Skin Care

The Dangers of Sun Tan Lotion

Sunscreen; it’s a lucrative industry.

Many manufacturers find it easy to turn a blind eye to the mounting research that suggests several risks associated with sunscreen and sun tan lotion ingredients.

Here at the Naked Chemist, we believe that no matter what side of the sun tan lotion fence you decide to fall on, there is no getting away from the fact that ultraviolet radiation is the number one cause of skin cancer.

For this article, we decided to do some digging so that we could set the record straight.

Sun Tan Lotion

Chemical vs Physical: the Difference

Physical Sunscreen

These sunscreens work to block ultraviolet light, providing a physical barrier between the skin and the sun’s radiation; they contain inert non-chemical particles that reflect excess UVA and UVB rays into the atmosphere.

Physical sunscreens are generally opaque or become clear upon application – using them can be likened to wearing a hat or a veil, so the sun’s rays can’t penetrate the skin easily.

The big problem with mineral-based sunblock is that it has a devastating effect on coral; titanium dioxide creates hydrogen peroxide, killing the nutrient-rich food that feeds small fish. This climbs up the food chain, causing more devastation in the planet’s oceans.

Chemical Sunscreen

In 2019 and 2020, FDA published two studies; these showed that the ingredients oxybenzone, homosalate, octinoxate, octocrylene, and avobenzone could all be systemically absorbed into the body after just one use. (Matta, 2019; Matta, 2020).

The study also said that these findings, also found that the sunscreen ingredients could be detected on the skin and in the blood weeks after application ended (Matta, 2020).

This research is very troubling because it shows that sunscreen chemicals are circulating in the blood. Still, to date, the FDA has indicated that they do not have enough information to determine whether the chemicals are causing harm.

This 2019 proposal also concluded that the risks of using PABA, aminobenzoic acid, and trolamine salicylate far outweigh their benefits, and they have proposed classifying them as unsafe. The FDA proposed just two active sunscreen ingredients safe to use: Zinc oxide and Titanium dioxide.

Controversial Chemicals in Sun Tan Lotion


This is one of the most powerful free radical generators known. It converts UV light to heat and causes oxidation; it is believed to cause hormonal disruption and cell damage, distorting our genetic information.

Research has also found that it can cause ultraviolet light radiation to bind to our DNA, causing dangerous biochemical reactions in the skin, which can lead to cancer – in other words, the chemicals used to neutralise the free radical potential of UV light may instead be delivering it to the skin’s DNA, where it can do unforeseen damage.

Retinyl Palmitate

When used in sun tan lotion, it has been found to speed up malignant cell growth and skin cancer spread.


It does beg the question: why, with the increase in sunscreen, do we see an increase in skin cancer? Could it be that the very products we are using on our skin to protect ourselves are doing more harm than good?

We feel that the skincare industry has failed to recognise the danger sun tan lotion poses when used irresponsibly. While it may protect our skin from UV damage to a point, they psychologically suppress our natural warning signs and our fear of skin cancer.

If you are concerned about the ingredients lurking in your sun tan lotion, I suggest doing your own research and becoming your own label detective – shop with caution and wear it wisely, but most of all, respect the power of the sun.

This, combined with a sensible approach to safe sun practices, may well be the way forward when it comes to the best sun care approach.


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