Toxin Free Sunscreens
Summary: The only two widely available commercial sunscreens which do not contain petrochemicals or other toxins are made by Badger and Mexitan. Certain nutrients taken internally will help minimize sun damage.
Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are thought to be two of the safest sunscreens. Instead of being absorbed into the skin (and other body organs) to react to ultraviolet light so that the skin does not burn, as chemical sunscreens do, they keep the light from penetrating the skin in the first place. They are mechanical, instead of chemical, barriers to UV light.
eRegimens periodically searches for non-toxic sunscreens since they are so difficult to find. Although Aubrey Organics is one of the only large companies that strives to make most of their products toxin-free, and almost all them are highly regarded by eRegimens, they fail in the sunscreen department. Aubrey used to make some of their sunscreens using only food grade PABA, but no longer does. Aubrey still does produce excellent non-toxic after-sun and other skin products.
* Titanium Dioxide
* Zinc Oxide
* Sunflower Oil
* Green Tea Extract
* Coconut Oil
* Almond Oil
* Tocopherol Acetate (Vitamin-E)
* Eucalyptus Oil
* Ascorbyl Palmitate (Vitamin-C
Aubrey now uses PABA ester or Padimate O, a petrochemical version of PABA. This is the chemical that people developed allergies to in the past and why many sunscreens still proclaim themselves "PABA-free." The reason that the toxic PABA was and is used may be the fact that plain PABA does not provide full spectrum protection against UV rays. The problem with petrochemical PABA for some people may be that the skin absorbs it and tries to use it in the same manner as real PABA but fails and skin irritation results. It is not known if there are effects on other organs when it is absorbed.
Real PABA is in the B vitamin family and completely harmless. It is naturally produced in the intestines of humans. Many B complex and multivitamin supplements contain it as a useful addition. It has the benefit of providing some protection from the sun for the skin when taken internally, and is a highly recommended supplement taken separately for those with fair skin during sunny months (use one or two 500mg capsules per day). The skin uses and needs PABA, and it does provide some UV protection, but it looks like the only way to get a sunscreen made with food grade ingredients would be to make a homemade formula.
Badger SPF15 Ingredients
Micronized Zinc Oxide 12.5%
Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Olea Europaea), Natural Beeswax (Cera Flava), Organic Jojoba Oil (Simmondsia Chinensis), Organic Cocoa Butter (Theobroma Cacao Seed), Wild African Shea Butter (Butyrospermum Parkii), Organic CO2 Extract of Seabuckthorn Berry (Hippophae Thamnoides), and Essential Oils of Lavender (Lavendula Angustifolia), Moroccan Blue Tansy (Tanacetum Annuum), Ylang Ylang (Cananga Odorata), Lime (Citrus Aurantifolia), and Orange (Citrus Aurantium Dulcis)
There are a few companies which make sunscreens which do contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, but then they fill it full of toxic petrochemicals, too, so these are not recommended. The only two available as of this writing that contain nontoxic ingredients are Badger and Mexitan.
Mexitan products are sold on their website and a few other online merchants carry them, plus their website provides a state locator of where to purchase them at brick-and-mortar stores around the US. Compared to the high prices of other natural sunscreens (including the Badger), Mexitan is a bargain for a non-toxic sunscreen and has a good product line. They carry sunscreens from SPF 4 up to 30. The "anglers" and "golfers" formulas (SPF 15) are identical as are the "Swimmers and Surfers" and "Family Sunscreen" formulas (SPF 30). Their sunscreens are less greasy than almost any other product, too, plus contain green tea extract, which may provide some protection against skin cancer. The SPF 30 seems less resistant to water such as swimming than does the SPF 15, so the 15 may be a better choice.
Badger is also a good non-toxic sunblock, but is quite expensive. A large number of Badger products are carried by The Vitamin Shoppe at a discount, and they may soon carry the Sunblock, which is a newly introduced product, but as of this writing the Vitamin Shoppe does not have it in stock. Badger products are also available on the Badger website.
A DIY solution for some people may be to make one's own sunblock or sunscreen. Although there are few if any petrochemical-free recipes available online, it may be possible to make a fine non-greasy one using emu oil, food grade PABA, zinc oxide powder, and selected essential oils. The Life Extension Foundation sells PABA powder and Camden Grey sells zinc oxide powder, bulk emu oil, and essential oils for the best price. Emu Gold emu oil at Vitacost is a good deal for a commercial product, comes in a nice pump bottle, and worth checking out (see right side bar). Emu oil is one of the best oils for the skin, is non greasy, and one of the only oils that is totally non-comogenic. Some essential oils help block the sun, in particular cassia, a cinnamon-tasting herb. However, cassia oil is too strong to use on the skin in any but the smallest dilutions.
Note that the zinc oxide in Badger and Mexitan is micronized and will not make the skin as white as using plain zinc oxide powder, although any product that has zinc oxide in whatever form will usually make the skin lighter for a day or two (but this also means that the sunscreen action is still in effect.) Titanium dioxide gives the skin a pearlescent sheen when it is applied too thick but in the Mexitan product, this effect is absent when used in moderate amounts.
While the most often recommended practice to avoid skin cancer is to avpoid the sun or to wear sunscreen, alternative researchers are now discovering that getting sufficient (but not excessive) sunlight is a healthy practice. To avoid skin cancer, it is probably much more important to get adequate essential fatty acids in the diet while avoiding damaged oils like trans fats and hydrogenated oils. See the Fats and Oils and the EFA supplement sections for more information.
Now Deodorant Cream is a zinc oxide based deodorant with safe ingredients. It can be used as a sunscreen in a pinch, perhaps mixing it with a bit of liquid oil to thin it out. It does not have micronized zinc, so will look very white, but works as well as any zinc-based sunblock. Now Deodorant Cream also can be used to fight food odor, or rub a tiny amount on warts and moles to fade them and it may help to fade sun spots with long term use.
For after-sun, as mentioned above, Aubrey makes the best non-toxic moisturizers and other skin products, however, plain emu oil is likely as good or better than any other products for this purpose. George's Aloe Juice is the best aloe juice for traditional after-sun use when applied topically, as well as for internal use.
Besides using PABA internally, other nutrients help protect the skin from sun damage from the inside out. The most important are likely essential fatty acids (EFAs). Using an EFA supplement may help minimize the skin damage which can lead to later problems. Equally important is avoiding damaged oils in the diet such as hydrogenated oils (margarine and many processed foods) and trans fats (fried foods).
Other nutrients which may provide a protective effect are minerals like selenium, and antioxidants. Selenium is included in sufficient amounts in most good multivitamins, or just eat two brazil nuts per day, the richest natural source. After ensuring that sufficient basic antioxidants are being consumed such as vitamin C and mixed tocopherols, one can look to the superantioxidants such as curcumin, grape seed extract, alpha lipoic acid, and many others. A good combination product to add additional antioxidants is Now Super Antioxidant.
Dr. Mercola's Comments on Sunlight and Sunscreens
Dr. Mercola's Comment:
Most of us have been bombarded about the dangers of the sun by experts and the media. However, because it is one of the most pervasive and inaccurate myths persisting in most of the patients I see, I can only assume you are under the same misunderstanding. Unfortunately, this myth has contributed to massive amounts of disease and illness in our society.
Can sun exposure cause skin cancer? Absolutely. However, appropriate sunlight actually prevents cancer. Exposure to the sun provides many benefits such as promoting the formation of vitamin D. We also have strong evidence that sunlight is protective against MS and breast cancer.
The key is to never burn.
Although the American Academy of Dermatology will have you bathing in sunscreen, it is one of the LAST things you want to put on your body. It is a toxic chemical that can cause problems in your system. Even if it didn’t contribute to disease, the central issue is that it doesn’t even work.
A British dermatologist published an article earlier this year which showed no clear indication that sunscreens worked. Another study in the Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology last year found the same thing. A far more logical solution would be to use clothing to protect you against the sun.
So what is the cause of skin cancer and the deadly melanoma?
I may sound like I am on my soapbox again but, it is the omega 6:3 oil ratio.
I quote from Cancer Res 2000 Aug 1;60(15):4139-45:
"Epidemiological, experimental, and mechanistic data implicate omega-6 fat as stimulators and long-chain omega-3 fats as inhibitors of development and progression of a range of human cancers, including melanoma."
Last year, the prestigious National Academy of Sciences published a comprehensive review showing that the omega 6:3 ratio was the key to preventing skin cancer development. An Australian study done ten years ago showed a 40% reduction in melanoma for those who were eating fish. And this was without any attention to lowering omega-6 fats.
So, do I recommend you pop some fish oil pills and go out and get as much sun as you would like?
You must exercise caution. At the beginning of the season go out gradually, perhaps as little as ten minutes a day. Progressively increase your time in the sun so that in a few weeks, you will be able to have normal sun exposure with little risk of skin cancer.
Remember never to get burned, that is the key.
Remember also never to use sunscreen, another key. You can creatively use your clothing to block the sun’s rays during your build-up time.
The bottom line is, please avoid getting sucked into the hype that sunlight is dangerous. It is only dangerous if you are clueless about fat nutrition, which most medical doctors are. If you choose to ignore your omega 6:3 ratio and stay out of the sun, you could limit your risk of skin cancer, but is that worth the risk of getting MS, breast or prostate cancer?
Sunlight Actually Prevents Cancer
Diet and Sunlight Linked to Breast Cancer Risk
Sunscreens May Not Prevent Melanoma
UV Light Linked to Skin Cancer or Is it?
Sun-Care Chemical Proves Toxic in Lab Tests