Tag Archives: oxybenzone

sunscreen, bad ingrediens, avoid sun burn

3 Little Known Things That Should Never Be In Your Sunscreen

sunscreen, bad ingrediens, avoid sun burn

These 3 Things Should Never Be in Your Sunscreen.

If you’ve followed our blog or our company for a while, you’ve probably sensed our discomfort with the ingredient Oxybenzone.  We think it should be banned from our bodies.  If you have not read our many reasons why it’s an ingredient worth avoiding- click here to read why you could consider it one of the most dangerous chemicals in your house.

If you’re all caught up on that, we thought we’d share this month some lesser known no-no’s in sunscreen formulations.  I’ll admit when I scan labels these are the red-flags that jump out at me and make me wonder whether the formulator simply did not know any better or chose to ignore the most relevant science in our field.

In short, here is a list of little known things that should not be in your sunscreen

1. The Combination of Octinoxate and Avobenzone

This one is a doozy but fortunately relatively rare.  If you see it, put down the bottle and walk away.  For me, there is really no excuse to have these two ingredients combined.  We know better and should do better.

These two ingredients on their own are not great in their most current, prevalent form.  To my knowledge, most forms of these ingredients come in their commodity form as being small-particle sized.  They are potential photo-allergens.  They also have their own stability issues.  We use an encapsulated form of octinoxate in our Every Morning Sun Whip SPF 25. This dopes the octinoxate molecule into a silica bead and makes a small particle (that normally would get absorbed into the body) huge.  It makes it roughly 6-7 microns large so that it sits on the surface of the skin and actually does not come into contact, reducing any chance for allergy.

What you may not know though, is these two ingredients are like each others Kryptonite.  Avobenzone breaks down in sunlight, which is an unfortunate characteristic for a sunscreen filter.  It requires stabilization from ingredients like octocrylene or Mexoryl SX and Xl.  However, when combined with Octinoxate, they each precipitate the breakdown of each other.  This breakdown is so precipitous that not only do both your UVB and UVA protection of the sunscreen breakdown, free radicals are also generated.

Octocrylene as mentioned does abate the photodegredation of this combination somewhat but not sufficiently to make it a viable solution.  In theory, you could encapsulate both ingredients to keep them from coming into contact with each other.  However, this technology is not widely available and remains expensive and hard to work with.  The better solution would be to simply avoid this combination- if your product includes it, it’s worth questioning whether the manufacturer really understands sunscreen formulations.

2. Essential Oils especially citrus based ones

I’m not altogether against essential oils.  I see them as powerful and complex compounds.  The chemistry within a single drop is astonishing.  A knowledgable practitioner can use them to great effect- if used judiciously and strategically.  What I’m not comfortable with, is the increasing trend in skincare to use a dash-of-this-dash-of-that style of formulating with them.  You are starting to see a lot of craft style brands essentially sell mixes of essential oils where some times 10+ essential oils are mixed together.

I do not think they should be used in sunscreens.  When you take the complex chemistry of the skin, the sun and essential oils- I think you are mixing up host of potential reactions that are hard to predict.  One thing is clear though, you should never, ever use a product that contains lime or any citrus based essential oil during the day on sun exposed skin.  Dermatologist frequently see what is called photodermatitis- the sudden appearance of brown streaks or spots when lime juice or extract on the skin is exposed to sun light.  This pigmentation can take a long time to fade, however more severe reactions can occur with blistering or redness occurring as well.  As one Facebook user can attest, essential oils can cause really severe

essential oils, sun burn, burn skin

What Can Happen with Essential Oils and the Sun

blistering as you can tell by her alarming pictures.

This is another mistake in formulating a sunscreen that shows a lack of understanding about photobiology and dermatology.  I wish I could say it was a ‘rookie’ mistake but you see it in brands all of the time.

3. Anti-Inflammatories and Anti-Oxidants (if replacing concentrations of filters)

On their own, there is nothing wrong with anti-inflammatories and anti-oxidants.  Plant derived anti-inflammatories include chamomile and Vitamin E.  We are a huge advocate for stable anti-oxidants like turmeric, resveratrol etc.  However, our issue with these two types of ingredients is when they are used to replace sunscreen filters as protection against the sun.  These ingredients can be used to increase the SPF of a sunscreen by gaming the current SPF test.

The FDA mandates that the in-vivo test for SPF is used, meaning it’s tested on humans as opposed to being tested in-vitro, which literally means tested on glass.  SPF is calculated by looking at the level of redness produced by directing a photo lamp at test subjects.  We are starting to learn that the photo lamp itself is problematic and not equivalent to natural sun light.  Another great limitation of the test is that it uses redness as the equivalent of sun protection.  Therefore a sunscreen formulation can focus on taking away redness in the skin by including anti-inflammatories and anti-oxidants, and this will provide a higher SPF while not necessarily providing better protection.

I’m going to share the best metaphor I’ve ever read about these ingredients and sunscreen.  For the life of me, I can’t remember where I’ve read it so pardon my lack of an appropriate citation. Consider UV light like a gun.  Sunscreen filters are like a bullet-proof vest in that they shield you to varying degrees from getting shot.  They’re not perfect and some are better than others in making sure you do not get injured. Anti-oxidants do not prevent you from getting shot but they are equivalent to having a doctor on hand to help stitch you up after wards.  In other words, they do not prevent harm but they help heal it afterwards.  Anti-inflammatories within the context of sunscreens do not prevent you from getting shot nor do they help you heal afterwards.  They put a gag in your mouth so you can’t yell from the pain. For the SPF test, they stop redness from emerging  which is your body’s way of expressing sun damage.  You have to be very wary of formulas that prevent the expression of damage but not the damage itself!

How do you know if your sunscreen is relying on anti-inflammatories and anti-oxidants to elevate their SPF? Look at the medicinal ingredients.  I’ve included a handy little SPF calculator in this post here. In short, if your sunscreen has something like 3% Titanium Dioxide and 2% Zinc Oxide, then it can have a max SPF of 11.  If it has an SPF 30 or more but has a long list of botanical extracts, then something is off.  In the coming days, we’ll discuss some new proprietary ways of increasing the SPF with non-medicinals that actually improve protection and do not game the SPF test.  In the interim, if the math does not add up, it’s worth being suspicious.

That’s it for now! Share your comments and questions below!

Warmest regards,

Sara

sunscreen, dangers, oxybenzone,

Sunscreen sprays, burns, dead coral and more: what we’ve heard in the news about sunscreens

blog image July 2016Things We’ve Heard About Sunscreen This Month:

Why is Sunscreen Bad for Coral Reefs?

 It turns out the UV filter Oxybenzone is hard on more than just our bodies, it can be absolutely devastating to the coral reefs that span our oceans. While deeply saddening , it’s not necessarily news. If you recall from our blog post from The Sunscreen Doc, click here to read, there have been signs up in Hawaii telling people to wash off their sunscreen from a long time ago. This photo was taken back in 2006.

Sunscreens Why is Oxybenzone so detrimental to the reefs? Oxybenzone is a photo-toxicant, meaning it’s detrimental effects are triggered by sunlight (making it an odd choice for a sunscreen ingredient). In very small concentrations, Oxybenzone was shown to disrupt the living larval forms of coral by reducing their motility, ossifying their exo-skeleton and causing its DNA to mutate. The overall effect was to exacerbate bleaching of the reef, something that is linked to rising sea temperatures, which is the ultimate death knell for the living organism.

Swimmers (but also all sunscreen users) should look for Oxybenzone free products but can also use sun protective clothing to reduce the amount of sunscreen they have to wear overall.

2nd degree burns on boy after using SPF 50 sunscreen

A mom in the UK posted pics of her son’s 2nd degree burns after spending 5 hours at the beach but after having religiously used sunscreens all day. The family had been using a popular sunscreen spray marketed especially for kids by Banana Boat. While there are multiple versions of the kids spray formula, we have found some versions that make it very clear as to what could have happened.

Banana boat ingredientsThis version shown here, has numerous potential issues with it (including the use of parabens in the non-medicinals). The most obvious issue is that it combines Avobenzone with Octinoxate, which is somewhat of a rookies mistake. It’s a well established fact that octinoxate degrades Avobenzone when exposed to sunlight. The end result is a sunscreen that loses the ability to protect against UVA as the Avobenzone degrades but then also against UVB as the octinoxate begins to deteriorate as well. Click here to read more about this well documented phenomenon. Fortunately, it’s not one that we see very often now so it’s astonishing to find it in a sunscreen for babies.

The fact that this sunscreen was an aerosol spray I believe compounds the problem and you can read more about that in the next section. This sunscreen also is just generally a poor choice due to the potential issue of endocrine disrupting chemicals with Avobenzone, un-encapsulated octinoxate, the varios salates and the parabens included in the non-medicinals. It’s all around a poor sunscreen but it’s all made worse by the fact that it’s marketed towards kids.

Aerosol Sunscreen Might Not be as Safe as you think

Finally, spray sunscreens currently exist in a nether-region in US regulation. The FDA has mandated as of 2011 that they would impose a ban on all spray sunscreens unless manufacturers could prove their safety. Spray sunscreens are still available until such ban is actually enforced but the concerns against their safety center around inhalation risk but also as to efficacy when it comes to applying them sufficiently and uniformly. Anecdotally, before my days of working at CyberDERM, I purchased a can of spray sunscreen and threw it in my purse to have on hand throughout the summer days. Unfortunately, the can leaked and pooled in the bottom off my silver coloured leather bag. After, quasi-melting my phone and I-pod (was back in 2010 and my beloved I-Pod Shuffle was toast!), the sunscreen also had stripped the silver paint of my bag. Most spray sunscreens use alcohol as the main solvent to solubilize their filters, which is how it was able to dissolve paint. It’s unsavoury to imagine that sitting on your skin all day.

sunscreens, fertility, male sperm

UV Filters Interfere with Human Sperm and More Health Implications of EDC’s

New Study Shows the Health Implications of UV Filters on Human Sperm

Our company founder and my father Dr. Denis Dudley has been voicing his concerns about the role of some UV filters and other potential endocrine disrupting chemicals since we first started making sunscreens back in 2008. Anyone who has ever met him (in the hallways of our sister dermatology clinic, in airports, drug store aisles or when sitting by the beach) can vouch for how passionate he is about the role of sunscreens and their impact on our health and environment. I think this passion partially stems from a little bit of frustration and a whole lot of being perplexed. The argument against using certain filters seems so practical, reasonable, and intuitive and yet it’s not very well received by many medical professionals, regulatory agencies and academics. These critics point to a dearth in rigorous science but as my father has pointed out- a rigorous experiment would involve applying these products every day across generations to see their full potential effect and how ethical is that? Continue reading

oxybenzone, beach, sunscreen

9 Reasons Why Oxybenzone Might be One of the Most Dangerous Chemicals in Your House

For the month of December, the Sunscreen Doc is our guest poster on why the chemical Oxybenzone might be one of the most dangerous chemicals in your life.  Click here to read the full text of the blog.

sunscreen, sun burn, sun safety

What is Wrong with Today’s Sunscreens

Why is there panic and confusion in the marketplace?

The recent article from Vancity Buzz with the headline, “Neutrogena is the number one sunscreen to avoid, says the EWG” that we shared on our Facebook page has absolutely gone viral. It was shared over 480,000 times. I didn’t think much of it when I posted it- it’s essentially a reiteration of the EWG’s Annual Sunscreen Report from this past May. It’s also the same complaint that the EWG has been making year after year and it’s one that I agree with for the most part.

neutrogena, toxic, sunscreen

Image from VanCity Buzz Article, Neutrogena is the Number One Sunscreen to Avoid

For the first time a picture of some of the most popular sunscreens in the market appeared in a story with a big red warning sign. I know a lot of parents especially were crestfallen when they saw a brand they had been using on their kids since forever. Before starting work at CyberDERM, I’d used many of those so-called no-no brands my whole life (that is until an aerosol spray version leaked in my purse and took off the paint!). A lot of others were outright mad by the article, claiming it was fear mongering and based on pseudo science.

I thought I’d share my take on the article and a couple of other comments that I’ve seen with similar articles. I’ve been immersed in the world of sunscreens for 7 years now. I’m neither a scientist nor a physician and I’m obviously involved with a competitor’s brand so feel free to take my opinion with as many grains of salt as you see fit.

The deal with ‘chemical’ filters

I always put the term ‘chemical’ in quotation marks because this distinction makes technical people roll their eyes. Technically, everything is a chemical and not all chemicals or synthetics as most people are intending to say are bad for us. Other times, the term physical blocker is used to describe mineral based filters like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to differentiate from those that are meant to absorb UV light. That distinction is not purely accurate either since many of the mineral filters now do some absorbing and scattering of UV light.

Within our R&D department, we prefer the term particulate-based filters vs. non-particulate based filters. Particulate-based filters include zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, encapsulated filters that are larger than a micron, and Tinosorb S and M. Non-particulate based filters are most of the conventional ones that you would see in mass-market products and include oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, homosalate, octocrylene, octinoxate (non-encapsulated version).

The EWG is exceptionally critical of oxybenzone. We’d argue that all of these filters have potential issues because they are smaller than the 500 Dalton threshold. Dalton is a measurement of something’s molecular weight and it’s well established that anything below 500 Daltons can enter through the skin into our bloodstream. For many people, they simply don’t want to use something that enters the body if they have the choice.

There is then the issue of whether these filters mimic hormones in our body. The answer is that there is no definitive answer at this point. It would be difficult to create a study that would give a definitive answer so I believe you have to fall back on your personal comfort level of risk. I would say that the argument that only small amounts are ever detected in human studies misses a crucial point. Dosage based arguments for endocrine disruptors don’t hold up since it’s also well established that dosage and effect are not linearly correlated in this regard. In fact, smaller doses of endocrine disruptors can have a disproportionately large effect, sometimes even larger than large doses. The WHO report from 2012 made this quite clear.

sunscreen, sun burn, sun safety

Sunscreens Can Burn You in More Ways than You think

Why would the FDA and Health Canada approve something if it’s not safe?

The FDA and Health Canada have both admitted that they are behind in reviewing the sunscreen monograph. Recently, in the US, the PASS coalition put the FDA in the hot seat for being a decade behind in reviewing submissions. The Sunscreen Innovation Act was passed in late 2014 and the onus was set on the FDA to make some timely decisions. The FDA instead has recently said that the new filters under review require a substantial amount more of clinical data to prove their safety. A part of the issue, they would like exhaustive studies to show that these newer filters are not absorbed into the body or pose any health risks if they are. They dismiss the real market use of these filters in other regulatory territories like the EU as not being sufficient enough.

I take exception with their argument on multiple levels but I also find it frustrating that they are willing to block new ingredients based on this premise, but they are not willing to review current filters by the same criteria. For some unknown reason, current filters seemed to have been grandfathered into acceptance and are past the point of further review- despite mounting evidence.

By blocking some of the safest and least controversial UV filters, like the Tinosorbs (which are very large particulate-based filters), the FDA and Canada are forcing consumers to use filters that aren’t as effective and with iffy safety findings. I also think it’s worth mentioning that the FDA and Health Canada have not put a complete ban on these new ingredients in question. In the US, L’Oreal paid for the very expensive process of getting one of their patented filters approved by the FDA. It’s just restricted for use by one brand for the exclusive use in their La Roche-Posay formula. (Side note- by expensive I mean hundreds of thousands of dollars). In Canada, you can find 9 formulas that contain Tinosorb S and M. These companies again though had to pay for an outside monograph review process (a process that is much cheaper than the US version, costing roughly $50-60 K, about 25-50 times more expensive than the normal approval method) to have formula specific usage of these ingredients. Therefore, it’s not to say that the FDA or Health Canada think these new filters completely unsafe that they can’t come into their respective markets at all- there is just a hefty entrance fee.

Finally, I’ve also seen mention that if a sunscreen has the seal of approval from one of the various dermatology or skin cancer organizations, doesn’t that vouch for their safety. Again, there is an issue with money. Most of these seals cost in the $5000-$10,000 range for licensing fees and the criteria are otherwise relatively lax. When it comes to specific review of UV filters, most concerns deal with whether something is an allergen. While oxybenzone and avobenzone are both considered allergens, they occur infrequently enough that it’s not considered to be a real concern. The idea of endocrine disruption isn’t taken seriously yet by these medical communities. I’ve heard word though that another, potentially quite explosive piece of research about some of these filters is set to be published in a very credible medical journal. We’ll see what it ends up saying and how it’s received in the next couple of months… Yes, that’s what passes for gossip around our offices- we’re the Gossip Girl of sunscreens. Really and truly though, I think it will shake things up so prepare for another bout of panic and confusion.

Thanks as always for staying tuned with us. Will keep you posted.

Best regards,

Sara

pregnancy, sunscreen

Sunscreen and Pregnancy

For those who don’t know our company backstory, CyberDERM was created by one of its founding physicians to make sunscreens that were safe enough for pregnant women to use every day. The story goes that my father, Dr. Denis Dudley, a double board certified endocrinologist and OB/GYN specializing in high-risk pregnancy was asked by a patient about sunscreens. It would have been the early nineties and his honest answer was that he did not know. Fortunately, his lovely and very talented wife (and my mother) was a dermatologist so with the help of an amazing chemist as their partner- they began the decade long process of researching skincare and specifically sunscreens and its effect on our health and well-being.

pregnancy, sunscreen

Me at 19 Weeks Pregnant

I came to the company in 2008 and started with getting our first formula into a bottle that is now known as Every Morning Sun Whip SPF 25. Fast forward 7 years, and I’m now in the position of being pregnant with my first child. Our company ethos has all of a sudden become extremely personal. I know first hand what it’s like to stand in the pharmacy aisle, scouring ingredients of everything from Tums to shampoo and questioning whether it’s ok to use.

Pregnancy has the most stringent of all life stages when it comes to reconsidering everything that is part of our daily life. I’ve personally been reading the MotherRisk website like its my newfound manual to life. I appreciate how balanced and informative it is because there is a plentitude of information on the internet. I’ve learned forums are not the best source as you get a lot of anecdotal stories that’s often contradictory.

So, what’s the story with sunscreen in pregnancy? Should you be using it and what should you avoid?

I think you can guess that I’m going to say, yes, you should use it and you should be even more careful about applying it than before. Melasma is a real and very frustrating condition. Unlike what I read in some pregnancy forums, it does not just resolve always after pregnancy. Nor is it as simple as whisking away to your doctor for a light peel or laser treatment. I’ve helped first hand women suffering from melasma. Most are very self-conscious about it. Most have not found a ‘silver-bullet’ to treat it, even in our sister clinic that has 20 light based ‘lasers’, access to any peel and/or topical. It’s a process treating it- a slow and deliberate one. Most once they get it- are plagued with the prevention/treatment dance for the rest of their lives.

What to look for in Sunscreen?

Avoid oxybenzone, avobenzone, octocrylene and non-encapsulated octinoxate and any formula that contains parabens in its non-medicinal ingredients. That’s probably not a shocking recommendation if you’ve used our products for a while. We’ve been long time critics of oxybenzone especially. I’ve based that on it being a photo-allergen and since 2012, I’ve based it on the recommendations of the WHO report on Endocrine Disruptors. The report dismisses the idea that small doses of any potential endocrine disruptor can’t have a large impact on our health. It also states that fetal exposure, as well as childhood and adolescent exposure, are critical windows that can have life long effects. In simple terms- why risk it?

In pregnancy, we use the litmus test of whether a substance is absorbed into your body and whether levels are detectable. Oxybenzone clearly does get absorbed into the body- as confirmed by the CDC study that stated it was in 97% of a random sample of 2000 Americans. Avobenzone, octocrylene and non-encapsulated octinoxate all have smaller molecular weights than 500 Daltons. 500 Daltons is the generally accepted threshold for determining whether something can get absorbed past our outermost dead layer of skin.

Encapsulating smaller molecules in materials like silica can make them much larger-well past the 500 Dalton threshold. Our encapsulated octinoxate is roughly in the 5-7 micron range, making it act like a large particle based filter. Encapsulation can be a huge innovation in the future where even two normally incompatible ingredients, like avobenzone and octinoxate, could be combined in the same formula with no risk of photo-degradation. It’s unlikely though that we will see these new technologies on masse in commercially available sunscreens as they tend to be much more expensive than their non-encapsulated versions. If you see any of the above filters (oxybenzone, avobenzone, octinoxate, octocrylene)- you can most likely assume they are not encapsulated at this present moment unless they state specifically otherwise.  If you’re not sure, reach out and ask the brand.

Of course, once you remove these filters as options, you’re not left with many alternatives if you live in North America. In the future, I hope to see two European ingredients Tinosorb S and Tinosorb M get approval in North America. These are large particle based filters that offer excellent UVA/UVB protection. They’ll be a huge boon to our sunscreen market if and when they come. Due to their large particle size and excellent photo-stability, they are as controversy-free as I’ve seen of any sunscreen ingredient.

Until then, you are essentially left with zinc oxide as your main preferred ingredient. You need at least 10% of zinc oxide in your product and in pregnancy, I’d recommend to stick to higher concentrations for the added UVA protection. To me, the issue of nano versus non-nano is a bit of a red herring. It’s also well accepted that in the world of sunscreens, nano particles are huge compared to traditional low molecular weight filters. If you are still worried, repeated studies have shown that it does not go past the stratum corneum. You can look for the term non-nano on your label but since definitions of what constitutes nano vary- what might be non-nano to some could be nano to others. As proof of that, although we use the same form of zinc oxide in both formulas- it’s considered non-nano by one division in Health Canada but considered nano by another.

Zinc oxide can be combined with another filter like titanium dioxide or an encapsulated version of another non-mineral filter. Just remember- they are a bonus so to speak in terms of added protection mostly within the UVB range but the essential is to look for a high concentration of zinc oxide for truly balanced protection. Combine daily use with other sun protective habits like glasses, hats and seeking shade and you’ll be a healthy and happy mama-to-be in the sun protection department.