The benefits of using a sunscreen are well known – but the side effects of some of the commonly used ingredients contained in sunscreens may not be so well known. These ingredients are in some but not all sunscreens, so it pays to be health-wise and read the ingredient labels.
Octinoxate is perhaps the most frequently found additive in sunscreen containing the all-important SPF or sun protection factor designation. Octinoxate is used because of its ability to be quickly absorbed into the skin and promote the quick absorption of other ingredients into the skin. The main problem with this chemical is its ability to disrupt the hormone estrogen. Not only humans but wildlife too can be exposed to the risks from this chemical due to exposure if the chemical is not fully absorbed into the skin before entering the water as this chemical can easily disperse in the water. Octinaxate interacts with the formation of skin cells and may result in aging of the skin.
Oxybenzone or benzophenone are also common ingredients in sunscreen whose purpose is to speed up the absorption of other chemicals into the skin. Exposure to this chemical often results in an allergic contact eczema rash that can easily spread beyond the contact area. This chemical may also alters hormone functions. Because this chemical is absorbed more quickly than our body can dispose of it, researchers estimate that as many as 97% of Americans have traces of this chemical in their body.
Homosalate is a chemical also designed to aid in the penetration and absorption of the sunscreen whose purpose is to absorb UV rays. Our bodies have yet to produce a good way to rid itself of these chemical toxins and therefore it also has the ability to accumulate in the body and disrupt hormone levels.
Octocrylene is another chemical used for its ability to speed up the absorption of the sunscreen into the skin but when exposed to UV rays it can cause damage to the cellular structure that may result in early signs of aging or even skin cancers.
Listed as either retinol or retinyl compounds containing vitamin A and moisturizing oils such as palm or coconut oil are added to sunscreens as a protectant to counter the effects of early aging from UV exposure. But research has indicated that the benefits are questionable as the retinyl compounds break down easily when exposed to UV light altering cellular formation and may accelerate the growth of cancerous cells and tumors.
Preservatives added to sunscreens are noted on the ingredient label as parabens, these are also often found in other lotions and even cosmetics can result in contact allergic rashes, they have been known to affect hormone levels and formation. Parabens will be commonly found listed as butylparaben, propylparaben, ethylparaben or methylparaben. This are added to prolong the life and viability of the sunscreen.