As a pregnant mom, you’re not only thinking about your skincare but your baby’s health. Did you know chemical sunscreen and skincare ingredients can enter your bloodstream by absorbing through your skin after topical application? A study from the Journal of the American Medical Association discovered chemical sunscreen ingredients were absorbed into the skin in high concentrations.
Most big drugstore sunscreen and skincare brands contain toxins and chemicals you wouldn’t rub onto your newborn’s skin and may be contributing to skin cancer and other deep tissue damage, to you and those you care about.
It’s important to read and understand sunscreen ingredient labels. Here are 6 ingredients to avoid at any time, and especially when you’re expecting.
Sometimes it is hard to determine if the sunscreen product contains fragrance. The list of scent-purpose chemicals is long, with the actual chemical names rarely specified. If you’re lucky, the ingredient list may include “artificial fragrance” or simply “fragrance.” Manufacturers add these chemicals to make the product smell more appealing to consumers. Most of these chemicals are linked to cancer, nervous system disorders, allergies, and birth defects. We recommend avoiding any unnecessary chemicals in sunscreens and any skincare product.
Octocrylene is readily absorbed by the skin and accumulates within the body. As it absorbs UVB (top-surface) and UVA (deep-skin) rays, it produces free radicals that damage cells and causes DNA mutations. There is evidence that octocrylene is responsible for reproductive toxicity, although the trials used doses higher than are typically used in skincare products. It’s quick to biodegrade and then bioaccumulate in humans. Studies are pending on the environmental effects on marine life. We recommend pregnant mothers avoid this chemical in sunscreens and any skincare.
Octisalate disrupts hormones and is generally used to increase UVB protection and water-resistance properties in a sunscreen formula — it is often combined with other UV chemical filters. Octisalate typically degrades when exposed to sunlight and in sunscreen needs to reapplied frequently. Less of a direct safety concern than other sunscreen ingredients, it increases absorption rates of other toxic ingredients.
One of the most common ingredients in sunscreens, octinoxate is readily absorbed by the skin and helps other ingredients get absorbed. An endocrine disruptor, it mimics estrogen and can disrupt thyroid function. Hormone disruption is a common side effect, harmful for humans and even wildlife after it leeches from humans into water.
Octinoxate has been detected in human urine, blood and breast milk, indicating its systematic exposure to humans. Though SPF products are designed to protect skin from sun-induced aging, octinoxate may actually encourage premature aging, as it produces menacing free radicals that can damage skin and cells. According to the EWG, octinoxate is a moderate hazard, primarily because it can lead to developmental and reproductive toxicity through enhanced skin absorption. Dangerous to anyone, it should certainly not be used by pregnant women and children, due to its estrogen-like behavior.
Homosalate disrupts hormones and enhances the body’s absorption of chemicals. Typically an ingredient in UVB-absorbing sunscreen and offering no UVA protection, homosalate helps the sunscreen penetrate the skin. Homosalate degrades when exposed to sunlight, and like all salicylates, it is not powerful enough to stand on its own as UVB protection and is almost always combined with other UVB chemical filters.
Oxybenzone, once the sole ingredient used in traditional sunscreens to combat UVA rays, has become a media boogie-man in skincare, and rightfully so. In response, big sunscreen manufacturers have pivoted by switching to avobenzone. But like all other petrochemicals, avobenzone is a serious mismatch to human biochemistries, and although sellers of avobenzone products tend to claim it’s safe, its use is akin to a shell game.
In reality, avobenzone’s health effects have barely been studied, and what we know so far is not good. Just like oxybenzone, avobenzone degrades in the sun, lowering its ability to screen UVA rays, releasing free radicals that increase cancer risk, accelerating skin aging and contributing to the development of a myriad of allergies. Once avobenzone is more fully studied, we may know it’s as bad or worse than other petrochemicals or that it’s relatively less dangerous. But even at this early stage, it’s clear avobenzone presents significant and unnecessary health risks, just like its petrochemical cousins.
Within seconds of application, oxybenzone penetrates the skin and enters the bloodstream. It is one of the most common ultraviolet-blocking chemicals in sunscreen and can be detected in urine within 30 minutes of application. It attacks DNA, produces free radicals, and promotes cancer cell formation. It’s linked to breast cancer, melanoma, endometriosis, hormone disruptions, eczema, allergic skin reactions, and lower birth weights.
As a photocarcinogen that can attack DNA and increase the production of free radicals, it promotes the formation of cancerous cells. It’s considered a contributing factor in the recent increase of melanoma cases among chemical sunscreen users. Research studies link higher concentrations of oxybenzone to various serious disorders, including endometriosis in older women, and lower birth weights in newborns. Some studies show it behaves similarly to the hormone estrogen, suggesting a link to breast cancer. It’s also been linked to eczema, and it can trigger allergic skin reactions and hormone disruptions. Needless to say, small children should avoid using products containing oxybenzone, but really, any human should avoid it.
Studies have found traces of oxybenzone in breast milk, which means your child is still at risk of being exposed to harmful chemicals if you’re currently nursing. Other studies have shown a possible link between oxybenzone and hormonal changes in men, lower testosterone levels in boys, shorter pregnancies and possible changes in birth weights.
Expecting mothers should absolutely continue wearing sunscreen! The easy way to avoid the potentially harmful absorption of chemical sunscreens, while also protecting your skin, is by opting for top quality non-nano zinc oxide sunscreens that use as few ingredients as possible, all of which should be of the highest purity and quality.
Remember, when you flush the toilet or wash off sunscreen in the shower, all chemicals from sunscreen enter our water system. What SHOULD you use? To avoid all the guesswork, Waxhead Sun Defense makes the safest most effective sunscreens on the planet. Such products are completely safe, preventing sunburn AND protecting against long term issues like skin cancer and premature aging, without harming your pregnancy in any way.
1. Know your ingredients — Flip over your skincare product and read the ingredients. We want everyone to know what good ingredients are, regardless of whether they use our products or not. Your health (and your baby's health) is worth it.
2. Buy clean skincare — Waxhead is dedicated to using only the healthiest, safest, most effective ingredients in our skincare products. Shop Clean Skincare here.
3. Teach a friend — If you know someone who might still be buying skincare with shady ingredients, please share this post with him/her.