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Can Sunscreen Be Dangerous?

Asians typically don’t like the sun. While the Westerners are too happy to stretch out on the beach with a book and get a tan, we seek cover for dear life. Trips to sunny places are always ‘protected’ by a hat or an umbrella and an assortment of creams, sunscreen, after-sun lotions and even lip balms with SPF protection.

We are right in evading the sun though. Besides the obvious and common reason of wanting to stay fair and sunburn-free, we have heard so much about the harmful rays that the sun gives out. And so we slather on sun protection half an hour before we venture out in the sun. But have you wondered if your sunscreen is safe for use, or could it possibly cause as much harm as the sun?

Just like store-bought beauty and makeup products, sunscreens contain potentially hazardous ingredients.

Check the label of your current sunscreen or ditch the one that you intend to buy if it contains any of these chemicals:


Oxybenzone is a key ingredient contained in sunscreens used to absorb UVA and UVB rays. Unfortunately, oxybenzone messes with your sexuality as well. 2/3 of male fish have been found to be carrying ovarian tissues. On top of that, oxybenzone is also a penetration enhancer that serves to draw the other chemicals in the product deeper into the skin and bloodstream. It causes damage to the cells and causes your skin’s natural protection system to fail.


Also added to sunscreens to protect the skin from the damaging effects of UVA and UVB rays, octyl-methoxycinnamate is another hormone disruptor and penetration enhancer. This ingredient can also possibly be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane during the manufacturing process, causing it to turn into a cancer-causing agent.

Titanium dioxide

Titanium dioxide is the substance that causes sunscreen to leave a white layer on your face and body after each application. While it does protect your skin from ultraviolet light, titanium dioxide has been associated with respiratory tract cancer. Industrial workers exposed to large quantities of titanium dioxide have reported lung ailments, fibrosis, cell injury and mutation while lab rats have developed lung cancer as a result of exposure to the substance.


Butyl-methdiebenzoylmethane, also known as avobenzone, is effective in absorbing a wide range of ultraviolet light wavelengths. It only works its wonders for an hour though, after which it starts to lose its effectiveness and turns hazardous instead. It is quite absurd that a substance added to absorb huge amounts of ultraviolet light can actually react with the light to produce and release free radicals into the body.


In meeting consumers’ demands for sunscreen that doesn’t leave them looking white like a ghost, manufacturers have substituted the larger titanium dioxide and zinc oxide molecules in their products with the nanoparticle equivalents. These nanoparticles are invisible to the naked eye but they measure 1 to 100 billionths of a metre and are minute enough to be absorbed through the skin. While there is yet a research finding that links nanoparticles to danger in humans, fish and mice have been found to suffer from birth defects and haemorrhaging. Users who have applied nanoparticle-containing sunscreens were also found to have the chemical in their blood two days after application but those who had used larger molecules were found to be free from the substance.

Food to ward off the sun

It really isn’t wise to be protecting yourself from one element but exposing yourself to greater health risks. You don’t have to sacrifice your health as there are several healthier sunscreens available in the market as well as natural ingredients too that deliver protection from the sun.

Of course, these foods will not provide protection from the sun within minutes or days after consumption. Add these to your diet to gradually build protection and for your daily dose of vitamins and minerals too.

Go through your kitchen and see if you have any of these to keep you safe from the sun naturally:

Green and white tea

Green tea extract provide an SPF protection of 1.05 while white tea extracts offer slightly better protection at 1.21 SPF. Green tea doesn’t just protect you from the outside but it delivers internal protection from UV radiation too, besides helping to fight free radicals. Much praises have already been sung about green tea being an excellent antioxidant, so now that it doubles as protection from the damaging sun, there are even more reasons you should have a cup of green tea.

Tomatoes in olive oil

Tomatoes are one of the riches sources of carotenoids. Carotenoids help the body to prevent cancer, boost immunity, protect the digestive system and provide good amounts of vitamin A. When aprepared with olive oil, tomatoes even turn into a sunblock by providing protection of SPF 3.


Research has shown that broccoli extract, when applied to the skin, is effective in protecting against redness and inflammation caused by UV light. The antioxidants contained penetrate the skin and help the cells to defend themselves against the harm of UV light. Broccoli has such powerful anti-cancer properties that the extract delivers protection up to three days after application.

Broccoli extract might be difficult to locate but there should be no stopping from you from reaping the sunscreen benefits of broccoli. Consumption of broccoli would do the trick too from within. It is yet to be known if the protection is as good as the application of the extract but you’d definitely benefit from the antioxidants and vitamins.


The word ‘algae’ is enough to cause someone to wrinkle his nose in disgust but chlorella and spirulina are derived from algae and are definitely more familiar-sounding products. They are high in nutrients and although research is still being carried out to analyse the effectiveness of algae on sun protection, early findings have revealed that consumption of algae can shield the eyes and skin from UV radiation.

Vitamin D and calcium

Long –term constant exposure to the sun can increase your risks of developing skin cancer. Reduce your chances by including tuna, mackerel, cod liver oil, milk and cheese into your diet, all of which are rich sources of vitamin D and calcium. Studies have revealed that patients on a diet fortified with vitamin D and calcium for 5 years have as much as 77% less chances of developing cancer.

Vitamins C and E

At least two institutions have proven that vitamins C and E can protect you against the damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable oxygen molecules caused by UV radiation. They constantly react with other molecules to stabilise, damaging cells functions and modifying genetic material in the process. Vitamins C and E not only alleviate the effects of the sun but also lessens your chances of getting sunburnt.

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