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The Urgency of New Strategies in Sun Care

By: Marie Alice Dibon
Posted: June 4, 2010, from the June 2010 issue of GCI Magazine.

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It is now well recognized that everything that we put on our skin will wash off somewhere. If it doesn’t, then we have to be concerned with the consequences of the absorption of these compounds. With organic sunscreens, we hit a double jeopardy: not only do the compounds wash off and make their way in different waterways and bodies of water, but some of them are found in the blood stream at levels high enough to cause concern.

There has been an increasing number of studies blaming organic sunscreen for the destruction of coral reefs and other marine species via the activation of otherwise dormant viruses.5,6 In additon, suncreens have been found in different bodies of water and deemed responsible for a number of sexual malformations in fish.7,8 This information has spread into public conscious, and could influence consumer decisions when purchasing sunscreen.

Also, some organic sunscreens absorb into the blood (up to 9% of oxybenzone), some are endocrine disruptors and some do bioaccumulate.These are scientific facts, fairly well documented for ingredients such as oxybenzone and octylmethoxycinnamate. Though not all sunscreens are responsible for such effects (even less in Europe, where a large array of ingredients are available as compared to the limited choices in the U.S.), those facts that are have, again, spread into public conscious.

And this information has not solely been spread by NGOs and consumer watch groups. Studies by well respected health institutions such as the CDC also contribute to decreasing public confidence in sunscreens’ safety.9

Mineral Sunscreens – Health Impact of Micronized TiO2 and ZnO

There are no stability or transdermal penetration concerns with inorganic sunscreens. Their main perceived drawback is the difficulty to formulate them in transparent products. However, TiO2 and ZnO microparticles are photoactive. When exposed to UV radiation those particles lose energy by generating free radicals, which in turn can attack the organic sunscreens. Therefore, inorganic compounds might actually potentialize the toxicity of other sunscreens.10