Your Sunscreen Could Give You Cancer Instead of Fighting It Off

beachCan't wait for summer sun? Get in line. But first, the good news ... and um, the bad news. The number of sunscreens that passed the Environmental Working Group's 2012 test is higher than ever before!

Yay! Do the happy dance! In your bikini! With sunscreen on! Only, you better hope it was one of the one in four that won't end up making you sick.

Gotcha, didn't I? Things are getting better on the shelves, but they're still not great.

The EWG, which happens to be the bigwig nonprofit in determining what companies have toxic nasties in their beauty products, say that one in four of more than 800 beach and sport sunscreens passed the test this year. That's good when compared to one in five last year and one in 12 the year before, but it doesn't mean we're in the clear. A fourth of the sunscreens in the test actually had retinyl palmitate or vitamin A in them, a chemical the Food and Drug Administration and National Toxicology Program say heightens your risk of skin cancer. And you don't want to get them started on the hormone-disrupting chemicals and allergy-causing fragrances and what-not and what-have-you.

More from The Stir: Gel Manicures May Cause Cancer, But I Won't Stop Getting Them

Talk about your catch-22.

I put on sunscreen because I don't want to get sick. I put it on because I think I'm doing something GOOD for myself! But the way they tell it, I can be slathering myself up with something that is going to end up making me sick in the end anyway ... so what, exactly, did I win? Here I am looking like Casper, and all I have to show for it is, um, cancer?

I'm a summer baby, and I love the sun. I can't wait for it to come so I can stop shivering in my hoodies and jeans. But I loathe it too. Because I spend every spring standing in the store trying to figure out what sunscreen isn't going to actually waste my time, or at least trying to remember what is on the EWG "safe" list (thank God for smartphones, I can pull that up anywhere).

Which worries you more: what's in your sunscreen or what the sun could be doing to your skin?


Image via Ollie Crafoord/Flickr

cancer, healthy habits, health products


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nonmember avatar Amanda

An advantage to serious allergies and ridiculously sensitive skin? I automatically wind up avoiding the nasty stuff without necessarily knowing the entire list of stuff to avoid. And I use the same stuff on my kids.

I read labels on absolutely everything!

organ... organicyogalove

coconut oil mixed with zinc oxide is all you need. 

We need vitamin D..... which comes from the sun right? so clearly one should be more concerned with the chemical content than the sun. Twently minutes direct exposure in the sun, twenty minutes in the shade and repeat. If you live north of the equator you need even more. Dont let the anti sun campaigns fool you...

nonmember avatar Nicole

I don't use sunscreen, never have. I live at the beach. But I stay out of the sun from 11 to 3, sometimes 10 to 4. It's crazy because when I'm leaving the beach because the sun is too strong, that's when everyone is coming and then when I'm coming back in the late afternoon, everyone is leaving. Sunscreen has given people a false sense of security.

I do however put sunscreen on my baby because he is so light and sensitive. I only use zinc products which don't absorb in the skin and I stay from retin A matter what product I'm using. That stuff is evil.

MsRkg MsRkg

*sigh* everything these days give you cancer or gets you sick, or heightens your risk for something. I swear we should all live in a plastic bubble isolated from the rest of the world and everything in it.  I stop listening to these things a long long time ago because it just provides unnecessary stress and worry in my life. The only thing I pay attention too is food recalls.

That being said, when it comes to the sun, sunscreen and tanning, I love Neutrogena. It's not thick and it doesn't clog the pores. However I am biracial so I don't burn easily at all, so sometimes I'm the one on the beach lathered up in Neutrogena sesame oil cooking in the sun and getting that perfect golden tan. The only time I really use sunscreen is when I'm in the caribbean and the sun is a lot hotter and stronger. 

However my son takes after his father and is very fair, so he get's lathered in spf 100 every day in the summer otherwise he'll look like a little lobster.

Water... Water_geM

organicyogalove-15 minutes in the sun and i am developing a burn...

i think coconut oil would only help to fry me.

jalaz77 jalaz77

There was an article on CNN about the bad things in sunscreen but they did not offer one solution. WHAT SUNSCREEN DO WE USE???? I am not about making crap at home, what can I buy in a store?????

Katrina Stidd

God made the sun. I'm far more concerned about rubbing chemicals on my skin that are then being radiated into my skin by the sun. I prefer small amounts of sun exposure to get the Vitamin D and otherwise keeping my little ones covered and in the shade.


Pheebee Jeebees

i worry about sunscreens manufactured with nanotechnology

nonmember avatar Amanda

I live in a state where skin cancer is the third leading cause of death, so protection is definitely high on my list. We get 98% of our skin damage from the sun before the age of 18 so be hypersensitive about your kids and reapply every 30 minutes to an hour, especially if you are getting in the water. Sunscreen is often under-applied and therefore not as effective as it could be so supplement with protective clothing, sunglasses, hats, etc. Unless you live below the 32 parallel you need a whole lot more than 20-30 minutes of sun exposure to meet your vitamin D needs, especially if your skin is darker (our skin hasn't evolved to combat ozone depletion yet). It's one instance where you are better off getting your vitamins from edible resources. Look for sunscreens containing zinc but not retinyl palmitate or fragrance and you should be in the clear from the identified nasties. People with darker skin also assume that they are safe and don't need protection, but any change in your skin color is an indication of damage which can lead to skin cancer, and burns may even appear whitish on those with the darkest skin naturally. Don't forget about everyday exposure through the windows in your home, car and office and even the daily walk to the mailbox. Exposure adds up over time, and you might be 80 before you see the effects, but by the it's too late.

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