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More Reasons To Go Natural – Reduced Sunscreen Protection

Australian summer is approaching, and that means 4+ months of beach fun, park barbecues, playground playdates and long, lazy days by the pool. All this fun in the sun sounds great, right? But something we’ve all dealt with is the sunburn from Australia’s biting, vicious, sun. Most of us know we need to lather up in SPF 50+ sunscreen before we head out for the day, and those of us who are diligent remember to reapply every few hours and after sweating and swimming. Unfortunately, there has been a lot of research lately pointing to the fact that our favourite sunscreens may not be all that effective, and are potentially even hazardous to our health. Recently, the FDA presented a proposal that discussed the lack of research into chemical-based sunscreens. It officially declared common UV filtering ingredients such as oxybenzone and avobenzone (two of the most widely used active ingredients in chemical sunscreen) to be ineffective, and possibly unsafe, and called for more rapid research to be done into the potential for these ingredients to disrupt hormones and be carcinogenic. Conversely, there was good news for those of us who were beginning to ask, “well what can I do to protect myself from the sun?” Mineral sunscreens like zinc oxide were declared “GRASE”, meaning they are both safe and effective in protecting us from harmful UVA and UVB rays.

EWG’s senior vice president for government affairs, Scott Faber, said “sunscreen chemicals like oxybenzone pose significant health concerns, but the sunscreen industry continues to bury its head in the sand.” The huge sunscreen brands that we’ve grown to know and love were certainly not fans of this research – and for obvious reasons, if people stop buying their potentially toxic sunscreen, they’re going to lose a lot of money. Of course, conveniently, a study emerged just weeks later stating the dangers of mixing zinc oxide with chemical ingredients like oxybenzone.

Professor Richard Blackburn of Leeds University, who headed parts of the new study, explained the results, reminding people that zinc is not the ingredient to be demonised.

“On its own, zinc oxide is an effective and harmless UV blocker. Our research raises concerns about how the individual formulation ingredients react with each other during use and this isn’t currently tested by the industry.”

The study showed how zinc oxide reacted with other ingredients, and how it actually degraded chemicals such as oxybenzone and led to them becoming ineffective. Professor Blackburn said,

“Once exposed to sunlight for two hours, zinc oxide destroys the UVA protection provided by other ingredients. In this context, putting on sunscreen could actually make things worse because people believe they are being protected from harmful UV rays and may stay in the sun longer.”

What we have learnt from this new study is that it’s more important than ever to go organic, and to look out for any nasty chemicals hiding in our sunscreens. The best thing we can do, according to all of this new research, is look for a 100% organic, mineral sunscreen that only uses zinc oxide to create its sun protection factor. Zinc oxide is an excellent sunscreen, blocking the dangerous rays that cause skin cancers, sun burns and age the skin. Importantly, there are now multiple studies pointing to the dangers of chemical sunscreens, whilst declaring the safety of zinc.

Ultimately, it seems that everyone should be choosing zinc-only sunblocks for their family this summer, and remembering to reapply regularly. Also remember to seek shade where possible, and cover up with shirts and hats when you feel that bite from our beautiful Australian sun.

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