You may think about buying a new sunscreen but are worried about the safety of the UV filters? You might be interested to learn about those the most concerning and their risks. Fortunately, there is only a few of them.
This article is the fourth part of the Sunscreens and Your Skin series which deals with everything related to sunscreens (how they work, how to use them, how to choose them…).
In the previous articles from the series, I have discussed:
- in Part 1, about what broadspectrum sunscreens are and what kinds of filters are incorporated in them,
- in Part 2, about the differences between organic (or chemical) and inorganic (or physical) sunscreens as well as about micronisation (reduction of inorganic filters into nanoparticles).
- and what the information like SPF, PPD, PA+, Broadspectrum… on the packaging mean (Part 3).
If you are interested to know what sunscreens protect from, namely UV rays and their effects on the skin (skin aging, skin cancer…) you can access the thematic Ultraviolet Rays and the Skin series.
Sunscreens are a must if you are spending a little longer in the sun, especially during the summer. In fact, their primary usage is to avoid sunburn, photoaging and skin cancer caused by ultraviolet (UV) rays (click here if you want to know more about the effects of UV rays on the skin). To enhance the photoprotection, sunscreens often offer a mix of organic (or chemical) and inorganic (or physical) UV filters, aka the active agents (more about these here). However, some organic filters have demonstrated worrisome outcomes in clinical studies.
🇬🇧 Sunscreen filters to watch out
There are not many of them but as you can see below, but their use is widespread which can make the product choice difficult if you want to avoid them. I have also written their other chemical name they are known for that you may also read on the ingredient list of the product(1)(2):
The “worrisome outcomes” are divided into three domains:
- skin penetration,
- endocrine disruption (see below for the definition),
- and skin irritation.
An endocrine disruptor is a chemical that can interfere with the body’s hormonal system and may produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in both humans and wildlife.
Below the table, I have added a small list (not exhaustive) of the major clinical observations linked to endocrine disruptors.
|Chemical name(s)||Use||Skin penetration||Endocrine disruption||Skin irritation|
||Widespread||shows a high skin reactivity and is seen as a common allergen (7)|
||Widespread||Shows a moderate skin reactivity (less then Benzophenone-3 (10)|
||Widespread||Detected in the skin after 30 min of application (8)||Has estrogenic and androgenic activities in animals (11)(12)||Not available|
Major diseases observed with endocrine disruptors (not specifically with the abobe UV filters but also with other chemicals considered as endocrine disruptors):
- Breast cancers (13)
- Prostate cancers (14)
- Testicular cancers (15)
- Infertility in men and women (16)
- Type 2 diabetes (17)
What to remember
Sunscreens containing organic or chemical UV filters known as Benzophenone-3 (oxybenzone) and Octinoxate (ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate) can:
- enter the body and be detected in mother’s milk,
- have endocrine disruptive (interfere with our hormonal system)
- and skin irritation properties.
Homosalate is considered a bit less harmful (1).
Were you aware of the potential risks of those UV filters?