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Many “Healthy” Sunscreens Accelerate Skin Aging

Affiliate Disclosure | in Natural Remedies | by | with 41 Comments

It May Be Hard To Tell . . .

Given my mystery-ingredient spattered shirt and 3 day ponytail, but I actually care about the way I look. Okay, maybe not TODAY, but at least on Sundays, holidays, my wedding anniversary, annnnnnd a few days in between. What can I say? I want my husband to look at me and say “wow” every once in awhile.

Back when I gave up daily sunscreen use I confess I wondered if I’d look like a wrinkly prune in 20 years. Turns out, I probably did myself a favor.

Nanoparticles Linked To Increased Skin Aging, Cancer, and Environmental Toxicity

Many of the new generation of sunscreens – and this includes almost all “healthy” mineral sunscreens listed by the Environmental Working Group – contain titanium and/or zinc nano particles. Because these minerals are non-toxic in their natural forms it was assumed these mini-sized versions would be equally safe. That was probably a bad idea. Here’s why:

  • Accelerated Skin Aging – When researchers applied titanium nanoparticles to pigs’ ears for 60 days, the nanoparticles penetrated the skin and became widely distributed in tissues, crossing the blood brain barrier and entering the liver, while inducing significant changes in the skin. “The skin and liver displayed the most severe pathological lesions due to the oxidative stress that was induced by the deposited nanoparticles. These researchers warned that prolonged use of TiO2 nanoparticles would lead to significant skin aging as the nanoparticles significantly reduced the collagen content of the skin.” (Sunscreen: Biohazard, pg. 90. Emphasis mine)
  • DNA Damage – In a study which exposed pregnant mice to titanium nanoparticles, the babies born had a high number of deletions in their DNA. Now, the most common response I’ve seen to “studies on mice” is: “But those are mice! Mice aren’t people! If I listened to every study about how things affect mice, NOTHING would be safe.” And we often go about our lives, assuming that such studies can’t be taken seriously. The truth is, though, according to a Cornell University study in 2001, development proceeds in the same manner “across many mammalian species, including human infants.”
  • Increased Mortality Rate – Titanium photodegrades rapidly when exposed to sunlight, and there is now evidence that it may become toxic in the process. When researchers exposed the African clawed frog to a combination of titanium nanoparticles and UV light it created a toxic effect which led to a significant decrease in the survival of the frog. (November 2010 30th Annual Meeting of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC))
  • Toxic To The Environment – According to the Environmental Working Group “Studies suggest that nanomaterials are toxic in the environment to fish and other aquatic life and can damage organs when they enter the bloodstream after being absorbed through the skin, lungs or gut. ”

Are you suddenly feeling the urge to shout “Sunshine! Roses!“???? I’m sorry, talking about this stuff isn’t fun for me either. This post actually started out as a post on sunscreen recommendations, but I was so surprised by all the problems with the “healthy” ones that I felt it deserved a post. Fortunately, there is at least one I can wholeheartedly recommend. I’ll be sharing it with you tomorrow along with my recipe for homemade sunscreen.

But first, how about one more surprising fact you won’t find on the label?

Sunscreens Protect From Only 4% Of The Spectrum

That’s right, four percent – and that’s the “full-spectrum” ones! And now that the chemicals used to filter UVA rays are under intense scrutiny manufacturers are turning to nanoparticles and labeling their products as “natural” mineral sunscreens. Like their more bulky parent versions, these particles are far more effective at blocking UVA (long rays that penetrate deep into the skin) in addition to UVB rays (which interact with the skin to form Vitamin D) than most synthetics.

This is not as impressive as it sounds, though, because there are currently no mineral or chemical sunscreens that are effective at filtering Infrared Radiation (IR), which is a huge part of what we are exposed to:

  • UVA/UVB – 4% of the spectrum (sunscreens cover this)
  • Infrared Radiation – 47% (sunscreens do not cover this)
  • Visible light – 49% of the spectrum

The thing about this is that historically, redness and swelling (a sunburn) used to be our bodies way of letting us know we needed to spend more time in the shade. Sun is good, but like most things moderation is key. Problem is, now that we can prevent sunburns with UVB filters some experts believe that we have disabled the alarm that’s supposed to tell us when we’ve had enough.

Personally, I like my alarm to function so I try to get my sunscreen through food and go inside before I burn. However, there are times when that’s just not possible (Or desirable. Hello Cabo San Lucas!). On those days I definitely cover up or use sunscreen. But instead of eating junk food because I’m “on vacation” I keep up a nutrient-dense diet because – YAY! – researchers think antioxidants are our best defense against IR radiation.¹ The sunscreen recipe I’ll be sharing tomorrow contains two antioxidant powerhouses for this very reason.

Hey look, it’s my little pony! I think someone shouted sunshine and roses a little too loud.

 

photo credits: 1, 2, 3

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41 Responses to Many “Healthy” Sunscreens Accelerate Skin Aging

  1. Bethany Nash

    says:

    Major props for coupling hard truth with My Little Pony. You rock.

  2. I would add that infrared light (particularly 3 micrometer wavelength) has a profoundly positive effect on biological water structure as Gerald Pollack has shown in his experiments. This is where you get the most bang for the buck when taking in sunlight. Vitamin D formation is important, but you’re right, limiting so as not to burn is what matters.

  3. Kirsten

    says:

    I use a mineral foundation for makeup, and I’m pretty sure the main ingredient is zinc! Is there a way of knowing if it’s good or bad? (It is labeled SPF 15 too, which I’m not into either.) I know this is off topic, but what kind of makeup have you found that works?

    • Heather says:

      From what I understand, most mineral makeup does contain nanoparticles because they are invisible when rubbed on, while the larger particles are white. There are some manufacturers that label theirs as non-nano, but even so you have to really ask questions because they really do . . . can’t remember where I found the explanation of how they can say that but I’ll try to look it up.

      Regarding what I use, I have some stuff that was handmade by a mama in Texas but I only wear it maybe once every six months. I have been hearing about some really good companies, though. Maybe that should be another post!

      • angie

        says:

        I would love to hear more on healthier make up. I’m new to all of this and I think the hardest thing will be coloring my hair…are there healthier alternatives for hair color??

      • Kirsten

        says:

        I’d love a post on make-up/beauty products! I like the look of make-up, so I wear it every day, but I do try to use as natural products as possible. ;)

    • Sarah

      says:

      Hey Kirsten,

      If you are concerned, look at the label. It should be labeled micronized zinc if it is a nano particle. Some brands use regular zinc, but since it is a larger particle, it is harder to spread and leaves users looking more “ghostly.” That is why companies have been favoring the microparticle.

      • Kirsten

        says:

        That’s good to know, thanks! I was wondering how specific they have to be with labeling. It lists the ingredients only as “zinc oxide” and “titanium dioxide”, but since it’s a pretty well-known, mainstream brand, I’m guessing it may contain nano particles anyway…I think I’ll have to do some more digging. :)

  4. Carrie says:

    So is it even possible to find a non-chemical sunscreen that doesn’t contain nanoparticles? I don’t use sunscreen every day and have used coconut oil on myself and the kids in summers past when we were going to be hanging out at the pool, but if I did take a beach vacation or something I would probably want the extra protection. :(

  5. Caroline says:

    Already I know this is going to sound like a plug but seriously. We use Dr. Mercola’s sunblock. He really stresses the drawback of using commercial sunblock and the important health benefits of the sun. We purchased the waterproof one and while I’d say it works really well, I think next time we’ll opt for the one that isn’t waterproof. If you miss spots you’ll know it because those will be the only sunburnt blotches on your skin.

    This summer is going to be a challenge, my husband and I are not beach people and shy away from wearing shorts in public. He drew the line on wearing a wife beater shirt (haha! – not that I suggested it.) We’ll just have to get over it, but not to the point where we’re ready to join a nudist camp level of exposure. That really takes guts!

    As always, wonderful article!!!! I had a purple my little pony as a kid. Ahh…the memories!!!

  6. Elisabeth says:

    I would love to hear your opinion of Badger-brand sunscreen. Just discovered it recently, and love it! The active ingredient is zinc oxide. All other ingredients are natural – nothing I can’t pronounce or immediately recognize in the natural world. (Here’s the ingredient list for their baby formula: http://www.badgerbalm.com/p-468-spf-30-chamomile-baby-sunscreen.aspx .) That’s what impresses me, that there isn’t anything weird in it. The insect-repellent version has cedar & essential oils as well. Your thoughts?

    • Heather says:

      The ingredients look good to me but since they didn’t designate that they’re non-micronized I’m still a little wary as I wrote here:

      “Micronization is a grinding process, not a size. It can be used to make nanomaterials (100 nanometers or smaller, usually around 10-50), or something smaller than nanosize but larger than the non-micronized “bulk” form that has been shown to be non-toxic (200-500 nanometers).

      From what I understand, micronization appears to create at least some nanoparticles through it’s process even when the targeted size is larger . . . kind of like leftover sawdust. So even if it is “non-nano” micronized there is still a possibility it contains nanomaterial. Bulk forms that have not been subjected to micronization do not carry that risk” http://www.mommypotamus.com/how-to-make-non-toxic-homemade-sunscreen/

      I could be wrong about this. The terminology used in the industry does not conform to one particular standard as far as I can tell, so I’m just doing my best to interpret :)

  7. Lori Langone

    says:

    I recently purchased this sunscreen for my one-year old son. EWG ranked it highly, so I’m hoping it’s a safe choice. Know anything about this one?
    Adorable Baby SPF 30+ Sunscreen Non-Nano Zinc Oxide UVA/UVB 4.3 oz.
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005FSR9OW/ref=oh_details_o02_s00_i02

  8. Aimee

    says:

    Phew, your last few posts have gotten me all nervous inside…to know what I was putting on myself and my children in years past! No more though, just picked up some Loving Naturals Organic SunScreen and I am happy to say that they use NON-NANO PARTICLE ZINC OXIDE! I can now breathe a little better knowing I managed to pick up the right stuff. Have you heard of them before? I wonder if they will be on your list of recommended brands? I love your posts!

  9. […] many “healthy” mineral sunscreens contain nanoparticles which have been linked to accelerated skin aging, cancer and environmental toxicity. Not to mention that many of them use omega-6 rich oils such as […]

  10. […] many “healthy” mineral sunscreens contain nanoparticles which have been linked to accelerated skin aging, cancer and environmental toxicity. Not to mention that many of them use omega-6 rich oils such as […]

  11. Christina Byard via FB

    says:

    I am at such a loss when it comes to sun exposure. I am in sunny CA and have never been able to be in direct sun for more than 15 minutes without burning. Long sleeves and hats are great during the cooler months, but what is one to do in the summer other than hibernate ;) ? I have already had a skin cancer spot removed from my nose and am worried about both using sunscreen and NOT using sunscreen. Sigh. My genes were meant for more northern climes, I fear.

  12. […] Did you know that many “natural” sunscreens may accelerate aging? Apparently the nano-particles in some mineral sunscreens are responsible for this. Before you […]

  13. […] “Many ‘healthy’ sunscreens accelerate aging…Many of the new generation of sunscreens- and this includes almost all “healthy” mineral sunscreens listed by the Environmental Working Group– contain titanium and/or zinc nano particles. Because these minerals are non-toxic in their natural forms it was assumed these mini-sized versions would be equally safe. That was probably a bad idea. Here’s why…” READ the full article HERE […]

  14. […] “Even ‘healthy’ sunscreens can accelerate skin aging“ […]

  15. […] My “blue” from India Tree was really more of a green. I could never get a true blue out of it. Also, for dark brown/black mix a smidge of all the colors together and added a little activated charcoal. It’s very non-toxic (you can actually find capsules of it in the supplement aisle because it’s used for detoxing.) For white base makeup, mix some non-tosic lotion with a little non-nano zinc, or buy some organic diaper cream at the store that contains non-nano zine. (Wondering what the heck non-nano zinc is? This article may help) […]

  16. […] is a longtime reader who has been stopping by dish about everything from birth and motherhood to sunscreen and whether healthy kids get sick for years […]

  17. Brenda

    says:

    So, basically I’m damned if I do and damned if I dont? I have VERY fair skin and burn easily… but I love to be outdoors. Too much sun damage on my face ages it and now youre telling me sunscreen ages it. What’s a girl like me to do?

    • Heather says:

      Hi Brenda, I am in no way qualified to give medical advice so all I can do is share some resources for you to consider and talk over with your healthcare provider. I encourage you to do your own research and discuss your options thoroughly. Dr. Elizabeth Plourde, a cancer and DNA researcher, says that eating an antioxidant rich diet and seeking shade in an appropriate amount of time are very beneficial. You can read more about her opinions here and get the link to her book: http://www.mommypotamus.com/antioxidants-vs-sunscreen-which-works-better/

      I make my own sun lotion with this recipe, but Of all the commercial ones available the organic one from Kabana Skin Care is my favorite.

      Ingredients: 25% non-nano Zinc Oxide, Eldorado Springs Artesian Spring Water, Certified Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Certified Organic Beeswax, Vegetable Vitamin E (non-GMO from sunflower), Cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3)

      The product description says the ingredients are certified organic, so I believe the Vitamin D3 would be as well. I’ve put in a call to the manufacturer to confirm. It’s corn and gluten-free, too.

  18. Ellie

    says:

    I’m so confused now as to what I should wear as sunscreen. help!

    • Heather says:

      Ellie, I am in no way qualified to give medical advice, so all I can do is share some resources for you to consider and talk over with your healthcare provider. I encourage you to do your own research and discuss your options thoroughly. Dr. Elizabeth Plourde, a cancer and DNA researcher, says that eating an antioxidant rich diet and seeking shade in an appropriate amount of time are very beneficial. You can read more about her opinions here and get the link to her book: http://www.mommypotamus.com/antioxidants-vs-sunscreen-which-works-better/

      I make my own sun lotion with this recipe, but Of all the commercial ones available the organic one from Kabana Skin Care is my favorite.

      Ingredients: 25% non-nano Zinc Oxide, Eldorado Springs Artesian Spring Water, Certified Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Certified Organic Beeswax, Vegetable Vitamin E (non-GMO from sunflower), Cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3)

      The product description says the ingredients are certified organic, so I believe the Vitamin D3 would be as well. I’ve put in a call to the manufacturer to confirm. It’s corn and gluten-free, too.

  19. Sarah P

    says:

    The Honest Company’s sunscreen says “non-nano zinc” as the only active ingredient. I have been really impressed with the way it smooths on as well.

  20. Susan

    says:

    Thank you for your article. I am just beginning to learn about the realities behind ingredients put into sunscreens, makeup, etc., and it is very upsetting to me! I have always lathered up with sunscreens (especially all over my face) because I believed them to be beneficial to my skin. Yet all this time I was probably aging it more than necessary – the complete opposite of what I was trying to achieve! Time, money, efforts wasted. ‘Sigh’ At least my eyes are being opened now as I do my research.
    Thank you again.

  21. […] plus 1-2 tablespoons non-nanoparticle zinc oxide, depending on how thick you want the balm to be  (Here’s why I only recommend non-nano. I bought mine here. It cost $19 with shipping and will probably last me a bazillion years. […]

  22. […] you know that sunscreens – even so-called “healthy” ones – can actually accelerate aging? It’s true. Because I consider sunlight exposure to be a good thing, most days we skip […]

  23. […] In an alternate universe where the New York Times agrees that the flu vaccine is a PR job, traditional pediatricians wax eloquently on the benefits of a fever, and word is out that some sunscreens accelerate aging and cancer? (source 1, 2, 3) […]

  24. […] aging, cause DNA damage, and increase the production of free radicals associated with cancer. (Source 1: Many “Healthy” Sunscreens May Accelerate Aging, Source 2, Source […]

  25. Jenn

    says:

    What about titanium that is not nano particle sized? I ordered some that says it is a safe size and not nano so it won’t be absorbed into the blood stream. I wanted to use both titanium and zinc in my sunscreen

    • Heather says:

      Hi Jenn, according to Dr. Elizabeth Plourde, a cancer and DNA researcher, titanium dioxide photodegrades more rapidly than zinc and may cause the production of free radicals in the process.

  26. […] And yet, food manufacturers add titanium dioxide nanoparticles – the same compound used to make sunscreen and brighten paints – to many foods as a colorant and thickener. Have nanoparticles been […]

  27. Puja Shah via FB

    says:

    I use pratima Ayurvedic products and love neem their sunscreen:) http://www.chaimommas.com/tag/pratima-skincare/

  28. […] assumed the mini-sized versions would be equally safe. Unfortunately, new research links them to accelerated skin aging, cancer and environmental […]

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