The skin / La peau

UV filters to watch out!
Sunscreens and Your Skin – Part 4


Les filtres UV à surveiller !
Les Protections solaires et la peau – 4ème Partie

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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.


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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
  • Benzophenone-3 (also known as Oxybenzone)
  • Benzophenone-1
Widespread
  • Detected in urine (3)
  • Detected in mothers’ milk (4)
  • Detected in urine (3)
  • Has estrogenic activity (5)
  • Delays male puberty and reduces sperm count in animals (5)
  • associated with endometriosis in women (6)
shows a high skin reactivity and is seen as a common allergen (7)

  • Octinoxate Also widely known as ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate
Widespread
  • Detected in mothers’ milk (4)
  • Detected in the skin after 30 min of application (8)
  • Has estrogenic activity (5)
  • Alters neurological and reproductive development in animals (9)
Shows a moderate skin reactivity (less then Benzophenone-3 (10)

  • Homosalate
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?

Related Post

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7. References

(1) www.ewg.org

(2) www.quechoisir.org

(3) M.S. Latha, 2013, Sunscreening Agents, Review in J Clin Aesthet Dermatol, 6(1): 16–26.

(4) Lademann J, 2005, Synergy effects between organic and inorganic UV filters in sunscreens, Review in J Biomed Opt, 10(1):14008.

(5) S. K. Jain, 2010, Multiparticulate carriers for sun-screening agents, Review in International Journal of Cosmetic Science, Volume 32, Issue 2, Pages 89–98.

(6) Wang SQ, 2010, Photoprotection: a review of the current and future technologies, Review in Dermatol Ther., 23(1):31-47.

(7) Robert Baan, 2006, Carcinogenicity of carbon black, titanium dioxide, and talc, Review in The Lancet, Volume 7, No. 4, p295–296.

(8) Threes G Smijs, 2011, Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide nanoparticles in sunscreens: focus on their safety and effectiveness, Review in Nanotechnol Sci Appl., 4: 95–112.

(9) M.S. Latha, 2013, Sunscreening Agents, Review in J Clin Aesthet Dermatol, 6(1): 16–26.

(10) Lademann J, 2005, Synergy effects between organic and inorganic UV filters in sunscreens, Review in J Biomed Opt, 10(1):14008.

(11) S. K. Jain, 2010, Multiparticulate carriers for sun-screening agents, Review in International Journal of Cosmetic Science, Volume 32, Issue 2, Pages 89–98.

(12) Wang SQ, 2010, Photoprotection: a review of the current and future technologies, Review in Dermatol Ther., 23(1):31-47.

(13) Robert Baan, 2006, Carcinogenicity of carbon black, titanium dioxide, and talc, Review in The Lancet, Volume 7, No. 4, p295–296.

(14) Threes G Smijs, 2011, Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide nanoparticles in sunscreens: focus on their safety and effectiveness, Review in Nanotechnol Sci Appl., 4: 95–112.

(15) M.S. Latha, 2013, Sunscreening Agents, Review in J Clin Aesthet Dermatol, 6(1): 16–26.

(16) Lademann J, 2005, Synergy effects between organic and inorganic UV filters in sunscreens, Review in J Biomed Opt, 10(1):14008.

(17) S. K. Jain, 2010, Multiparticulate carriers for sun-screening agents, Review in International Journal of Cosmetic Science, Volume 32, Issue 2, Pages 89–98.

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