Summer is coming fast…and we all know that we have to protect ourselves from harmful UVA and UVB rays. You can protect yourself with a hat and sunglasses, especially if your skin is fair and avoid the hot hours of the day. But what about sunscreens and which are the safest?
What do sunscreens do?
There are two main ways that sunscreens can block UV radiation and prevent skin damage. Firstly they may contain chemicals that absorb UVs. There is concern that these chemical absorbers may disrupt our endocrine system and make us more sensitive to other chemicals. Parents are advised to not use sunscreens with oxybenzone on children due to its high toxicity and penetration.
The other way of stopping UVs is to create a physical barrier. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide based products are able to sit on the skin and reflect a broad spectrum of UV radiation. The problem is that these sunscreens are not very transparent and sometimes make the wearer’s face white. So the makers of sunscreen have made these blockers very small and there is now concern that many ‘zinc’ and ‘titanium’ sunscreens are made with nanoparticles. Now there is not enough information out there yet on nanoparticles in sunscreen – so they MAY or MAY NOT be OK.
According to Choice Magazine and Afsset (French Agency for Environmental and Occupational Health Safety), these very small metal particles of zinc oxide or titanium dioxide MAY create free radicals damage at the cellular DNA level. There is concern that this damage may lead to cancer. The Cancer Council sunscreens do not contain nanoparticles. The Australian Theraputic Goods Administration believe that these mineral nanoparticles do not cross the skin cell barrier. This has been disputed in recent studies. Note that products like L’Oreal’s UV Perfect were found by Choice magazine to have the most nanoparticles under 100nm. L’Oreal believe that nanoparticles are found in nature and will not cross the skin barrier.
At present there is a lot of pressure from consumer groups to get regulations for better labeling on sunscreens to disclose nanoparticles. In Europe regulation will come into force on July 13, 2013, which will require nanomaterials to be mentioned in lists of ingredients (e.g.Titanium dioxide or TiO2[nano].
So TIPS on how to prevent skin damage?
* Cover up with a hat, shirt clothing…
* Avoid all chemical absorbing sunscreens
* Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes
* Seek the shade and avoid being outdoors between 10.00-4.00pm
* Seek out sunscreens with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide but make sure they do not have nanoparticles