The Truth About Sunscreen – Toxic Endocrine Disruptor

Dr Agnes Ryu

Sunscreen has become a staple in many people’s skincare routines. We’ve been told by dermatologists and skincare marketing that we need sunscreen to protect our skin from sun damage, ageing and skin cancer. But is sunscreen really as safe and effective as we’ve been led to believe?

The Myth of Sunscreen Safety

In December 2021, a shocking revelation from an internal FDA health hazard evaluation branded popular sunscreen brands as potential carriers of “life-threatening health hazards.”  This report, contrasting sharply with public claims, underscored the hidden risks associated with these widely used products.

Sunscreens May Increase Skin Cancer Risk

Contrary to mainstream messaging, sunscreen usage does not appear to decrease melanoma rates. Since sunscreens came on the market in the 1970s, melanoma incidence has steadily climbed. The assumption was that people needed more UVA protection, but adding in chemicals to block UVA rays didn’t reverse the trend.

Meanwhile, studies show outdoor workers exposed to more sun consistently have lower rates of melanoma than those who work indoors. The sun itself does not cause skin cancer – poor diet and antioxidant status do. Melanin, the pigment that causes darker skin tones, acts as natural sun protection.


The Dangers of Inhaling and Absorbing Sunscreen Chemicals

Spray sunscreens are especially hazardous, as the chemicals are aerosolized. Breathing them in allows the tiny particles to enter the lungs and transfer to the brain. Any type of sunscreen applied to the skin can be absorbed into the body. When sunscreen on the skin interacts with chlorine in pools, toxic compounds are formed that may cause cancer.

The SPF Illusion and Vitamin D Production

Despite the widespread belief in their protective role, SPF products may inadvertently contribute to vitamin D deficiency and disrupt natural skin defence mechanisms, especially in individuals with darker skin tones.

Coral killing sunscreen?

Sunscreens, once seen as harmless, are now implicated in damaging delicate marine ecosystems. The toxicological effects on coral reefs, fish, and phytoplankton are profound, with sunscreens contributing to the degradation of underwater life and biodiversity. Even miniscule amounts rinsed off in the shower can damage coral reefs and cause fish to become intersex, meaning they have both male and female reproductive parts.


“Safe” Mineral Sunscreens Are Not Harmless

Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide nanoparticles, often touted as “safe” mineral options, are not inert. Though they provide UV protection, zinc oxide damages cell walls and marine phytoplankton. Both zinc and titanium oxides become free radicals when exposed to UV rays. ‘Kid-safe’ sunscreens are also a marketing ploy and recent rigorous study debunked their safety.


Sunscreens Disrupt Hormones and Reproduction

Many common chemical sunscreen ingredients like oxybenzone and octinoxate are endocrine disruptors that mimic hormones in the body. Studies show they can alter hormone levels and cause reproductive issues in both humans and aquatic life. The hormone-disrupting effects of sunscreens likely contribute to the growing confusion among younger generations about gender identity. The chemicals mess with natural hormone balances, obscuring the inherent biological differences between men and women.

The common sunscreen ingredients oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and avobenzone are all systemically absorbed into the body after one use, according to studies published by the FDA. The agency also found they could be detected on the skin and in the blood weeks after they had last been used.  For more detailed information on each sunscreen ingredient, please read The trouble with ingredients in sunscreens from The Environmental Working Group.


What This Means For Fertility and Hormonal Health

The hormonal havoc wreaked by sunscreen chemicals is especially pertinent for those trying to get pregnant or dealing with fertility issues. Reproductive health depends on delicate hormone orchestration. Even slight hormone imbalances can impede ovulation, sperm production, or fetal development.

Carefully evaluate all personal care products, foods, and household products. Endocrine disruptors like sunscreen ingredients add to the total toxic burden on the body that can impact fertility. Minimizing sources of hormone disruption is crucial.

During pregnancy and preconception, be particularly cautious about sunscreen usage. The developing fetus is highly vulnerable to chemical exposures. Sunscreen chemicals are absorbed through the skin and have the potential to cross the placenta.

Nourish Your Skin With Natural Diet

Sunburn is a modern phenomenon – for millennia, humans used to live and work outdoors for prolonged periods of time. We are supposed to tan, not burn. Human skin detects, gets cues from sunlight and activates many bodily functions in orderly manner maintaining circadian rhythm. Sun exposure has numerous health benefits and when we block it, we are really harming ourselves.

In my clinical practice, I’ve found those who burn easily or have sun allergies often have fatty acid imbalances. Consumption of industrial oils, rancid vegetable oils, and processed foods containing Frankenstein molecules contributes to these imbalances and the skin doesn’t react to sunlight correctly.

Cooking with and consuming plentiful of traditional natural fats like beef tallow, pork lard, butter, ghee, duck fat, goose fat, coconut oil, and olive oil can nourish and protect your skin. When your body’s fatty acid composition is balanced, you can fully utilize the benefits of sun exposure rather than burning.

Agnes Ryu

Agnes Ryu

Dr. Ryu is a clinician and biochemist specializing in integrative medicine. Her clinical interests include fertility, hormones, metabolism, healthy ageing, menopause, and natural breast cancer care. As an integrative practitioner, Dr. Ryu aims to uncover the root causes of health issues and strives to empower patients with the knowledge and tools to take charge of their own health.

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