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Is Your Sunscreen Doing More Harm Than Good?

By: Rhonda Allison
Posted: April 27, 2012, from the May 2012 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
Is Your Sunscreen Doing More Harm Than Good?

There’s no question about it—UV protection is absolutely essential. UV rays are responsible for a large majority of photoaging and are the leading cause of cancer—skin cancer—in the United States; however, with changes in sunscreen regulations constantly coming down the pipeline, it’s important to educate clients on proper skin protection.1, 2

There is a lot of misinformation circulating about various sunscreen ingredients—mineral vs. chemical—and what constitutes adequate protection. How do you know that what your clients are using will protect them from harmful UV damage and at the same time keep their skin healthy? Is it possible that some chemicals used to protect skin from damage may indeed contribute to other skin issues? Some reports have stated that certain chemical additives in sun care products actually proliferate the development of malignant cells due to their free radical-generating properties.3

Consumers need to know about the dangers of chemical-blockers, as well as the natural sunscreen alternatives that are available, such as zinc oxide. A sunscreen that contains unhealthy doses and combinations of chemicals may fundamentally limit its function—protecting the skin. What are these synthetic ingredients and why are they used? What are the alternatives, and why should skin care professionals educate clients about this?

The sun and skin

Some sun is important not only for the skin, but for a person’s overall well-being. Exposure to sunlight has an energizing effect and is good for the soul. Sunlight is also a source of vitamin D—D3 to be specific. Vitamin D3 is produced in the skin after exposure to UVB rays and defends the body against microbial invaders,4 and regulates the concentration of calcium and phosphate in the bloodstream to promote strong, healthy bones. It also aids in the absorption of other vitamins.

Ten minutes in the sun each day can be highly beneficial, but remind clients about the photoaging damage UV rays cause, including wrinkles, brown spots and slack skin, to name a few. Make sure clients protect their faces and vulnerable sun-damaged areas with good physical ingredients, such as zinc and titanium dioxide. These also guard against other environmental toxins.5, 6 (Editor’s note: To learn more about how sun affects the skin, check out the Physiology of the Skin course from Skin Inc. Video Education at

Chemicals and sunscreen