With summer coming into full force, it’s time to protect our skin but it's important that we know all of the facts so that we can assess if the products we are using are safe. Many doctors commonly advise that we get approximately 20 minutes of sun a day to give our bodies the Vitamin D that it needs. We do not want to entirely block the sun rays as some Vitamin D is known to help the body fight against cancer. Vitamin D is also crucial for healthy bones and teeth, and our body requires Vitamin D to absorb calcium and phosphorus. It can also fight against type 1 diabetes and multiple diseases. In short, Vitamin D is crucial to our health and the primary source of Vitamin D is the sun.
Sunscreen is a widely used skincare product that helps protect the skin from the harmful effects of the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays. Oxybenzone is a common ingredient in many sunscreens. However, there has been a growing concern about the potential negative effects of oxybenzone on human health and the environment. In this article, we will discuss the positives and negatives of oxybenzone in sunscreens and explore the benefits and potential drawbacks of using sunscreen for older adults.
The History of Sunscreen
Sunscreens have been around for almost the entire 20th century and are now used commonly among consumers all over the world. The goal of sunscreens is to block UV light, harmful sun rays that can age the skin and cause skin cancer over time.
Sunscreens are regulated by the FDA. The FDA warns that it's more than just applying the sunscreen, it's about how and when we use the sunscreen that really matters the most. The FDA also advises consumers to limit the time in the sun, use broad spectrum sunscreens with an SPF of 15 or higher and reapply lotions every two hours. It’s also important to apply sunscreen 30 minutes before you go outside as 20-30 minutes is needed for the sunscreen to properly absorb and start working.
Out of the 15 clear suntan lotions approved by the FDA, nine are chemical-based and are known endocrine disruptors. This means that the chemicals in these suntan lotions disrupt the natural functioning of our hormones such as estrogen and testosterone. Whatever we put on our skin will undoubtedly end up in our bloodstream. These chemical sunscreens work by being rubbed onto the skin and then the chemicals from the suntan lotions are absorbed into the skin and then dispersed throughout the bloodstream.
The FDA says, “Every drug has active ingredients and inactive ingredients. In the case of sunscreen, active ingredients are the ones that are protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Inactive ingredients are all other ingredients that are not active ingredients, such as water or oil that may be used in formulating sunscreens. Below is a list of acceptable active ingredients in products that are labeled as sunscreen:
- Aminobenzoic acid
- Menthyl anthranilate
- Octyl methoxycinnamate
- Octyl salicylate
- Padimate O
- Phenylbenzimidazole sulfonic acid
- Titanium dioxide
- Trolamine salicylate
- Zinc oxide
“Although the protective action of sunscreen products takes place on the surface of the skin, there is evidence that at least some sunscreen active ingredients may be absorbed through the skin and enter the body. This makes it important to perform studies to determine whether, and to what extent, use of sunscreen products as directed may result in unintended, chronic, systemic exposure to sunscreen active ingredients.” source: FDA Sunscreen: How to Help Protect Your Skin from the Sun
Recent studies have shown that basically all of the chemicals are dispersed into the bloodstream and that these chemicals are still found in the body two days later.
Do Sunscreens Have Endocrine Disruptors?
Yes. Endocrine disruptors can cause a slew of problems such as developmental problems with unborn babies and newborns and fertility and sperm problems with men. Studies have shown these disruptors can also cause ovarian cancer in women and prostate cancer in men.
One of the most troubling ingredients in suntan lotions is oxybenzone, a toxic chemical used to absorb UV light. Oxybenzone is a known hormone disruptor and may cause cell damage. It may also contribute to cancer. It basically penetrates the skin from the cream and acts like estrogen. Preliminary studies have linked it to endometriosis in older women.
Retinyl Palmitate is another chemical to be concerned about. Sun safety website, EWG says, “When used in a night cream, this form of vitamin A is supposed to have anti-aging effects. But on sun-exposed skin, retinyl palmitate may speed development of skin tumors and lesions, according to government studies. Why is this “inactive ingredient” allowed in sunscreens intended for use in the sun? Good question. The FDA has yet to rule on the safety of retinyl palmitate in skin care products, but EWG recommends that consumers avoid sunscreens containing this chemical.” source: EWG Sun Safety
What is Oxybenzone?
Oxybenzone, also known as benzophenone-3, is a chemical compound that is commonly used in sunscreens and other personal care products. It is an organic compound that absorbs UVB and UVA rays, preventing them from penetrating the skin and causing damage. Oxybenzone is an effective ingredient in sunscreens as it provides broad-spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays.
Positives of Oxybenzone in Sunscreens
One of the main positives of oxybenzone in sunscreens is its ability to protect the skin from the harmful effects of the sun's UV rays. UV rays can cause a range of skin damage, including sunburn, premature aging, and an increased risk of skin cancer. Oxybenzone works by absorbing the UV rays and preventing them from penetrating the skin. It is an effective ingredient in sunscreens, providing broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays.
Another positive of oxybenzone in sunscreens is that it is a stable and long-lasting ingredient. It does not break down easily, even when exposed to sunlight or water, which means that it provides prolonged protection to the skin. This stability also means that sunscreens containing oxybenzone have a longer shelf life compared to sunscreens that do not contain this ingredient.
Negatives of Oxybenzone in Sunscreens
Despite its effectiveness in sunscreens, there are several potential negatives of oxybenzone. One of the main concerns is that it may have negative effects on human health. Studies have shown that oxybenzone can be absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream. Once in the body, it can mimic hormones and disrupt the endocrine system, which can lead to a range of health issues. Some studies have linked oxybenzone to developmental and reproductive issues, as well as an increased risk of certain cancers.
Another negative of oxybenzone is its potential impact on the environment. Oxybenzone can enter water systems, such as oceans and rivers, through wastewater and swimmers wearing sunscreen. It has been shown to be toxic to coral reefs, leading to coral bleaching and death. As a result, some areas have banned the use of sunscreens containing oxybenzone in an effort to protect the environment.
Alternatives to Oxybenzone
We can use a mineral sunscreen that is either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide based. Both mineral-based sunscreens, which can be hard to find, work by blocking UVA and UVB rays. For a long time, consumers have shied away from using zinc-based sunscreen creams because of the white residue left on the skin but new versions are more clear.
An interesting solution is coconut oil. Coconut oil acts as a natural sunscreen, providing protection that is roughly equivalent to about SPF 8. It can also be combined with sunscreen. It also hydrates and moisturizes the skin, allowing the skin protection against potential burning.
This summer, and the rest of the year, opt for a natural sunscreen. It may be more money and harder to find, but your skin and health are worth it.
Benefits of Sunscreen for Older Adults
The use of sunscreen is important for people of all ages, but it can be particularly beneficial for older adults. As we age, our skin becomes thinner and more susceptible to damage from UV rays. This can lead to a range of skin issues, including wrinkles, age spots, and an increased risk of skin cancer. Sunscreen can help prevent these issues by providing protection against the sun's harmful rays.
In addition to protecting the skin, sunscreen can also help improve the appearance of aging skin. Many sunscreens contain antioxidants and other skin-nourishing ingredients that can help improve the overall health and appearance of the skin. They can help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, improve skin texture, and even out skin tone.
Potential Negatives of Sunscreen for Older Adults
While sunscreen can be beneficial for older adults, there are also potential drawbacks to consider. One of the main concerns is that sunscreen can interfere with the production of vitamin D, which is essential for bone health. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to a range of health issues, including osteoporosis, falls, and fractures. However, it is important to note that the amount of vitamin D produced through sun exposure is affected by many factors, such as time of day, season, and location. Therefore, it is recommended that older adults talk to their healthcare provider about their vitamin D needs and whether they need to supplement their intake.
Another potential negative of sunscreen for older adults is skin irritation or allergic reactions. Some people may experience skin irritation or allergic reactions to certain sunscreen ingredients, especially if they have sensitive skin. It is important to choose a sunscreen that is appropriate for your skin type and to test it on a small area of skin before using it all over your body.
In conclusion, sunscreen is an important skincare product that provides protection against the sun's harmful UV rays. Oxybenzone is an effective ingredient in sunscreens, providing broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays. However, there are also potential negatives to consider, such as its potential impact on human health and the environment. It is important to choose a sunscreen that is appropriate for your skin type and to consider the potential risks and benefits of using oxybenzone-containing sunscreens.
For older adults, sunscreen can be particularly beneficial in protecting the skin from the harmful effects of the sun and improving the appearance of aging skin. However
also potential drawbacks to consider, such as the potential impact on vitamin D production and the risk of skin irritation or allergic reactions. It is important for older adults to talk to their healthcare provider about their vitamin D needs and to choose a sunscreen that is appropriate for their skin type.
Overall, the benefits of using sunscreen for skin protection and anti-aging outweigh the potential negatives. It is important to stay informed and to choose sunscreen products that are safe for both our health and the environment. Additionally, incorporating other protective measures such as wearing protective clothing, seeking shade, and avoiding peak sun hours can further reduce the risk of skin damage and premature aging.