The Burning Facts… about Nanoparticles and Sunscreens
by Dr Sarah Lantz (reproduced from the Miessence HQ Blogsite)
I grew up with the Cancer Council’s Slip Slop Slap campaign. I can still hear Sid the dancing Seagull singing the jingle now, listen: ‘Slip… Slop… Slap… Slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat’.
But sloping on a sunscreen, even an Anti-Cancer Council one, is not necessarily always a good idea. Some do not protect us against harmful UV rays, some contain nano-particles, and some are chocker full of toxic ingredients that affect our endocrine (hormone) systems, damage our skin, and even increase the risks of cancer. How ironic!
So this blog (and a follow-up webinar next week which will go into more detail on these issues) is a exploration of sunscreen, and more broadly, how to protect your health in the sun. To start with though I have some simple advice: don’t use sunscreen all the time.
Now that is a little controversial! And some would say darn right Un-Australian, but there is a rationale behind this, and its quite simple. Getting some sun, without sunscreen, is good for us. In fact, it’s better than good. It’s essential! Particularly given that nearly one third of Australian adults are suffering vitamin D deficiency.
Doctors across the western world are seeing the resurgence of rickets in children. Rickets are a softening of bones due to a deficiency or impaired metabolism of vitamin D, phosphorus or calcium, often leading to fractures and deformation. The primary cause of rickets is a vitamin D deficiency. Although vitamin D is commonly called a vitamin, it is not actually an essential dietary vitamin in the strict sense, as it can be synthesised in adequate amounts by most mammals exposed to sunlight.
And the benefits of Vitamin D exposure, which can only be reaped without sunscreen, help keep bones and teeth strong, maintains healthy kidney function, produce optimal blood pressure and cholesterol levels, enhance muscle strength and protect against many types of cancer, including breast, colon, endometrial, ovarian, pancreatic, prostate cancers, as well as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Get this: we stay out of the sun to avoid skin cancer, but we have a far greater chance of dying from a Vitamin D deficiency-related cancer than of a sunburn-related skin cancer. We don’t hear about that in the SunSafe campaigns do we?
This means that my girls and I sit in the sun most days – with no sunscreen on, no hat, no slipping or slopping. Getting sun every day is good for us. (Next week’s webinar explores Vitamin D in more detail…so tune in next week).
But there are times when we wear sunscreen and loads of it – if we are outside longer than 20 minutes and in the middle of the day, when we are skiing, and when we are in high altitudes. But not all sunscreen are created equally.
Sunscreens come in two forms: i) physical sunscreens, which contain either titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, which form a barrier (or film) on top of the skin that reflects the UV light, and ii) chemical sunscreens, which absorb UV rays before they can do damage.
The US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) graph below features chemical and physical sunscreen ingredients, as well as the type and amount of ray protection that they provide and their class. Note how zinc oxide fares in the graph.
But what about zinc oxide?
‘No other sunscreen ingredient provides broader protection’ (Dr. Pinnell, The J. Lamar Callaway Professor of Dermatology at Duke University)
If you’re going to go for a chemical sunscreen, you need to know that while chemical sunscreens can protect against damage from UV rays, most also contain a range of harmful chemicals which can be absorbed through the skin and into our bloodstream where they can accumulate in our blood, fat, and breastmilk. A study in the Journal of Chromatography found that there was significant penetration into the skin of all sunscreen agents they studied.
Some of the worst chemical offenders?
These include Dioxybenzone and oxybenzone, two of the most powerful free radical generators around as they can disrupt hormone (endocrine) function. Also, Para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) which releases free radicals, damages DNA, has estrogenic activity, and causes allergic reactions in some people. Also… octyl methoxycinnamate (OMC) which is the main chemical used in chemical sunscreens to filter out UV-B light. Researchers have raised safety concerns about octyl methoxycinnamate, demonstrating that mouse cells died when OMC was added at five parts per million, a much lower concentration than occurs in sunscreens. Finally, Benzophenone-3 has been linked toendometriosis and testosterone interference.
What sunscreen should I use then?
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) rates sunscreens (amongst other chemicals found in everyday products) based on safety and how well they protect against UV rays.
The Miessence Reflect Outdoor Balm (SPF 15) was chosen as one of the top 39 rated sunscreens by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). The EWG evaluated 500 sunscreens to come up with their recommended list of 39 sunscreens.
Although the Miessence Reflect Outdoor Balm (SPF 15) is actually SPF 27, Miessence can’t claim it as such because it’s not classified via the Therapeutic Goods Act (TGA) as a primary sunscreen. While Zinc oxide is the primary mineral used in the Reflect Outdoor Balm, potent antioxidants including natural vitamin E, beta carotene and polygonum extract, protect the skin from premature aging and prevent damage caused by the elements.
Miessence Reflect Outdoor Balm, and the entire Miessence certified organic range for health, home and body are available to purchase online from Rob Bentley trading as MiNaturals, via http://www.minaturals.miessence.com
Dr Sarah Lantz (PhD) is a Public Health Researcher, mother, and author of the bestselling book, Chemical Free Kids: Raising Healthy Children in a Toxic World www.chemicalfreekids.com.au and www.nontoxsoapbox.com
Daly RM, Gagnon C, Lu ZX, Magliano DJ et al. Prevalence of vitamin D deficiency and its determinants in Australian adults aged 25 years and older: a national, population-based study Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2012 Jul;77(1):26-35.
Robinson PD, Hogler W, Craig ME, et al. The re-emerging burden of rickets: a decade of experience from Sydney. Arch Dis Child. 2006; 91:564-8.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) http://www.epa.gov/sunwise/doc/sunscreen.pdf
Sarveiya V, Risk S, Benson HA., Liquid chromatographic assay for common sunscreen agents: application to in vivo assessment of skin penetration and systemic absorption in human volunteers. J Chromatogr B Analyt Technol Biomed Life Sci. 2004 Apr 25;803(2):225-31.
Rob Edwards, Sinister side of sunscreens, New Scientist, 07 October 2000
Tatsuya Kunisue, Zhen Chen, Germaine M. Buck Louis, Rajeshwari Sundaram, Mary L. Hediger, Liping Sun, Kurunthachalam Kannan. Urinary Concentrations of Benzophenone-type UV Filters in U.S. Women and Their Association with Endometriosis. Environmental Science & Technology, 2012; 46 (8): 4624 Environmental Working Group (EWG) http://breakingnews.ewg.org/2012sunscreen/
Posted by Rob Bentley. Posted In : Toxic Skincare