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Sunscreen Ingredients Ranked In Order Of Toxicity

Sunscreen Ingredients Ranked In Order Of Toxicity
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Many people think of sunscreens as purely beneficial and while they undoubtedly offer protection from UV rays, the ingredients used in many sunscreens have been the subject of health concerns of their own. Here is a list of sunscreen ingredients together with findings from scientific research.

Oxybenzone: A organic compound that is often used in sunscreens. In humans, oxybenzone has been found to cause skin allergies and can disrupt hormone production. Environmentally, it has been shown to produce toxic reactions in coral reefs. [1]

Octinoxate: Octinoxate has been banned in Hawaii along with oxybenzone due to their toxic effects on coral reefs. Studies have also found it to be a hormone disruptor, have reproductive toxicity, and be toxic to cells. [2]

Homosalate: Homosalate is a potential endocrine disruptor and can impact hormone production including testosterone hormone. [3] The chemical homosalate can enhance the absorption of pesticides in the body.

Octisalate: Octisalate is a colorless liquid that has a moderate level of negative health effects including some skin allergies.
Octocrylene: Octocrylene increases the production of free radicals in the skin when exposed to the sun that can lead to skin cancer and premature aging. Photo contact allergy with octocrylene is common. [4]

Avobenzone: Avobenzone is unstable in sun and must be mixed with the stabilizers for usage. A study found the avobenzone levels to be higher than FDA approved standards. [5]

Titanium Dioxide: Titanium is generally considered as having minimal toxicity and little in the way of negative biological effects. It has been classified as biologically inert. However Titanium dioxide nanoparticles have different chemical properties and their biological effects are still not entirely known, leading to researchers regarding their toxicological profile as incomplete. The minute particle size does influence the behavior of the substance and so it cannot be completely inferred what it will do from the “regular” titanium dioxide. Despite this lack of clarity, these particles are used in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, sunscreens and even food products. Titanium oxide nanoparticles may cause oxidative stress, metabolic changes, inflammation and potentially even carcinogenesis. [6]

Zinc oxide: Zinc oxide has the lowest toxicity risk and is generally regarded as safe. The only concern with zinc oxide is inhalation that can cause metal fume fever, a flu-like illness accompanied by headaches, aches, and chest fatigue.

LEARN MORE about sunscreen and your health:

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How To Make Your Own Sunscreen Using Natural Ingredients:


[1] DiNardo, J.C. and C.A. Downs, Dermatological and environmental toxicological impact of the sunscreen ingredient oxybenzone/benzophenone‐3. Journal of cosmetic dermatology, 2018. 17(1): p. 15-19.

[2] Raffa, R.B., et al., Sunscreen bans: Coral reefs and skin cancer. Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics, 2019. 44(1): p. 134-139.

[3] Erol, M., et al., Evaluation of the endocrine-disrupting effects of homosalate (HMS) and 2-ethylhexyl 4-dimethylaminobenzoate (OD-PABA) in rat pups during the prenatal, lactation, and early postnatal periods. Toxicology and Industrial Health, 2017. 33(10): p. 775-791.

[4] Berardesca, E., et al., Review of the safety of octocrylene used as an ultraviolet filter in cosmetics. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, 2019. 33: p. 25-33.

[5] Matta, M.K., et al., Effect of sunscreen application under maximal use conditions on plasma concentration of sunscreen active ingredients: a randomized clinical trial. Jama, 2019. 321(21): p. 2082-2091.

[6] Fedora Grande, Paola Tucci. Titanium Dioxide Nanoparticles: a Risk for Human Health? (2016)