June 17, 2019
The Environmental Working Group has released their annual sun screen analysis for toxicity. It could not come at a better time. We are living with a governmental industrial complex that does not take into account the risks of chemical exposure to the average human, nor the at risk child. Creams and lotions are a high risk vehicle as the absorptive capacity is high in humans and very high in infants and children.
In an effort to stem the risk of skin cancer, the medical societies of the United States have made the decision to prize total sun avoidance as the best and most effective means of skin cancer prevention. For those that have followed my commentary on this topic in the past, you know that I disagree. For those who want further reading on the topic, read this link. I believe that we have a natural need for sun exposure and the volume of need and exposure is purely based on genetics, skin color and location of residence on the earth.
Burning one's skin is the issue, truly. When we damage our body, cells and DNA, we often get warning signals. Overexposure of a light skinned person to the sun causes redness, pain and DNA damage at the skin layer. (Berneburg et. al. 2000) The more that the skin darkening melanin is produced without active burning, the more that the damaging ultraviolet rays are absorbed offering protection to skin cells from DNA damage. Simplistically, I think of the reality that our skin is genetically darker the closer to the equator we are ancestrally derived and visa versa. This is not a mistake folks. Therefore, it would make prudent sense that sun exposure was a natural reality of everyday life in order to usher in the genetic changes that we see as skin color.
Jumping back to the skin/sun avoidance dilemma, we now have a massive cultural desire to use sunscreen all of the time. Why does this matter?
1) I submit to you that the total avoidance of the sun is a bad idea for the purposes of vitamin D development at the skin level. And NO, milk is not a reasonable substitute.
2) Anytime we apply a cream to our skin, we have to ask the question of whether this is a safe route of delivery or is the cream non-toxic. (The sunscreen sprays are an automatically bad idea as you are then potentially inhaling the sunscreen.)
In a study by Dr. Matta and colleagues, they looked at the central question of sunscreen absorption and potential risk. "Participants were randomized to 1 of 4 sunscreens: spray 1, spray 2, a lotion, and a cream. ....sunscreen... was applied to 75% of body surface area 4 times per day for 4 days, and 30 blood samples were collected over 7 days from each participant.""In this preliminary study involving healthy volunteers, application of 4 commercially available sunscreens under maximal use conditions resulted in plasma concentrations that exceeded the threshold established by the FDA for potentially waiving some nonclinical toxicology studies for sunscreens. The systemic absorption of sunscreen ingredients supports the need for further studies to determine the clinical significance of these findings. These results do not indicate that individuals should refrain from the use of sunscreen."(Matta et. al. 2019)
"Of all of the sunscreen ingredients, oxybenzone is known to be the most common cause of contact allergies; a 10-year study found that 70% of people had a positive patch test when exposed."
A Swiss study found oxybenzone or one of four other sunscreen chemicals in 85% of breast milk samples, sparking concern that newborns could be exposed.
And Hawaii, the Pacific nation of Palau and Key West recently banned sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate because they cause coral bleaching and are dangerous to marine ecosystems." (Lamotte CNN article)
Bottom line: Until we know what the true known risks of these sunscreen chemicals are and pose to our children, we should take the precautionary principle and avoid the potentially risky ones. The EWG sunscreen list below is a good starting point for which ones are the least risky in 2019.
Always avoid burning your skin. Excessive sun exposure is the issue. Burns and pain at the skin surface are the markers of risk.
Judicious sunscreen use is the key to success,
EWG Sunscreen safety list
Lamotte CNN Sunscreen Article
Berneburg Photoderm PhotoImmun Photomed Article
Matta JAMAnetwork Article