Sun Protection and What You Need to Know about Sunscreens

Sun hygiene

  • Seek the shade, between 10 AM and 4 PM., otherwise enjoy the sun in moderation
  • Do not burn, avoid tanning and tanning booths.
  • Cover up with clothing, a broad-brimmed hat, and sunglasses.
  • Use only healthy sunscreen with SPF15 or higher without harmful chemicals.
  • Keep newborns out of the sun.
  • Sunscreens should be used on babies over the age of six months.
  • Eat lots of food high in Betacarotene, antioxidants & vitamin c
  • If burnt, use creams with arnica, hypericum and calendula
  • Examine your skin monthly & have a skin check up yearly
  • And enjoy our sun in moderation, it is also good for you!

We stock the following brands

Soleo, Oasis, Coola, Pure South,

Read on for the rather horrific notes on the sunscreen issue from…..

Dr Peter Dingle presents the evidence behind a growing concern about chemicals in sunscreens.

“During the past 50 years, we have increased the number of synthetic sunscreen chemicals that we use. We have done this with virtually no consideration of how vulnerable we are to these chemicals – or how little we know about their subtle and cumulative toxic effects. We assume that because they are so easily purchased from the supermarket shelf, they must be safe to use.

Wrong! Many of these chemicals are known to be toxic; very few are carefully studied before they are put on the shelf and made available to the general public. In fact, many of these chemicals have been used for more than five decades without any deliberation about their potential toxic effects. There is no doubt that the products in everyday sunscreens are toxic.

The only real question is: what effects do they have on you and your family? The question of whether sunscreen prevents skin cancer remains unanswered. More than a dozen epidemiological studies show an increased risk of skin cancer to the sunscreen user. A review of studies on skin cancer and sunscreens by “Science News” found that people who used sunscreen were more likely to develop basal cell cancer than people who did not. The possibility remains that these products may be contributing to skin cancers. This is supported by the fact that the toxic chemicals used in sunscreens could very well constitute a potential mechanism for the development of skin cancers.

Many of the chemicals in sunscreens have minimal toxicological effects when first applied to the skin. However, once exposed to sunlight, reactions occur between the sunscreen’s active and inactive ingredients and the epidermis. Toxic reactions include inflammation, dermalogical effects, allergic reactions and photogenotoxic (DNA altering) effects. Many chemicals in sunscreens have been found to be phototoxic (becoming toxic when exposed to light), causing burning, irritations, pigment changes and photoallergic effects such as hypersensitivity to chemicals.

Titanium dixide, or Ti02, has been found to form harmful free radicals that react with skin cells, resulting in intracellular damage, including damage to DNA. On absorption of UV light, photo-generated titanium dioxide particles create singlet oxygen, superoxide anions (O2-) and hydroxyl radicals (OH-) that are potent free radicals. This damage can lead to the development of mutant cells and skin cancers.

Octyl methoxycinnamate (OMC) is one of the most frequently used chemical UV filters worldwide and has been reported to cause photosensitisation and photoallergic effects. OMC easily penetrates the upper layer of the skin and, when exposed to UV radiation, generates free radicals in skin cells. Recent studies indicate that OMC may also have significant undesirable effects as a xenoestrogen.

Extensive research has shown that a number of UV filters frequently used in the formulation of commercial sunscreens, such as 4 MBC, octyl methoxycinnamate, oxybenzone (benzophenone-3), octyl-dimethyl-PABA and octinoxate, possess endocrine activity. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that interfere with endogenous hormone action and/or production. These have been implicated in the development of a number of diseases in both males and females, including cancer of the mammary glands and reproductive organs, as well as the abnormal development of the male reproductive system.

In one study, the application of three active ingredients commonly found in sunscreens (oxybenzone, 4-MBC and octinoxate) for one week led to a drop in testosterone and estradiol levels in men. More worrying is that these chemicals have been found in breast milk at concentrations known to have oestrogenic effects.4-Methylbenzylidene camphor (4-MBC) competes with estradiol for oestrogen binding sites in the uterus, indicating that it may act as an environmental oestrogen. Laboratory tests on rats exposed to 4-MBC revealed that male rats born to mothers exposed to this compound had lower testis weight, experienced delayed puberty and decreased adult prostate weight.

Human trials found that both OMC and 4-MBC were readily absorbed through the skin and were detectable in urine. These compounds may pose an even higher danger to prepubescent children with low levels of endogenous hormones.

Youngsters are likely to be exposed to greater concentrations of these compounds as a result of their larger surface area to volume ratio, undeveloped toxin elimination systems, greater application rates and the fact that they are likely to swallow small amounts when the sunscreen is being applied to their face and lips.

Daily use of a sunscreen with benzophenones can cause photo-contact dermatitis, rosacea, burning, itching and erythema. Benzophenone, along with menadione, form free radicals which can initiate a chain reaction that will cause damage to anything it comes in contact with, including cell DNA.Oxybenzone (benzophenone 3) is a benzophenone derivate commonly used which is rapidly oxidised to become a potent free radical and linked with cell damage. It has also been linked with allergies and xenoestrogenic properties. A recent study found that mothers with high levels of oxybenzone in their bodies were more likely to give birth to underweight baby girls which is linked with many health complications later in life. In the words of the researcher, “It would be prudent not to apply oxybenzone to large surface areas of skin for extended and repeated periods of time, unless no alternative protection is available.”

A study by the Center for Disease Control in the US found that 97 per cent of the 2,500 people tested aged six years and up had oxybenzone in their urine. An earlier study found oxybenzone in the urine of all adults tested and being excreted many days after the last application, which suggests a tendency to accumulate in fatty tissues in the body.

Avobenzone is another compound that upon exposure to UV light generates free radicals; PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid) was one of the first commercially used UVB sunscreens.  PABA has been found to form potent free radicals when exposed to UV light.Padimate A,  reacts with UVA to produce symptoms widely resembling sunburn in some individuals without sunburn cells. Padimate O , when exposed to sunlight, generates free radicals that cause strand breaks on DNA. An experiment with Padimate O found that it produces singlet oxygen (free radicals) upon illumination and increased indirect DNA damage by a factor of 75 over sunlight exposure alone.In 1994, researchers at the Harvard Medical School found that the ingredient psolaren in sunscreens is an extremely efficient carcinogen.

People with psoriasis are at greater risk than others, as their squamous cell carcinoma rate was found to be 83 times higher than that of the general population. PBSA (2-phenylbenzimidazole-5-sulfonic acid) and Parsol 1789 are also linked with causing DNA damage.Octyl salicylate and Dibenzoylmethanes are associated with an increase in photoallergy and contact allergy, as well as the other dibenzoylmethane derivatives such as 5-methoxypsolaren (5-MOP) and isopropyl dibenzoyl methane (Eusolex 8020).Preservatives can be just as toxic as the sunscreens.

Formaldehyde, a chemical that causes cancer in some animals and a strong skin irritant, is also used by some manufacturers as a preservative. DMDM Hydantion, diazolindinyl urea (also with a trade name GERMALL) and quaternium are chemicals that release formaldehyde and have been associated with skin sensitisation and rash. Excipients (other ingredients)  make up approximately 80 per cent of sunscreens and act as the carriers or base materials of a product. They include mineral oil, petrolatum, isopropyl esters, lanolin derivatives, aliphatic alcohols, emulsifiers, fragrances, thickeners and preservatives.

In Australia, sunscreen manufacturers only have to list the “active ingredients,” those that are used in blocking the sun, and preservatives. By contrast, cosmetics legislation makes companies list all the ingredients, despite the fact that sunscreens may be applied all over the body, multiple times each day and all over our kids.

Most of the major active ingredients in sunscreens that have been tested for their ability to enter the blood through the skin have shown positive results. A large proportion of the active ingredients in sunscreens can also act as penetration enhancers that speed up the movement of other chemicals through the skin and into the blood.

A number of products are now available that afford just as good sun protection as the synthetic toxic sunscreen ingredients, but with a much reduced risk. Black and green tea extract gel was found to first prevent erythema and acute sunburn because of direct sunlight, as well as to repair DNA damage inside the skin.

Human skin is capable of absorbing various nutrients directly and clinical studies have indicated that tea polyphenols are readily absorbed when topical applications are applied to the skin. Formulations containing products such as vitamin A, vitamin E, lycopene and green tea are at present readily available on the cosmetic market.

Zinc oxide is considered considerably safer than titanium dioxide and covers the full UVA and UVB spectrum from 290 to 400nm, the most complete spectrum. Microfine zinc oxide is less white than titanium dioxide as a sunscreen ingredient and it is more protective against long wave UVA.Buy only products that list all the ingredients. The product packaging must state as such: all ingredients are listed. You don’t want them to just accidently miss one. The list will be at least 10 items long and in most cases much longer. The claim of being “natural” can be very misleading. Even more misleading, the term “natural” can be a part of the name of a product and therefore not necessarily a claim! Perhaps a better approach is to ask for products that are free from synthetic chemicals. Claims of being chemical-free usually imply this but are not really precise enough. Everything is made from chemicals, so “chemical-free” is not possible.

Organic products refer to products that have an extremely high level of certification and quality assurance. This means a lot of work has already been done to validate their safety. None of the toxic ingredients I have listed as toxic above are permitted in organic certification.

To find the safest sunscreens, look for products that resemble food ingredients. This would include a plant-based oil, green tea and vitamin E. In the future, all sunscreens will be made of edible ingredients probably with a little zinc oxide thrown in”.

A final word from Dr Dingle

“Only through consumer pressure will the bigger companies change to safer, less toxic ingredients in sunscreens. Science has never been enough to change the world – it can only help individuals make better choices and they can then change the world.”My aim is not to drive people out into the midday sun without protection.

My goal is to get people to think twice about the products they use. Good luck and good health to you and your family. The complete study (50+ pages) is available at  Peter Dingle is Associate Professor in Health and the Environment at Murdoch University, Western Australia”This finishes the information from Dr Dingle. What about concerns with nano-technology?

  • • The titanium dioxide that we use is classed as nano-particulate as the individual particles (properly called primary particles) are between 40nm and 80nm in size. Manufacturers use micronised or nano-titanium dioxide in sun lotions because it offers effective protection against UVA rays, the type of radiation that penetrates the skin and which is a leading cause of skin cancers including basal cell carcinoma and melanoma. The only other way of offering the same level of UVA protection would be to use synthetic chemical sun filters that have been shown to have harmful effects including the ability to mimic hormones in the body.
  • •The reason that the mineral particles have to be so small has to do with the way they scatter invisible UV light. To be fully effective against UVA radiation, the individual or primary particles should be ideally between 40 and 80 nanometers in diameter. Any larger than this and they become less effective at reflecting UVA light, but instead reflect UVB rays and light in the visible spectrum. Instead of offering UV protection, lotions containing titanium dioxide particles of greater than 100 nanometers start to form a visible white layer on the skin, which will not rub in as people expect a sun lotion should. Above 200nm, the effectiveness against UVA light is practically zero, unless it is applied as a thick white layer rather like white paint.
  • •The concerns over titanium dioxide nanoparticles are two-fold – firstly that due to their greater surface area they have an increased ability to react with other molecules, particularly oxygen, and secondly that they may enter the body through the skin and thereby reach internal organs where they may cause damage due to their increased reactivity.
  • •To counter these two potential problems, the manufacturers of titanium dioxide UV filters in cosmetics treat the minerals during production by coating each particle with a very fine layer of silicates – effectively they coat it in glass. This treatment has the effect of shielding the titanium dioxide from contact with other materials, including oxygen. This lack of contact prevents any potential reactions from taking place, and renders the mineral absolutely inert. It is therefore incapable of causing oxidative damage, the first of the two concerns.
  • •Secondly, when nano-particles are incorporated into a cream or lotion they clump together, forming aggregations. These are held together by forces of molecular attraction that prevent the primary particles from becoming separated when applied to the skin. Therefore, although the primary particle size of the minerals is in theory small enough to be absorbed through the skin, in practice the aggregations that are formed in creams and lotions are too large to cross through the skin-bloodbarrier. Instead, they remain on the surface of the skin where they reflect and scatter UV light
  • •The Physical Sunscreen Manufacturer’s Association worked together with COLIPA (the European Cosmetic Trade Association representing more than 2000 companies from 25 European states) to develop an extensive dossier of safety data and other evidence, specifically addressing the above two concerns. This dossier was presented to the Scientific Committee for Cosmetology and Non Food Products (SCCNFP) of the European Commission who considered the evidence for the safety of nano-Titanium dioxide in 2000. Based on that evidence, the SCCNFP concluded that Titanium dioxide is safe as a cosmetic ingredient at levels of up to 25%, regardless of particle size.
  • •We share your concerns over the advances being made in nano-technology, particularly in the creation of novel molecules such nano-spheres and nano-tubes. However, nano-particulate Titanium dioxide obtained by micro-fine grinding of the mineral has been safely used as a UV filter in cosmetics for over 30 years and there is a wealth of evidence to support that safety.
  • •The use of titanium dioxide particles of greater size than 100nm will result in a cream or lotion that remains white when applied to the skin, no matter how much you try to rub it in. I am not aware of any company producing sun lotions using such an ingredient, although several claim to use ‘micronised’ or ‘super-fine’ minerals. These are all the same as nano-particles – as already mentioned, if the cream or lotion containing mineral filters can be rubbed into the skin to become invisible then it is made using nano-particles.

Soleo Sunscreen – Does Soléo contain nano particles in its formation?

Zinc oxide: — No we use a non nano particle coated Zinc Oxide that is not photoreactive and will not produce hydroxyl ions (free radicals). We do not use traditional zinc coatings like dimethicone, aluminium, or sulphurs. Soleo uses only natural ingredients in all aspects of production and our zinc is coated with derivatives of coconut oil. Our zinc is approximately 2000 nanometers in size. To be classified as a Nano particle sizes have to be sub 100 nanometers. So our Zinc does not absorb into the bloodstream and effect serum zinc levels. Zinc assists in the growth and repair of the skin tissue. Zinc is the only sunscreen ingredient that offers comprehensive protection from the full spectrum of UV light, namely UV A, UV B and UV C. Unlike Titanium, Zinc is a true physical sunscreen, reflecting UV light and not absorbing it.

and more is available at http:/

Also (Friends of the Earth) Soleo is listed as one of the few nano-free companies.

Soléo Organic remains vigilant in providing the safest and most effective ingredients in our product range.

And here is another point of view

“Why don’t you use titanium dioxide?” Titanium dioxide is absorbed very easily into the body and into the bloodstream. We have chosen not to use chemical UV-absorbers in our formula due to international medical research articles that have shown that titanium dioxide has the potential to cause health problems. There is a medical research website that you might like to visit called– this outlines various research paper abstracts that have been published in medical journals about the concerns of common sunscreen chemical UV-absorbers.

List of websites Bodywise has used for research (EWG – Environmental Working Group) (Skin Care Support) (Soleo official website)

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