Summer’s here and sunscreen should definitely be a part of your daily routine. You’ve heard it a thousand times: UV rays can cause cancer, premature aging and dark spots.
I’m not here to pretend like this is news to you. I know that you’re well aware, and if you’re reading this, I know that you’re also aware that not all sunscreens are equal.
Chemical sunscreens use ingredients like Oxybenzone, Octinoxate, or Homosalate to block UV rays and they work great, but the side effects are a bit disturbing.
They’ve been proven to disrupt hormones, act like estrogen in the body, are associated with conditions like endometriosis and have even been found in breast milk, and that’s not a side you want to be feeding your baby.
Definitely not worth it.
But hey, these aren’t perfect either. There are inhalation concerns with both (in powder form) but as far as sun protection goes, they can’t be beat.
But you knew that already.
Instead, I wanted to talk about an ingredient that may be found in your natural sunscreen that has been deemed unsafe in the past few years.
Retinyl Palmitate (Vitamin A)
It’s been known for decades that Vitamin A and its derivatives (ie. retinyl palmitate) can cause skin irritation and greater skin sensitivity to sunlight (referred to as photosensitivity).
But Vitamin A isn’t all bad, it’s actually an essential nutrient for good health found in both plant and animal-based foods. Forms of vitamin A have also been used by Dermatologists for years to treat acne and skin conditions.
It wasn’t until a study conducted in January of 2010 that unanimously confirmed Retinyl Palmitate enhanced the photocarcinogenic activity of sunlight.
Which basically means Retinyl Palmitate speeds up the onset of photo-carcinogenic effects (ie. tumors caused by UV exposure).
It’s also worth mentioning that retinyl palmitate has been found unsafe for use in cosmetics in Germany and is restricted in Canada.
So why do you need to know this?
It hasn’t yet been banned or restricted by the FDA in the US, which is where a lot of natural cosmetic companies are produced.
This means people like me here in Canada (and around the world) and especially those in the United States can still easily gain access to natural products with retinyl palmitate in them even though it has been proven unsafe.
This also means that a product can be labeled as “natural” and still contain this harmful ingredient.
Check Your Natural Sunscreen Label
My suggestion moving forward is to check you sunscreen labels.
If a sunscreen is labeled as “natural” then you should easily be able to identify the Active Ingredient as either Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide. Start there.
If that is the case, move to the Ingredient list and scan it for any of the following ingredients, they are all synonyms for Retinyl Palmitate:
RETINYL PALMITATE, AXEROPHTHOL PALMITATE; HEXADECANOATE RETINOL; RETINOL PALMITATE; RETINOL, HEXADECANOATE; VITAMIN A PALMITATE; AQUASOL A; AROVIT; OPTOVIT-A; RETINOL PALMITATE; VITAMIN A PALMITATE
If you find any of these, toss it.
Safe Alternative: Suntegrity
If you want a safe, natural sunscreen that doesn’t contain questionable ingredients, try out Suntegrity.
I recently came home from a sunny vacation with my two young kids and we use Suntegrity every day of the trip.
Some natural sunscreens leave you looking a bit white, and I won’t lie, if you don’t spend a few minutes rubbing this in, you will look like a ghost. But when we took the time to apply it properly, it rubbed in well enough that there was no white residue visible.
We spent several days at the pool and took this sunscreen with us each time. If you spend time in the water, the Suntegrity sunscreen will dissolve and start to drip off in white droplets.
However, we would just reapply like you would any sunscreen and it still protected us from getting burnt.
My daughter spent loads of time in the pool, and when we noticed she was dripping white, we reapplied and she left without any trace of sunburn at all.
The ingredient list may seem daunting, but there isn’t a single ingredient that scores over a 2 (except Zinc Oxide, which scores a 2-3 for respiratory concerns which only applies to airborne forms, not sunscreen)
Ingredients: 20% Zinc-Oxide, Aloe Barbadensis (Organic Aloe Vera) Leaf Juice, Camellia Sinensis (Organic Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Caprylic Capric Triglycerides (Coconut Oil Extract), Cetyl Dimethicone (Mineral Based), Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Sweet Orange) Essential Oil, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Essential Oil, Citrus Reticulata Blanco (Tangerine) Essential Oil, Cucumis Sativus (Organic Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Dimethicone (Mineral Based), Ethylhexylglycerin (Plant Derived Preservative), Glyceryl Monostearate (Plant Derived), Helianthus Annuus (Organic Sunflower) Seed Oil, Hexyl Laurate (Plant Derived), Hyaluronic Acid (Plant Derived), Magnesium Sulfate (Epsom Salt), Polyaminopropyl Biguanide (Preservative), Polyglyceryl-4 Isostearate (Plant Derived), Punica Granatum (Organic Pomegranate) Seed Oil, Simmondsia Chinensis (Organic Jojoba) Seed Oil, Sorbitan Stearate (Plant Derived), Water (Aqua).
There are super clean sunscreens out there that work great and don’t sacrifice your health! Don’t be fooled by “natural” sunscreens that contain harmful ingredients.
What’s your favorite clean sunscreen?