Your sunblock could be increasing your risk of cancer


Living under the african sun means having to protect your skin every day. But, with such a huge variety of sunscreen available and often such conflicting information about what factor to use and what type, it can be bewildering knowing which one to choose.

Read: Sunscreen products: FAQs

Robyn Smith, founder of Faithful to Nature, says that organic sunblock is the way to go as conventional, non-organic sunscreens can contain ingredients which can actually be damaging to the skin.

Smith shares the following tips on why mineral organic sunblock is more skin-friendly:

1. Deflect the damage

Organic sunblocks use minerals to reflect the sun’s rays away from your skin whereas conventional sunscreens are absorbed into your skin, allowing the sun’s rays to also be absorbed into your skin. This creates cancer-causing free radicals right where you don’t want them.

Read: Sunscreen prevents melanoma

2. Chemical cocktails

While organic sunscreen is free from chemicals, non-organic sun lotions are no and instead of protecting your skin, these chemicals make skin damage worse.

Many of the chemical ingredients found in non-organic sunblock has been linked to cancer and once absorbed in your skin it also reacts with the free radicals caused by the sun.

These are some of the main ingredients, found in many non-organic sunscreens, to avoid using:

- Sodium Laurel, Lauryl Sulfate, or Sodium Laurel Sulfate – combined with other chemicals these become Nitrosamine, which is a powerful cancer-causing agent, that penetrates the skin’s moisture barrier, allowing chemicals in.

- Polyethylene Glycol, Polysorbates, or Ethoxyylate alcohol – all contain dioxane, which is carcinogenic and probably one of the most potent toxins known to man.

- Propylene Glycol – can cause dermatitis, kidney or liver abnormalities, skin growth prevention, or just plain irritation.

- Phenol Carbolic Acid – can cause circulatory collapse, paralysis, convulsions, coma, and even death from respiratory failure.

- Acrylamide – can cause breast cancer

- Toluene (Benzoic; Benzyl or Butylated Hydroxtoluene) – can cause anemia, low blood cell count, liver and kidney damage and birth defects.

According to internationally recognised expert in the fields of Integrative and Functional Medicine, Dr Frank Lipman – who is South African by birth but now practices in New York - sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is a good cleaning product, but to the skin it is an irritant. It can cause damage to the outer layer of skin by disrupting the function of skin proteins and causing itchy, cracked, and dry skin. In shampoos, this ingredient can increase risk of scalp irritation, stinging eyes, and tangled, split, frizzy, and dull hair.

Read: A natural approach to skin problems

The Journal of the American College of Toxicology (1983, Vol. 2, No. 7) researchers noted, “The longer these ingredients stay in contact with the skin, the greater the likelihood of irritation, which may or may not be evident to the user.”

The study authors go on to say that SLS causes “severe epidermal changes” to the area of the skin where it was applied. Finally, they noted that 1–5 percent SLS produced “significant number of comedones,” which are, essentially, whiteheads or blackheads.

The researchers concluded that SLS “appears to be safe in formulations designed for discontinuous, brief use followed by thorough rinsing from the surface of the skin. In products intended for prolonged contact with skin, concentrations should not exceed 1 percent.”

3. Happy hormones

Chemicals in conventional sunscreens can disrupt your delicate hormonal balance and you want to feel chilled out when you are spending time on the beach. The more commonly used parabens, found in almost all non-organic products, are endocrine disruptors mimicking estrogen, upsetting the hormone balance.

4. Breathe easy

No mineral oils, parafin or petrolatum are used in natural organic sunscreens. These coat the skin like plastic and leave the pores clogged, trapping in toxins. Instead natural sun protection uses plant based oils that have a similarity to your own sebum and help regulate your skin’s own oil production while letting it breathe, but petroleum-based products can clog up your pores.

5. Alarming allergies

Harsh chemicals can cause allergies or irritation in sensitive skins, the last thing you want when you are on holiday in the summer. They’re also gentle and safe for your little one’s sensitive skin.

Ingredients to avoid that can cause skin irritation are:

- Padimate O (Octyl Dimethyl Paba / Paba Ester) – a derivative of once popular PABA sunscreen, this releases free radicals, damaging DNA, has estrogenic activity and causes allergic reactions. When exposed to sunlight causes genetic mutation.

- Benzophenone (Sulisobenzone) – can cause skin and eye irritation. Does not penetrate the skin to a large degree, but enhances the ability of other chemicals to penetrate.

6. Good to go

Organic sunblocks take effect immediately because they don’t need to absorb into your skin first, they just get on with it right away (that’s why conventional ones tell you to apply them 15 – 20 minutes before you go in the sun).

7. Not harmful to your skin or to the enviroment

When you swim, your sunscreen comes off into the water and all the toxic ingredients wash into the ocean. The natural ingredients in mineral organic sunblock are good for and not harmful to the environment.

8. Blissful bouquets

Natural ingredients just smell so good – gentle, clean, natural and fresh aromas that won’t get up your nose. Quite often the fragrance from the natural organic ingredients will provide a delightful smell so no added fragrance is required.

Read more:

How does sunscreen work?

Get the best from your sunscreen

13 sunscreen tips

Sources: Faithful to NatureDr Frank Lipman; NCBI;; Medicine Plus ; EPA

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Have you entered our Health of the Nation survey?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
28% - 9938 votes
72% - 26007 votes