Sunscreen: 21st Century Snake Oil

ETR reader SR in New York recently wrote, “I read that most sunscreens contain a chemical that acts like estrogen in the body. Could this be harmful? And should I avoid sunscreen? I’m heading to Florida in a few weeks and don’t want to get burned.”

The Dangers of Sunscreen
The answer is yes. Almost all commercial sunscreens contain not just one but several chemicals, known as xenoestrogens, that mimic the hormone estrogen. Your Best Health Under the Sun, a book I wrote with Dr. Al Sears, highlights a Swiss study that found five of these chemicals in commonly used sunscreens:

  • Octyl-dimethyl-PABA (OD-PABA)
  • Benzophenone-3 (Bp-3)
  • Homosalate (HMS)
  • Octyl-methoxycinnamate (OMC)
  • 4-methyl-benzylidene camphor (4-MBC)

In laboratory testing, each one of these chemicals behaves like estrogen. And when they are combined, they can have a synergistic effect. In other words, two “weak” xenoestrogens can produce a very strong response.

Not only does this disrupt the hormonal system, but these chemicals are known to stimulate tumor growth and the spread of cancer. (Not to mention a decline in male sperm count, early puberty, and feminine characteristics in men.)

And don’t think you’re safe just because you don’t “ingest” these chemicals. Clinical studies show that they easily penetrate the skin and enter the bloodstream.

Whenever possible, you should avoid using chemical sunscreen. Protect yourself from sunburn with clothing and shade. And when it is necessary to use sunscreen, look for a chemical-free product with zinc oxide as the active ingredient. (You can find several brands at health food stores.)

[Ed. Note: Now you know one danger of sunscreen. But does that mean you should skip the sun altogether? Absolutely not. Dr. Al Sears and Jon Herring reveal the amazing, life-saving benefits of sunshine in Your Best Health Under the Sun.]

Jon Herring is the former Health Editor and copywriter for Early To Rise. While his formal education is in finance, Jon has invested over 3000 hours in the study of health and nutrition. He is deeply motivated to provide people with the information and the inspiration to live a long and active life, filled with energy and free from disease. Jon has also been a student of direct sales and marketing since an early age. Before he was 10 years old, he was selling door to door, and he has been an active entrepreneur ever since. After graduating from the University of Georgia in 1993, Jon moved to Jackson Hole, Wyoming where he learned how to build houses, climb mountains, catch trout, and ski fast down hill. However, after several years of poverty with a nice view, Jon returned to his hometown of Nashville to seek his fortune. Within two years – at the age of 26 – he had started a direct marketing business that was earning six figure annual revenues. In addition to his passion for health, Jon has a strong interest in business and investing. He is also a staunch advocate for honest government and the libertarian values of privacy, freedom, and personal responsibility.