Sun Screens

01 Jun

I have been trying to zone in on a sunscreen for the past few days. There are just too many around and searching for the safest is a humongous task, IMO. We all know that sunscreen provides a shield against the harmful UVA/UVB rays . I was really( or) rather am afraid of getting skin cancer , especially with my immunity, and so I lather on sun screen liberally when going out in the sun. I think we have some five different brands of sun screen at home.But, doing further research has shown that the chemicals used in sunscreen are linked to cancer as well . Now, for a person with compromised immunity and a thin, sensitive skin, what is the choice? I searched for some natural sun screens available in the market. I searched the FDA website to see if they have come up with some regulations regarding the safety of the drugs used in sun screens, but couldn’t find any.

According to the EWG( Environmental working group) , a non profit organization focusing to prevent toxicity for children, the FDA rules for sun screens are not yet fully finalized. So, manufactures can make whatever claim they want . According to them,of the 832 most commonly marketed sunscreens, only 16% provided adequate protection from both UVA & UVB radiation with few ingredients linked to known or suspected health hazards.

A study by The American Cancer Society has stated that 80% of our total lifetime sun exposure occurs within the first 18 years of life ,so children in particular are at risk. Children are probably the most likely to be to be smothered in sunscreens . Worldwide, the greatest rise in melanoma has been experienced in countries where chemical sunscreens have been heavily promoted The rise in melanoma has been exceptionally high in Queensland, Australia where the medical establishment has vigorously promoted the use of sunscreens. Queensland now has more incidences of melanoma per capita than any other place on Earth. (Garland, Cedric F., et al. Could sunscreens increase melanoma risk? American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 82, No. 4, April 1992, pp. 614-15). In India, we never used Sunscreen as kids and the incidence of skin cancer is lesser there than in other developed countries.

There is a very well organized, consolidated database at , a website worth checking out. Please spend some time and go through the webpage to decide on what you want to use for the summer. It gives ratings for the sun hazard and health hazard for most of the brands. The low ratings are the best and the highest ones are the worst.

Here are some tips

Ingredients to avoid

A BIG NO would be any suncscreen using Oxybenzone or Benzophenone-3. Most of the high SPF ones like Neutorgena , Coppertone, Banana boat use Oxybenzone . It has been proven to be a known photo carcinogen.

These were supposedly non toxic until a few years ago, when some studies proved otherwise. Some scientists believe that it may be correlated with breast cancer, based on a study by UK scientists in which preservative chemicals were found in samples of breast tumors. There is still a major controversy about the toxicity of these chemicals.But, I would suggest not using these.

Avobenzone(Parsol 1789)
Some studies have shown this to be a free radical generator.The free radicals then react with other molecules and produce damage to the fats, proteins, and DNA of the cells – the types of damage that produce skin aging and the development of cancer.

Many sunscreens also contain triethanolamine, a compound that can cause the formation of cancer causing nitrosamines in products by combining with nitrite used as preservative and often not disclosed on sunscreen labels.

The safer sunscreens are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide which occur naturally and also because the scatter the sun’s rays rather than absorbing them like the others.The ones without any nano particles that don’t get absorbed by the skin are the best. They leave a white streak on the skin and you will know the difference when you apply. I bought Burt’s Bees Chemical Free Sunscreen SPF15 and it was so sticky and left this streaks of white on my skin. Well, if you look for all natural, that is what one would get, I guess. You get sunscreens with micro titanium dioxide or zinc oxide and they might be better for applying than the macro ones.

In January 2006 the TGA conducted a review of the scientific literature in relation to the use of nanoparticulate zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in sunscreens. The review concluded that:

There is evidence from isolated cell experiments that zinc oxide and titanium dioxide can induce free radical formation in the presence of light and that this may damage these cells (photo-mutagenicity with zinc oxide). However, this would only be of concern in people using sunscreens if the zinc oxide and titanium dioxide penetrated into viable skin cells. The weight of current evidence is that they remain on the surface of the skin and in the outer dead layer (stratum corneum) of the skin.

The Medicines Evaluation Committee endorsed this conclusion at its meeting on 2 February 2006.

Here are the top ten recommended by EWG

1. Blue Lizard (anything without oxybenzone)
2. California Baby (anything with SPF 30+)
3. CVS with zinc oxide
4. Jason Natural Cosmetics Sunbrellas Mineral Based Sunblock
5. Kiss My Face “Paraben Free” series
6. Neutrogena Sensitive Skin Sunblock
7. Olay Defense Daily UV Moisturizer (with zinc)
8. SkinCeuticals Physical UV Defense
9. Solar Sense Clear Zinc for Face
10. Walgreens Zinc Oxide for Face, Nose, & Ears

Some more can be added to this list

11.Badger Face and body sun block SPF30
12. Dermalogica Face Block SPF 25

I have ordered the California Baby SPF 30 , which uses micro titanium dioxide.

Also, most importantly,don’t forget to wear protective clothing, hats and sunglasses.


Posted by on June 1, 2009 in health, Informative



6 responses to “Sun Screens

  1. Manohar

    June 1, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    Shoba, superb post.. extremely informative. When I go home, I will have to check what the sunscreen that we use on Ayush has.

  2. Sri

    June 2, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    Thanks for Very useful information and detailed analysis.

    Serious question: How bad is going out without Sunscreen?
    Should we use it only in extreme case..3-4 hours in park or something?

    I will order the same one (banking on your research)

    • shoba

      June 2, 2009 at 5:45 pm

      We need 10 minutes of exposure in the sun for Vitamin D , other than that, sunscreen is essential .For 3-4 hrs in the park, especially between 10:00AM – 4:00PM, you need it 100%.

  3. karthi

    June 3, 2009 at 10:57 pm

    i suggest wilson’s spf 55 full length tennis tops. used to carry it.
    the only side effect the fabric doesn’t breath well and you what happens when profuse sweating is involved 🙂

  4. karthi

    June 4, 2009 at 10:25 pm

    what about mineral sunblock like bare minerals? i use them mainly because it doesn’t bother my skin which breaks out quickly.

    • shoba

      June 5, 2009 at 8:41 am

      The mineral blocks use Zinc and Titanium as the main components , which are the safer ones that I have mentioned. Please use only those when you are playing .
      I have been wanting to buy SPF clothes, but have never got around to it. Anyway, I don’t spend a lot of time in the sun like you.


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