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Published on June 3rd, 2008 | by Stephanie Evans


Chemical-Free Sunscreens

Ironically, as the use of sunscreen has risen, so too have the incidents of skin cancer and melanoma, leading many scientists to the conclusion that the chemicals in sunscreen are doing greater damage to our cells than the ozone layer.

Sunscreen Safe Enough to Spray

The main chemicals in sunscreen can promote the growth of cancer through free radical generation, which damages cells. Other chemicals in sunscreen, such as parabens, produce effects similar to that of estrogen, which can cause irregularities in sexual development and possibly cancer. Fortunately, these chemicals can be easily avoided.

A few chemicals to always look out for include:

  • Benzophenone: A powerful free radical, benzophenone is activated by UV rays.
  • Disodium EDTA: The International Journal of Toxicology links this common sunscreen constituent with toxic effects in animal studies, and cites that it alters the structure of skin in a way that allows increased chemical absorption.
  • Padimate O: When activated by the sun, this PABA-derivative can damage DNA. Read more at the Padimate O Wiki.

Safe Alternatives

Many natural skin care lines are creating chemical-free sunscreens that use zinc oxide and natural minerals, to shield UVA and UVB rays. These minerals reflect, rather than absorb, UV rays.

Here are a few chemical-free sunscreens to try out:

  • Alba (an Avalon Organics product) sunscreens use octocrylene, an organic compound that absorbs UVA and UVB rays.

  • Badger
    SPF 30 contains the active ingredient zinc oxide with other ingredients, including extracts of lavender, citrus, and ylang ylang.
  • UV Natural sunscreens contain zinc oxide, nourishing oils, and green tea extract.

Also look for sunscreens and sunblocks that contain inactive ingredients that will soothe skin and counteract free radical damage. Natural additives like shea butter, hemp, aloe, lavender, and green tea provide an amount of shielding from sun rays and provide cooling comfort for your skin.

Visit the Environmental Working Group’s Sunscreen Summary for an extensive review of sunscreen safety and effectiveness.

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