did his degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. He is interested in mental health and well-being.

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