Sunscreens might not be as healthy as advertised. Researchers from the Dermatology Department of France’s Angers Center University Hospital found that the common sunscreen ingredient, octocrylene, was linked to atopic dermatitis – the medical term for skin allergies.
The research, led by Dr. Avenel-Audran last July, studied 50 cases of skin allergies, and found that that 10 of 11 the allergic children were allergic to octocrylene, 9 of 28 patients with photoallergies were sensitized to octocrylene, and 11 of 14 adults who were sensitive to ketoprofen were also allergic to octocrylene.
The researchers concluded that: “Octocrylene appears to be a strong allergen leading to contact dermatitis in children and mostly photoallergic contact dermatitis in adults with an often-associated history of photoallergy from ketoprofen. Patients with photoallergy from ketoprofen frequently have positive photopatch test reactions to octocrylene. These patients need to be informed of sunscreen products not containing octocrylene, benzophenone-3, or fragrances.”
Other studies have shown that other sunscreen ingredients are also linked with allergies:
Research from Australia’s Skin and Cancer Foundation (Cook and Freeman 2001) reported 21 cases of photo-allergic contact dermatitis caused by oxybenzone, butyl methoxy dibenzoylmethane, methoxycinnamate or benzophenone. The Cook and Freeman research has led to a conclusion that these sunscreen ingredients are the leading cause of photo-allergic contact dermatitis.
A study at the National Institute of Dermatology in Colombia conducted a study of eighty-two patients with clinical photo-allergic contact dermatitis. Their testing showed that twenty-six of those patients—31.7%—were shown to be positive for sensitivity to one or several of the sunscreen ingredients (Rodriguez et al. 2006).
It is not as if sunscreens simply stay on top of the skin surface. A study done at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg (Sarveiya et al. 2004) reported that all sunscreen ingredients tested—including octymethoxycinnamate and oxybenzone—significantly penetrate the skin. The penetration of common sunscreens was found to increase the penetration of even more dangerous herbicides—a concern for agricultural workers and non-organic gardeners (Pont et al. 2004).
More information: Healthy Sun: Healing with Sunshine and the Myths About Skin Cancer.