Applying sunscreen to your skin is causing systemic effects that have the FDA calling for more safety studies.
May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and as concerns for skin cancer rise, more and more people are following the advice to liberally apply sunscreen several times a day and avoid the sun as much as possible. But as I learned the hard way, sunscreen isn’t without its own risks. A new study published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) revealed that it only takes one day of sunscreen application for blood levels of 4 commonly used sunscreen chemicals to rise high enough to trigger an FDA safety investigation.
Sunscreen Gets Under Your Skin
Sunscreens work by blocking the absorption of UV radiation into the skin. The active ingredients either reflect, absorb, or scatter these rays to prevent skin damage, and the FDA currently regulates these chemical as over-the-counter (OTC) drug products. These sunscreen chemicals were initially approved for use in small quantities on an occasional basis to prevent sunburn – not for frequent daily use as a preventative.
The concern is that even modest applications a few times a day add up to multiple grams of sunscreen being used per day, including on infants as young as 6 months old. And what you put on your skin is ultimately absorbed into your systemic circulation.
The FDA study looked at the absorption of 4 commonly used sunscreen chemicals: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octocrylene, and ecamsule. By the end of the first day, all but one study participant had statistically significant blood levels of the chemicals. Particularly concerning was the amount of oxybenzone that was absorbed, which was 50 to 100 times higher than any of the other chemicals tested. The Environmental Working Group estimates that at least two-thirds of all chemical based sunscreens sold in the US use oxybenzone as their active ingredient.
This isn’t the first time oxybenzone has raised a red flag. Back in 2008, the CDC analyzed urine samples from a government study and detected the chemical in 97 percent of the samples. Since then, researchers have further studied and found oxybenzone is an endocrine disruptor, with links to lower testosterone levels in adolescent males, hormone changes in men, and pregnancy disruptions. The European Union has phased out oxybenzone in its sunscreens, and Hawaii and some Pacific nations have banned its use because it is dangerous to coral and marine ecosystems.
Learn From My Experience
As a more than thirty year survivor of Stage IV Melanoma cancer, I have done a lot of research into the topic of sun exposure, sunscreen, and their relationship to cancer, and I believe the sunscreen chemicals and lack of UVB rays getting to my skin did more to cause my melanoma than sun exposure ever did. Back when I was in my twenties, I had a basal cell skin cancer removed from the top of my head. The dermatologist told me to wear sunscreen 24/7 and stay out of the sun. I followed his advice religiously, putting sunscreen on as soon as I woke up and treating the sun like it was my kryptonite, avoiding it at all costs. I found myself with a diagnosis of melanoma ten years later.
Melanoma is a systemic cancer that spreads through your whole body and shows up on the skin – often in places that aren’t exposed to the sun. Think about it –when you go for a skin exam, the areas they are careful to check include behind the ears, on your scalp, and even in the groin area. After I was diagnosed, I did my research and learned the hard way that the chemicals in the sunscreen I slathered on were harmful, and I actually needed the vitamin D from the sun exposure I was so diligently avoiding.
I walked away from sunscreen and started enjoying the outdoors again – in the sun – and I haven’t had melanoma cancer for more than 30 years now. I am living proof you can heal naturally from terminal melanoma cancer, and I share my story in my new book, I Used to Have Cancer. If you or a loved one are looking for hope and healing from cancer, I encourage you to pick up a copy today.
Protect Your Skin Without Harmful Chemicals
Most sunscreens on the market today are a chemical soup of ingredients that do more harm than good. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) and reputable scientists have written extensively about the dangerous and cancer-causing effects of many of the chemicals found in sunscreens – not just the 4 that the FDA is calling for studies on. So what do you do when you know you’ll be spending all day on the lake, at the beach, or at the ball field and your skin needs protection from sunburn?
- Get Your Vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency is pretty much epidemic right now, and is known to increase your risk of melanoma and worsen the course of it once you have it. You can have your levels checked with a blood test, and supplement with vitamin D3 to get those levels up. To maintain healthy levels, I recommend a recharge with as much skin exposure as you can manage when the sun is the strongest – between 10am and 3pm. Once your skin starts to turn a little pink you’ll know you’ve had enough.
- Use Hawaii’s Best-Kept Secret. Hawaiian islanders have added microalgae into their diets to protect their eyes and skin from the oxidizing UV rays that cause sunburn. I take an astaxanthin supplement that’s derived from that same microalgae and it has helped me get the maximum benefits from sun exposure for long periods of time without getting burned. It also helps to get enough iodine in. Iodine is excreted when you sweat and mixes with the oil on your skin to increase its natural protective barrier.
- 3rdRock Sunblock to the Rescue. While some scientists suggest avoiding sunblock all together, if you have to use sunscreen, avoid harsh chemicals and choose a zinc-based formula. Historically, the only choice has been a thick, white cream with zinc oxide as the active ingredient. But there’s some evidence of bioaccumulation and environmental concerns, so a non-nanoparticle zinc oxide is the safer choice. 3rdRock Sunblock is non-nano and made from food grade edible ingredients, so it’s safe for kids, too. Not only is it free of toxic chemicals, but it’s also a cancer-protective alkaline pH.