The Dangers of Sun Tan Lotion

Is your sunscreen toxic?

Lately, this is the big question on everyone’s lips.

And I don’t blame you.

Twenty years as a skin care specialist and I also find the controversial science totally baffling.

The sun care industry is growing fast.

It’s a lucrative industry.

And many manufacturers find it easy to turn a blind eye to mounting research that suggests there are risks associated with sunscreen.

So ahead of my much needed break, I decided to do some digging, so that I could help to set the record straight.


Physical Sunscreens
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 rays and UVB back 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’s, is that it has a devastating effect on coral; titanium dioxide creates hydrogen peroxide, which kills the nutrient rich food that feeds small fish.

This climbs up the food chain, causing more devastation on the planets oceans, sad but true which you can read about here.


The two most controversial chemical ingredients found in sun tan lotion, include oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate.

This is one of the most powerful free radical generators known.

It converts UV light to heat and is believed to cause hormonal disruption and cell damage, distorting our genetic information.

Research has also found that it can cause ultra violet light radiation to bind to our DNA, causing dangerous biochemical reactions in the skin, which can cause 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.

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

Unlike physical filters which sit on the skins surface helping to deflect the suns rays, chemical filters absorb UV rays and partially penetrate the skin, which is where the damage could be happening, and if used in large amounts this can have serious consequences on our health.

The frequent use of sunscreen is also causing contact allergic dermatitis, which is due to strong active chemicals, as well as the added fragrances and preservatives.

Because most chemicals are man-made, like most drugs our bodies don’t have the enzyme capability to clear them up and many dermatologists recommend to patch-test your sunscreen, if you suffer from sensitive skin conditions.

This does suggest that physical sun blockers such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide may be more suitable than their chemical counterparts, which would be great if they weren’t so toxic to the environment.


It does beg the question, why with the increase in sunscreen are we seeing 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?

The US National Cancer Institute states that the harm of using sunscreens are only small.

For me, 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, not your sun tan lotion.

I feel what the skin care industry has failed to recognise, is the danger sun tan lotion poses when used irresponsibly.

Whilst 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.

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