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What is it: sunscreen active ingredients

April 10, 2008 Reviewed by Marta 0 Comments

I've come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as spring in the state of New York. Rather, winter and summer have a fight (starting about now) and, after a few weeks, summer wins. So in preparation for summer's victory, I thought it would be helpful (to me at least and, hell, this is my blog) to summarize in one place the various sunscreen ingredients and whether do any harm as well as protect against skin cancer and wrinkles.

PABA. This has disappeared from most sunscreens (although I did notice it in a product the other day, so keep your eyes peeled) since it was demonstrated that it encourages free radicals, damages DNA and can lead to cancer.

Avobenzone. It has been permitted by European regulators for years and is widely regarded as safe. Nevertheless, some skin specialists say avobenzone can be as
harmful as PABA.

Oxybenzone. In Europe, a product that uses more than 0.5% must be labeled 'contains oxybenzone'. Also called benzophenone-3, it was linked to cancer in the late 1990s in a study published in the British medical Journal. Since then, the health implications of this sunscreen remain unclear. However, some studies have shown that oxybenzone can promote harmful free radicals in the skin cells. An Australian trial demonstrated oxybenzone is easily absorbed into the skin. Another study says dermal absorption is low. French research also found incidences of contact allergies with oxybenzone. Banned in Sweden.

Benzophenone-4. An irritant, according to one study.

Ensuizole. This used to be called phenylbenzimidazole sulfonic acid, chemical. It blocks short UV rays only and is water soluble. In two cases it has been identified as a cause of facial dermatitis.

Ethylhexyl salicylate. According the MSDS data, this is not toxic.

Octonixate. Toxic but a study shows not in concentrations that can be absorbed and do harm.

Octisalate. Safe but must be used with other sunscreens in order to be effective.

Octocrylene. A UVB sunscreen that can penetrate the skin and cause free radical activity. However, like octinoxate, it is not normally used in concentrations that cause harm.

This list is not intended to be exhaustive. I'll add to it as I come across any others.

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