If you’re wondering what the ingredients listed on the back of your sunscreen tube mean, keep reading!
What’s in your sunscreen?
Retinyl palmitate (aka vitamin A)
Purpose: UVB protection
Issues: An American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) study supported the possibility that it may result in cancerous tumours when used on skin exposed to sunlight. However, a 2010 analysis published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found no evidence that the inclusion of retinyl palmitate in sunscreen can cause cancer in humans.
(aka methylparaben, butylparaben, ethylparaben, isobutylparaben, propylparaben, butylated hydroxytoluene, tetrasodium EDTA and phenoxyethanol)
Purpose: Preservative Issues: Animal testing has shown that parabens act as hormone disruptors, increasing oestrogen levels. They have been found in the tissues of women with breast cancer, although no direct link with the disease has been established. Some studies also indicate that methylparaben applied on the skin may react with UVB, leading to increased skin ageing and DNA damage.
Butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane (aka avobenzone)
Purpose: UVA protection
Issues: Is absorbed into the bloodstream and thus implicated in the creation of free radicals. May cause skin allergies. Hormone disruptor.
Purpose: UVB and UVA protection
Issues: Is absorbed into the bloodstream and so implicated in creation of free radicals. May cause skin allergies. Hormone disruptor.
Para-aminobenzoic acid (aka glyceryl PABA, padimate O and roxadimate)
Purpose: UVB protection
Issues: May cause allergic skin reactions. May also cause a burning or stinging sensation in those with sensitive skin, even when not actually allergic to PABA.
(chemically related to balsam of Peru, tolu balsam, coca leaves, cinnamic aldehyde, cinnamic oil)
Purpose: UVB absorber Issues: May cause an allergic skin reaction. Hormone disruptor.
Perfume or fragrance
Purpose: Smells nice
Issues: Altogether, 26 fragrance ingredients have been identified by the European Union’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Products as those most often linked with allergic reactions. The EU now labels those making up more than 0.01% by weight of the product, but sadly they may still hide under the generic term ‘perfume’ in products from anywhere else. Some may also contain hormone-disrupting phthalates.