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Makeup Blog - Makeup by Meags - Meagan Rawlings, Freelance Makeup Artist, Auckland



Meagan Rawlings

Back in school when you had to write down your list of hobbies I would always write 'sunbathing' ha ha! Growing up at Omaha Beach it was my favourite thing to do and I was always careful about how I did it. I never sunbathed in the middle of the day and always built up a gradual tan slowly, bit by bit, day by day. I instinctively knew that the level of sun exposure I was having made me feel really good and I never, ever got burnt. As I have gotten older the fear about the sun and skin cancer has crept in and I spend less time in the sun than ever before and always slap on sunscreen if I will be outside in the sun for a while. So a few months back when celebrity Chef Pete Evans made a hugely controversial comment on his Facebook page calling chemical sunblocks poisonous, it sparked an interest in the topic. The lash-back from the media to Pete's comment was massive to say the least and it made headlines all around the World. The thing is though, Pete Evans wasn't wrong.

There are two types of sunscreens on the market; Chemical and Physical. Physical sunblocks use Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide to create a barrier from the sun. They are called physical sunblocks because the particles sit on the surface of your skin rather than be absorbed into your bloodstream. Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide are both derived from naturally occurring minerals and are considered safe to use although Zinc Oxide is the better option. Chemical sunblocks have anywhere from 2 - 6 active ingredients that block UV rays and which are all "man made", they also tend to contain at least 2 preservatives to stabilize the active ingredients. Virtually all these ingredients have some level of toxicity associated with them...

I have listed the main chemical sunblock ingredients and also the preservatives below. Check your sunblock and see how many ingredients from the list it contains as no doubt it will have a few! Just note that these ingredients aren't the only toxic things in an average sunblock, there are even more harmful ingredients hidden in sunblocks that the actual lotion is made up from. There was only one Sunblock I came across which was completely free from toxins and that was from Frankie Apothecary! A small NZ brand based in Te Atatu, Auckland. It acts as a Sunblock and Bug Repellent (bonus) and is only packed with nourishing ingredients; Non Nano Zinc Oxide, Organic Beeswax, Organic Shea Butter, Organic Coconut Oil, Red Raspberry Seed Oil, Kawakawa Extract, Vitamin E. As with all physical sunblocks you do get a slight white residue but nothing major and I'm sure once you read the ingredients below that are usually in sunblocks, you will be very keen to give this one a go.


OXYBENZONE - This scored a whopping 8 out 10 by the Environmental Working Group and is considered a HIGH HAZARD. It can cause cell mutations, disrupt the endocrine system, it accumulates in the body and enhances the absorption of other harmful ingredients. Not only is it highly toxic to humans but it destroys coral reefs, it alters the DNA of the coral and disrupts it's endocrine system. WHAT THE HELL!?? More than 10,000 tonnes of sunscreen ends up on coral reefs every year, and if it is killing the coral you can only imagine what it is doing to the rest of the marine life. Avoid this ingredient at all costs.

Brands that contain OXYBENZONE in their Sunscreens

The Cancer Society, Banana Boat, Neutrogena

OCTOCRYLENE - Listed as a MODERATE HAZARD by the EWG with High concerns over cellular level changes, cell death and may be implicated in cardiovascular disease. it accumulates in the body and the environment.

Brands that use OCTOCRYLENE in their Sunscreens

The Cancer Society, Banana Boat, Hawaiian Tropic, Nivea, Neutrogena

OCTOSALATE - Rated as a MODERATE HAZARD by the EWG. It is damaging to the environment and studies showed possible immune or allergenic effects.

Brands that use OCTOSALATE in their Sunscreens

The Cancer Society, Banana Boat, Neutrogena

BUTYL METHOXYDIBENZOYLMETHANE OR AVOBENZONE - This ingredient is only rated as a 2 by EWG however In Vitro testing on mammalian cells showed showed positive mutation results e.g cancer. It is associated with immunotoxicity and allergies.

Brands that use AVOBENZONE in their Sunscreens

The Cancer Society, Nivea, Hawaiian Tropics, Neutrogena, Banana Boat

HOMOSALATE - Listed as a 4 on EWG which is considered a MODERATE HAZARD. There are concerns around it causing organ toxicity, enhanced skin absorption and is an endocrine disrupter.

Brands that use HOMOSALATE in their Sunscreens

The Cancer Society, Banana Boat, Neutrogena

OCTINOXATE OR METHOXYCINNAMATE - Rated as a 6 on EWG, a MODERATE HIGH HAZARD. There are high concerns over cellular level changes and endocrine disruption. It accumulates in the body. It's associated with organ toxicity, enhanced skin absorption and ecotoxicology. Studies showed reproductive effects on animals at a moderate dose and developmental effects at a high dose.

Brands that use OCTINOXATE in their Sunscreens

The Cancer Society, SunSense, Coola, Oasis

Preservatives to watch out for...

PHENOXYETHANOL - Rated as a MODERATE HAZARD on EWG, the FDA warned that phenoxyethanol can cause shut down of the central nervous system, vomiting and contact dermatitis.

Brands that use PHENOXYETHANOL in their Sunscreens

The Cancer Society, Nivea, Hawaiian Tropics, Arbonne, Banana Boat, Neutragena

DIAZOLIDINYL - Rated as a 6 on EWG which is considered a MODERATE HAZARD it is listed as a FORMALDEHYDE RELEASER. It is a known human toxicant and allergen!

Brands that use DIAZOLIDINYL in their Sunscreens

Invisible Zinc

METHYLISOTHIAZOLINONE - Rated a 7 on EWG and is considered a HIGH HAZARD! It is a known human toxicant, skin toxicant, it makes you more sensitive to allergies, it is toxic to the environment and In Vitro tests on Mammal cells showed neurotoxicity!

Brands that use METHYLISOTHIAZOLINONE in their Sunscreens

The Cancer Society, Banana Boat

HYDROXYBENZOATES OR PARABENS - By listing the preservative as Hydroxybenzoates instead of the specific Parabens means it's hard to know the toxicity level. Most Parabens are listed as a HIGH HAZARD on EWG and are known to be harmful to your health. All parabens should be steered clear of.

Brands that use HYDROXYBENZOATES OR PARABENS in their Sunscreens

The Cancer Foundation, Hawaiian Tropics, Nivea, SunSense, Neutrogena

It is so important that as consumers we do our own research on ingredients and question these big brands that continue to pull the wool over our eyes. The biggest problem with sunblock is that these chemical active ingredients do block UV rays and therefore are deemed as effective and "saves us from the sun", but at what cost? I read an incredibly interesting book called The Healing Sun by Richard Hobday that offers a whole different perspective on the sun and how we have changed so dramatically as a society to avoid the sun at all costs, yet our rates of skin cancer are at an all time high. You can read it for free online here

So I guess if I look back to my habits as a teenager and be more conscious about how and when I hang out in the sun and build up my tolerance to it slowly, avoid peak times and use sunblock only if necessary (the non toxic one obviously!). That way I'm still getting the feel good factor of the sun rays and a healthy vitamin D intake! Sunbathing is back on my hobby list ;p