Sunscreen Toxicity and Vitamin D: Shedding Light on an A Dark Connection

1 comment by Stacy Facko

Just how harmful are suncreens? It’s not only a simple matter of choosing a sunscreen that is non-toxic to human health, and the environment, but it’s also about getting the right amount of vitamin D. Unfortunately, toxic chemicals (whose levels far exceed goverment safety limits in the human bloodstream and whose skin absorbtion rates are consistently underestimated by officials) saturate most sunscreens. The extent, amounts and types of these toxic chemicals are thankfully becoming increasingly recognized by the FDA. Let's try to navigate the delicate balance between sun safety and nutritional well-being, but looking at how why we need both sun exposure, and sunscreens, before looking at the best and worst options available.

The Sunscreen Conundrum

Sunscreen guards against the harmful effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation, shielding the skin from sunburn, premature aging, and the risk of skin cancer. However, the widespread adoption of sunscreen with varying toxic ingredients, and sun protection factors (SPF) has raised concerns about its potential impact on the body's ability to synthesize Vitamin D, often referred to as the "sunshine vitamin." Always using a high SPF sunscreen, like SPF 50-100, is going to prevent the skin from producing any vitamin D.

Embracing Vitamin D Synthesis

Vitamin D plays a pivotal role in many biological processes, such as facilitating calcium absorption, promoting bone health, fortifying the immune system, and regulating mood. The skin acts as a natural factory for Vitamin D synthesis when exposed to sunlight, specifically UVB rays. This process underscores the importance of sun exposure for Vitamin D production, and it is suggested by many experts to get around 10-15 minutes of full sunlight on your face and body, before putting on sunscreen.

“Too much vitamin D can cause side effects, so take only a physician-recommended amount. The body regulates the amount of vitamin D it makes in the sun but cannot protect against excess vitamin D from supplements.”         -

Strategizing Sun Safety and Vitamin D Sufficiency

A balanced approach to sun exposure should incorporate the following strategies:

  • Time Management: Optimal sun exposure for Vitamin D synthesis is recommended in moderation, typically during non-peak hours, to minimize UV exposure while maximizing Vitamin D production.
  • Supplementation: In scenarios where limited sun exposure or sunscreen application impedes Vitamin D synthesis, dietary supplements can serve as a viable alternative to maintain adequate Vitamin D levels. 
  • Consultation: Seeking guidance from healthcare professionals can help tailor sun protection and supplementation strategies based on individual needs, ensuring optimal skin health and Vitamin D sufficiency.

Best Suncreens 

The best sunscreens will have the most minimal ingredients needed. In fact, one of the best natural suncreens can be made at home with coconut oil combined with zinc oxide. These two ingredients are all that is needed to prevent sun damage, make a high SPF lotion, and cause no harm to human health or the environment. Quite a few natural brands have emerged over the years, and provide excellent SPF coverage, with other nutrients that have protective and reparative benefits for the skin.

Our favorite is Badger Mineral Suncreens

Worst Sunscreens

These chemicals are added to sunscreens to enhance their effects, which isn’t needed.

  • Oxybenzone: This chemical is an endocrine distruptor, harms children more than adults, and was found in a review of 23 studies to be associated with birth and reproductive problems. Apparently, the FDA grossly underestimated the skin absorption rate, and admitted in 2020 that it is indeed an hormone disruptor, and may also increase the risks of endometriosis and breast cancer.
  • Homosalate: Has been found to disrupt hormones after absorbing into the skin. The FDA allows 10 times the maximum safe levels allowed in the EU.
  • Octocrylene: Absorbs into the skin at such as high level that it exceeds the FDA’s safety limit by 15 times. Studies have found that this chemical harms coral, and is often contaminated with the carcinogen, benzophenone.
  • Octinoxate (octyl methoxycinnamate): The FDA’s own study found that this chemical absorbed into the bloodstream to reach levels 16 times over the safety limit. Research on animals links it to hormone and metabolic issues, as well as effects on the thyroid. Hawaii has banned sale of suncreens with this ingredient due to the damage it poses to marine life.
  • Avobenzone: This is a another chemical that is found in blood samples many times the safety limit, and has been found to be an endocrine disruptor.
  • The use of nano titanium dioxide should be avoided due to the risk of inhalation in spray suncreens. 

One final note on suncreens:

  • Look for mineral based suncreens that do not use seed oils, or other "natural" ingredients that nevertheless oxidize on the skin rapidly and promote skin damage.
  • Make sure to check the UV index, which tells you how much safe sun exposure you can have.
  • If there is high UV, it is best not to get any more than 5-10 minutes, depending on your skin tone, before applying suncreen.

Hopefully, as people become more aware of teh dangers of sunscreen, they also become more conscious of the importance of vitamin D  and the effects of synthetic chemicals on the environment. 


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The Trouble With Sunscreen Chemicals

1 comment

  • S

    I avoid all sunscreens and take astaxanthin, 12 mg/day. It has also helped my eyes a lot!

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