What's Up With Chemicals In Sunscreen?

chemicals in sunscreen

Many people have begun to go the way of natural sunscreens because they're worried about chemicals in their sun protection products. But what is it exactly that you need to be aware of? Here's a quick breakdown of the possible dangers of chemicals in sunscreen.

How Are Chemicals In Sunscreen Absorbed?

Sunscreen is one of the only body care products that is applied to the entire body. In addition, it must be reapplied frequently. Most other skincare products are applied once or twice a day. Your skin absorbs more than you think, however. Some ingredients in sunscreens enhance the penetration to help the product bond with the skin. This allows more chemicals to be absorbed into the bloodstream. Some chemicals in sunscreen have been detected in blood, breast milk and urine.

Why Are Chemicals In Sunscreen?

Sunscreens typically contain two types of active ingredients: physical or chemical filters. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide stay on top of the skin and protect you by reflecting UV light. Chemical filters absorb UV rays, transforming them into heat energy and therefore diffusing them before they can damage the skin. The most commonly used chemical filters are:


Oxybenzone is the most common and perhaps the most troubling. An article on the Environmental Working Group website explains that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found oxybenzone in 96% of the U.S. population. Oxybenzone can cause not only skin allergies but also hormone disruption.

Studies aren't always conclusive, mainly because it is unethical to knowingly give someone large dose of a chemical that is known to be harmful. Therefore, most studies are observational or have been conducted on animals. We do know that chemicals in sunscreens can affect thyroid and reproductive hormones. Just how much has yet to be determined.

Should You Avoid Sunscreen Altogether?

Does that mean that you shouldn't wear sunscreen? Not at all. Sunscreen still protects you from skin damage associated with aging as well as skin cancers like melanoma. Your best bet is to combine a physical sunscreen with sun protective clothing. Sunscreens like Supergoop! don't contain hormone-disrupting chemicals and can even be used on children and babies. Add another layer of non-chemical protection by wearing long sleeves in 50+ UV fabric. Cabana Life clothing blends fashion and function. Plus, it's a way to prevent exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.

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