With summer right around the corner, many people will spend any free time flocking to the beaches or taking vacations to places where they will spend time outdoors with friends or family. People are more knowledgeable about the negative, life-threatening risks of prolonged UV exposure now more than ever before. Studies on the effects of UV radiation have led people to be a bit more mindful about using sun protection when it comes to being outside for a long period of time. But what about the lotions and sprays that we apply to protect ourselves; are they safe for us to use on our skin? Well, there have been studies that suggest that this isn’t the case.
There are actually a few ingredients found in sunscreen lotions and sprays that are linked to breast cancer, hormone disruption, and other forms of cancer. There are two active chemicals that claim to be used to protect against broad-spectrum UVA and UVB rays: oxybenzone and cinnamates. What causes these chemicals to have their effect is that they are absorbed into the skin and are “penetration enhancers,” that help it stick to skin and maintain the effectiveness. When these chemicals are absorbed, they disrupt natural body processes, hormones, and can even cause skin allergy reactions. Oxybenzone disrupts hormones by mimicking estrogen, changing sperm production, and more. Cinnamates have an effect on thyroid hormone production, the reproductive system, as well as altering behavioral activity in studies done on animals. To make matters worse, these harmful chemicals found in sun lotions and sprays accumulate in our oceans, reacting to make increased amounts of hydrogen peroxide which proves to be a hazard to marine life and the coral reefs.
Now, I’m not saying to completely skip out on protecting your skin because skin cancers, especially melanoma, are increasing in the US at an alarming rate. But it’s important to keep in mind and become aware of the active chemicals in most sun protection items on the shelves in our neighborhood stores. Be sure to look for ocean-friendly sunscreens that don’t include these harmful chemicals, because not only will you be saving your skin from toxic materials, but you’ll be saving our oceans as well!
About the author: Lauren Paton is a 4th year Marketing major at the University of Florida and Marketing Intern/Assistant at Snap Fitness of Tarpon Springs.
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