Is Your Skin Protected? A terra20 Sunscreen Primer

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Did you know that only 25 per cent of 1,400 sunscreens on the market offer strong and broad UV protection and pose few safety concerns? Frightening isn’t it? That’s a stat from Environmental Working Group’s 2013 Sunscreen Guide.

According to the guide, despite an increasing awareness of the sun’s risks, rates of melanoma – the deadliest skin cancer – have tripled over the past 35 years, with an annual increase of 1.9 per cent per year since 2000.

Traditional sunscreens use specific chemicals that absorb UV light to prevent burning. Unlike physical sunscreens, they can be absorbed into the skin — and that's where the question of safety is raised.  The barrier sunscreens sold at terra20 are made with the zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which provide a physical barrier against the sun.

The EWG warns consumers to avoid products with oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate. Here’s why:

Oxybenzone: Oxybenzone is found in 80 per cent of chemical sunscreens. The EWG recommends that consumers avoid oxybenzone because it can penetrate the skin, cause allergic skin reactions and may disrupt hormones (Calafat 2008, Rodriguez 2006, Krause 2012). The highest concerns revolve around biochemical or cellular level changes to your body. While there are some claims that Oxybenzone may cause cancer, the Canadian Cancer Society has issued a statement saying that “research on this chemical is limited, and so far no animal or human studies suggest that it might cause cancer. The Society will continue to watch for any research in this area.”

Retinyl Palmitate: Retinyl palmitate, a form of Vitamin A, is an antioxidant added to many sunscreens and cosmetics. Sunscreens containing Vitamin A may irritate the skin and increase photosensitivity. Due to concerns about developmental and reproductive toxicity as well as biochemical or cellular level changes, there are serious concerns about this chemical. The EWG recommends consumers “avoid sunscreen and skin products with retinyl palmitate until the industry can prove it is safe for sun-exposed skin”.

New Canadian Regulations Proposed

In early 2013, Health Canada proposed new sunscreen rules that would crack down on misleading or unsubstantiated claims, and requires sunscreens to have stricter warnings.  For example, all products containing the non-medicinal ingredient(s) retinyl (or its acceptable derivatives, such as retinal acetate and retinyl palmitate would be required to have this warning label:

"This product contains retinyl palmitate that may increase your skin's sensitivity to the sun and particularly the possibility of sunburn. Please limit sun exposure while using this product and for a week afterwards.”

As well, sunscreens without broad spectrum protection or sunscreens with an SPF value of less than 15 must warn that they only help prevent sunburn, not skin cancer or early skin aging.

Here’s what you can do to ensure you’re protected this summer from the sun and possible harmful effects:


Tips & Hints:

  • Particularly if you have sensitive skin, avoid products that contain oxybenzone or retinyl palmitate.
  • Check the label to see that the product offers UVA and UVB protection (or “broad spectrum protection”).
  • Be aware that SPF protection does not increase proportionally with an increased SPF number. An SPF of 15 absorbs 93 per cent and an SPF of 30 absorbs 97 per cent. The Canadian Dermatology Association advises Canadians to opt at least SPF 30.
  • Reapply your sunscreen every two hours and after swimming or sweating.
  • Opt for lotions over sprays, as lotions provide more even coverage.
  • Limit your time in the sun (particularly at midday), wear a hat and cover up.
  • eep babies six months and younger out of the sun – cover them up and opt for shady spots to sit or picnic. Keep kids and children out of the midday sun to prevent burns. As Health Canada points outstudies show that people who suffered severe sunburns in childhood are at greater risk of developing skin cancer.


Non-Chemical Alternatives

At terra20 we have a range of sunscreens that use physical barriers like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, rather than chemical ingredients. Here are a few of our more popular options:

Consonant The Perfect Sunscreen SPF 30

Natural sunscreen, non-whitening, non-nano. Contains aloe vera, grape seed and rice bran oil, and evens skin tone with a touch of natural mica tint. Non-greasy formula applies smoothly.

Goddess Garden Baby Natural SPF 30 Sunscreen

2 per cent organic ingredients, water resistant, non-whitening, scent-free, nut-free, non-nano, FDA approved and all natural. Contains aloe vera, soybean oil and Vitamin E. Non-greasy, sheer and easy to apply.


Green Beaver Certified Organic SPF 30 Adult Sunscreen

Organic certified, Health Canada approved, non-whitening, waterproof, fragrance-free, non-nano and non-silicone coated. Active ingredient is zinc oxide, and also contains sunflower seed oils, jojoba wax and raspberry seed oils. Spreads quickly and evenly. Hawkesbury-based company.


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