Ditch the Chemical Sunscreen…
Ever since the first UVA/UVB sunscreens were developed in the late 1970s, the most common sun protection has been what is known as chemical sunscreen, which uses ingredients like avobenzone, octocrylene, and the most popular, oxybenzone (sometimes called benzophenone-3). These chemicals are absorbed into the skin and in turn absorb harmful UV rays, which they convert into heat.
While these sunscreen ingredients have been widespread for decades, emerging research suggests that common UV filters, including oxybenzone, found in chemical sunscreens may disrupt hormones like estrogen and serotonin. This hormonal disruption can lead to reproductive challenges, allergies, the development of certain diseases, and more health problems.
A 2020 report from Reproductive Toxicology found that when oxybenzone was administered to pregnant rats in quantities that correlated to the amount a human would be exposed to through typical use, the rats, who were in the equivalent of their first trimester, had fetuses that were underweight with lower amounts of nutrients and oxygen. They also produced a greater number of female fetuses, indicating that oxybenzone may disrupt the development of male hormones.
This is just one of a handful of studies indicating similar results. While researchers are still determining to what extent these chemicals may be disruptive to human health, emerging research suggests that common ingredients in chemical sunscreen (avobenzone, oxybenzone, and octocrylene) show up in the bloodstream within hours of a single application, and not just in trace amounts, but in as much as 400 times what is considered safe.
Additionally, many chemical sunscreens also contain parabens and phthalates, two known endocrine disruptors that are common in beauty and skincare products, Dr. Alexis Parcells, owner of Parcells Plastic Surgery, says.
The absorption of potentially harmful chemicals isn’t the only concern with these types of sunscreens. If you’ve noticed your skin feels itchy or off after applying them, it could be because of the conversion of UV rays into heat, which can cause heat-based chemical reactions on the skin and lead to irritation, especially in people who experience rosacea or psoriasis.
These concerns may be enough to make you want to stay inside all summer, but no one wants to miss their coveted beach days. The good news is that some brands are starting to make EDC-free chemical sunscreens. But until they become more widely available, there’s an easy and increasingly popular alternative to chemical sunscreen.
Switch to Mineral Sunscreen, Instead
We know we need to wear sunscreen all the time, every day. As Dr. Michele Koo says, even when you can’t see the sun, the sun can see you. So, what can you do? Fortunately, the answer is not choosing between skipping the sunblock or the pool. Instead, slather on the mineral (also called “physical”) sunscreen and enjoy your day in the sun.