Sunscreen Report: What You Need To Know

Physical Blocks vs Chemical Sun Screens

The sun, which sustains all of life, is a powerful force. Sun exposure is beneficial to our overall health, assisting the body in producing bone benefiting vitamin D and assisting in healthy brain and hormonal chemistry. But we only need about 15 minutes of sunshine per day to receive it’s health benefits. Excessive exposure can breakdown the skin’s immunity and lead to skin cancer, collagen breakdown, and hyperpigmentation (sun spots).

A suntan is actually your body’s way of trying to protect tissue. When excessive sunlight absorbs into our skin free radicals and enzymes are formed. The enzymes break down fat that then produces arachidonic acid.  Arachidonic acid is a precursor to the inflammatory response. Inflammation is linked directly to aging.  When free radicals are formed, a chain reaction begins,

triggering “transcription factors” that lead to damage to the collagen cells. This damage is called “microscarring” and is the actually forming of a wrinkle. Damaged collagen looses its flexibility and resilience. (1)

Antioxidants help protect against the harmful effects of free radical damage and the ravaging effects of inflammation.  The antioxidants in our food and supplements can directly affect the body’s ability to defend itself from internal as well as external threats. Innovative companies are now adding antioxidants to topical sunblocks to further protect the skin.

Sunscreens, classified as an OCT (over-the-counter) drug by the FDA, are recommended by dermatologist and estheticians as a first line a defense against sun damage. It is important to note there are two different categories of sunscreens available on the market today, physical blocks and chemical sunscreens.  (2)  There is a major difference between the two that every consumer needs to be educated about.

Physical blocks or particulate sunscreen are natural earth pigments that work by physically blocking or deflecting the light off of the particle crystals. Zinc oxide and titanium oxide are the two ingredients on the market today. They block UVA rays, which most chemical blocks do not. (2)  UVA, according to the American Cancer Society, “can be up to one thousand times more intense than UVB and can penetrate the skin to cause damage to underlying tissue. UVA is considered to be the primary cause of long-term skin damage from the sun (photo-aging).”  Titanium oxide is a good physical block to UVA and UVB rays. While UVB is strongest between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., UVA radiation affects from dawn to dusk. Physical blocks are more likely to be tolerated by sensitive skin types. (3)

Chemical sunscreen (absorbing sunscreens) also called ultraviolet B (UVB) absorbs into the skin and through a chemical reaction, absorbs and neutralizes the ultraviolet light. Octyl methoxyicnnamate, also known as ethyl-hexyl p-methoxycinnamte, is the most popular of the chemical sunscreens. Absorbing sunscreens are more likely to cause adverse allergic reactions and heat is produced when it absorbs the rays leading to further potential for irritation. (3) It is widely recommended now in the skin care and health industry to use chemical sunscreens liberally and every two hours.  But the rate of skin cancer has increased four-fold since the introduction of chemical sunscreens on the market.

Most surprising, there is a growing body of evidence revealing the harmful effects of chemical sunscreens. The research is alarming. Chemical sunscreens may actually produce cancer because the chemicals in the sunscreen contain free radical generating properties. Studies show these very chemicals have strong estrogenic mimicking  activities that have a adverse hormonal impact on the body’s endocrine system causing hormonal imbalances  and can interference with sexual development. (4)

Researchers from the Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Zurich, Switzerland have found that five out of six commonly used chemical sunscreens dose the body with synthetic estrogens. The 5 chemicals, benzophenone-3 (Bp-3), homosalate (HMS), 4-MBC, octyl-methoxycinnamate (OMC), and octyl-dimethyl PABA (OD-PABA), were found to increase cancer cell division. Other harmful chemical sunscreens include cinnamates (cinoxate, ethylhexyl p-methoxycinnamatae, octocrylene, octyl methoxycinnamate), silicylates (ethylhexyl salicylate, homoslate, octyl salicylate), digalloyl trioleate, and menthyl anthranilate.All of these chemicals are banned in Europe

While these sunscreens protect against sunburn, there is no scientific research that chemical sunscreen protect the individual against melanoma, basal cell carcinoma or premature aging. That means that your bodies ability to alert you that you have had too much sun, has been turned off.(5)  Chemical sunscreens encourage individuals to prolong their sun exposure, increasing their risk of skin caner and premature aging. (6)

Synthetic estrogens, called xenoestrogens, are found in pesticides and plastics that get into our food supply, in our meat supply via farming practices, paints, and other chemical products that are found in our country.  While, we cannot avoid these xenoestrogens completely, we can make educated, conscious choices to at least minimize our exposure and effect change where we can. Choosing natural, plant-based skin care is a wise choice.

Eminence Organics makes a physical block sunscreen called Tomato Sun Cream. This SFF 16 sunscreen is considered light protection. (6) “This moisturizer keeps the epidermis hydrated all day with nutritious whole tomato fruit.  Botanical ingredients assist in minimizing the harmful effects of the sun and selectively help to filter out the dangerous “UV-C” waves and the shorter burning “UV-B” waves.  This formulation assist in protecting the youth and elasticity of your skin while allowing the necessary vitamin D to be processed.”  (7)  This healthy and safe sunblock is available for purchase from Nourish Inside and Out (919) 815-9866.

Other physical sunblocks are available on the market and are usually found at your local health food store. But strangely, chemical sunscreens are also on the shelves at health foods stores so read the labels. Nourish Inside and out has a list of recommended sunscreens for purchase upon request.


(1)    The Wrinkle Cure, by Nicholas Perricone, M.D., pg 15-17

(2)    Milady’s Standard, Comprehensive Training for Estheticians, Thomson Learning, pg. 271

(3)     Naturally Healthy Skin, by Stephanie Tourles, pg. 160-161

(4), Skin Biology, Chapter 9.2 The Chemical Sunscreen Health Disaster, by Dr. Loran Pickart

(5) Newly Published Research Raises Questions About Sunscreens, People Should Not Rely on Sunscreens as Protection from Melanoma, by University of Tennessee Health Science Center, February 28, 2005

(6), Dr. Linda Berry, Sunscreen Alert!

(7)Eminence Organics Skincare brochure, 2006/2007 winter edition.

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