How Sunscreen Can Affect Your Health and Hormones
We have all been there before. You want to squeeze in a little swim in the ocean, yet there's no time to cover yourself in sunscreen. You decide to take your chances. After all, a little bit of sun won't hurt.
We get it. It is always a little annoying to put on sunscreens.
Unfortunately, we know that it can lead to some serious skin damage over time if we don't. So it would seem that when you make an effort to protect yourself from the sun, you're ensuring that your skin and overall health stay safe. Sadly, it's not always the case.
The sunscreen business can be a nasty one. One that may push off UV's but make your internal health pay the price.
There have been many studies around the effect of sunscreen's chemical on our health, including its impact on skin allergies, sensitivity, and hormone disruption. So today, we dive into these debates to uncover how sunscreen can - directly and indirectly - impact your hormones and your health.
Understanding Your Skin
Your skin is your largest organ. It holds and protects your internal organs while continually working to keep your wellbeing in balance. The skin is divided into three layers - epidermis, dermis, and subcutis.
The epidermis act as a wall that prevents moisture, chemical and pathogens movement in or out of our body. Within the epidermis, we can find various cells, including melanocytes. Simply put, this cell contains a pigment known as melanin, which gives your skin its natural colour but also responds to ultra-violet exposure, aka your tan.
But we know that a few things can happen when we expose ourselves to the sun without sunscreen. At best, we get a sunburn caused by long UV exposure on our epidermis. Yet, unprotected exposure over time can bring up the worst scenarios, including those that slowly starts to impact the deeper layers of your skin. This effect can result in premature ageing, skin-related conditions and melanoma growth.
It would seem that sunscreen - which protects your skin against UVA and UVB - would be a simple solution to a significant problem.
Yet, all sunscreens are not created equals.
The chemicals some of them contain have raised concern around skin safety and efficacity. After all, we want to protect our skin from various conditions that UV exposure can cause. So when your sunscreen offers similar health damages - even when physically invisible - it begs to wonder how and why.
How Sunscreen Impact Our Hormones and Health
There are two main types of sunscreens: Chemical blockers and Physical blockers. The chemical blockers typically include Oxybenzone, Octinoxate, Retinyl Palmitate, Paraben or Aminobenzoic Acid. This type of sunscreen is absorbed in your skin to create an inner barrier to UV rays.
And that’s where there’s a debate among scientists. Chemical blockers do protect against sun damage, and there has been no conclusive study that the combination of sun + chemical was creating visible health damage.
But when scientist looked beyond what is combined or visible, they did find that sunscreen chemicals have a tangible and negative impact on our health. A chemical like Oxybenzone has shown to penetrate all three layers of our skin, stimulating the over-production of estrogen in the body. Estrogen is a hormone that can make or break your delicate body balance. An estrogen excess - both in men and women - can affect reproductive health.
Along with that, sunscreen chemicals have proven to trigger the creation of free radicals, an unstable oxygen molecule that can alter our cells.
This can lead to premature ageing, inflammation, and a weaker immune system.
So while chemicals blocker are promoted as effective against sun exposure, they come with a handful of potential side effects that are as damaging to your health as the sun. Perhaps only in more subtle, invisible ways.
On the other hand, you also have Physical Blockers. This type of sunscreen creates a veil-like barrier and reflect UV’s ray, meaning nothing is absorbed in your skin. Physical blockers contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. As natural, active components, physical blockers come up as a healthy and easy solution to both sun and chemical exposure. Zinc oxide, in particular, has shown to be hypo-allergenic, therefore a safe option for any type of skin.
Your skin is a delicate ecosystem that easily absorbs everything we put on it.
So while it is important to protect it from sun exposure to avoid health damages, it might also be essential to protect it from chemical exposure. Our skin, our hormones, and our overall health are all interlinked, so being mindful of what we put on it is needed to protect it.
Ditch the chemically-filled sunscreens and choose a physical blocker that is filled with natural ingredients. Your skin will be protected from the sun in the same way, without impacting your health.