Lotions, Sunscreens, and Body Care Products

Many body care products contain pthalates such as DEHP and DBP. In animals, both DEHP and DBP are toxic to the liver, kidneys, testes, and the nervous system. DBP is used extensively in perfumes, nail polishes, lotions, and hair sprays. High levels of exposure have been found in women of reproductive age.Ironically, some sunblocks contain suspected carcinogens, including diethanolamine and related ingredients (DEA, TEA), padimate-o, and titanium dioxide. Other ingredients are suspected endocrine disrupters: benzophenone (oxybenzone), homosalate, octyl-methoxycinnamate (octinoxate), and the parabens (methyl-, ethyl-, butyl-, propyl-). Moreover, sunscreens can contain chemicals associated with skin irritation and rashes, including avobenzone (parsol 1789), benzophenone, octyl-methoxycinnamate, and PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid). Not only are these chemicals potentially bad for you, they’re bad for the environment. Diethanolamine has been found in waterways around the country, posing a threat to animals and humans. According to the National Toxicology Program, benzophenone has been found in surface water, groundwater, soil, and air, and may affect the liver and bone marrow of animals ingesting large amounts of contaminated water.

This and other endocrine disruptors in sunblocks can also enter the water system when we swim or bathe, eventually winding up in fish, amphibians, and marine wildlife, and posing a threat to the animals’ reproductive cycles. Source: Grist Magazine, Environmental Working Group.

From: http://www.organicconsumers.org/bodycare/sunscreen.cfm

The following excerpt is taken from a book called “Sunscreen Photobiology ‹Molecular, Cellular and Physiological Aspects”: “Illumination of titanium dioxide suspensions with sunlight can degrade organic materials and purify drinking water, while illumination with short wave UV kills human cells. This work shows that the distinction between ‘chemical’ sunscreens and ‘physical’ sunscreens, attractive though it may be to those who market them, is not based on any significant difference. Both varieties have the potential to produce reactive species that can attack biological materials (human skin cells) when they are exposed to normal sunlight… What is established is that particles of titanium dioxide as large as 220 nm can enter human cells in culture, and so it seems entirely plausible that if titanium dioxide does pass through skin it could enter cells under the skin (carrying with it the absorbed UVA and UVB radiation and hydroxyl radicals).”

Titanium dioxide is now being used as a new treatment for window glass because it attacks and degrades anything that touches it, thereby helping to keep windows clean. You probably don’t want to have anything attacking your skin!

The Washington Post (a reputable source) reports on current scientific concerns about TiO2 NANOPARTICLES:

“Titanium dioxide, for example, is a generally nonreactive substance used in many products, including skin lotions and house paints. Increasingly, however, it is being made in the form of nano-size particles. And tests show that they are HIGHLY REACTIVE, generating chemically “hot” free radicals that can literally burn up bacteria. That has some experts worrying about impacts on soil ecology if the particles are released.”

Monday, May 03, 2004
Parabens and propylene glycol. Do you want to see these chemicals in your natural body care products? Read the data below to help you decide whether you want to use these ingredients or dump them down the drain into our drinking water.

Parabens penetrate the skin and can be found in cancerous breast tumours. Is using a product with these chemicals in it worth the risk to you? Read about the latest study… here…

The EPA report “Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products in the
Environment: Agents of Subtle Change” states that parabens produced estrogenic activity in several assays. The report also says that “(personal care products) aquatic pollution is particularly troublesome because aquatic organisms (fish, frogs, turtles, manatees, etc.) are captive to continual life-cycle exposure…effects could accumulate so slowly that major change goes undetected until the cumulative level of these effects finally cascades to irreversible change.”

Additionally, the report declares “The literature shows, however, that many of these compounds survive biodegradation. Many of these personal care products and their metabolites are ubiquitous and display persistence in, and bioconcentration from, surface waters on par with those of the widely recognized organochlorine pollutants.”
This is the link to the EPA report (above):

Propylene glycol is a highly controversial chemical. What’s the truth about propylene glycol? We’ve gathered some facts from reputable sources so that you can read scientific data instead of a manufacturer’s hype and make an educated decision about whether you really want to rub this chemical into your body. First, you should know that the US government’s Environmental Protection Agency has stated that “This substance/agent (propylene glycol) has not undergone a complete evaluation and determination under US EPA’s IRIS program for evidence of human carcinogenic potential.”

This chemical is definitely NOT an environmentally-friendly, sustainable material. Very energy-intensive in its use of fossil fuels–a big source of pollution, harmful to the planet and humans in its manufacture. Read the process for yourself to determine if you think this is something natural that you can make in your home kitchen or in your favorite restaurant. To get you started, here’s an excerpt from a USDA National Organic Program material review report that discusses the complex, industrial process to make this chemical:

Propylene glycol is used in antifreeze and de-icing solutions. It is used as a solvent in the paint and plastics industries, and to make polyester compounds. It is used as a substitute for ethylene glycol mono-alkyl ethers in all-purpose cleaners, coatings, inks, nail polish, lacquers, latex paints, and adhesives. It is also used to create artificial smoke or fog used in fire-fighting training and in theatrical productions.

Propylene glycol 8/12/2002 and polyethylene glycol 400 (PEG 400) have been shown to differ in their potential to cause muscle damage following I.V. injection. In previous studies, propylene glycol was found to be more myotoxic than PEG 400, with cytosoliccalcium playing a role in mediating this damage.

Xenoestrogens the cause of Uterine Fibroid Tumors ( Myomas )
From: http://www.fibroid101.com/xeno.htm

How to avoid Xenoestrogens

Uterine Fibroid Tumors (Myomas) are provoked by Xenoestrogens are found in everyday synthetic materials. These materials were previously thought to be inert. Cut out the xenoestrogens from your life.

by Elizabeth Smith, M.D.

Xeno literally means foreign. So xenoestrogens means foreign estrogens. Some of the 100,000 registered chemicals for use in the world have hormonal effects in addition to toxic and carcinogenic effects. Also the synergistic effects are known to occur but also are largely exactly unknown. The field of xenohormones is new, and only been in existence since about 1991.

Critics have proclaimed that these chemicals are for the most part “weak”. The body’s hormones are at levels of parts per trillion. However, many of the chemicals that affect the hormone systems are routinely found in the serum after sauna at parts per billion. In other words, these chemicals that affect the hormone systems of the human body occur at 100 to 1000 times greater concentration than that of the normal human hormones. One researcher demonstrated that two “weak” estrogens may act synergistically to give a strong estrogen response. Some of these Xenoestrogens like DDE (a metabolite of DDT) may persist in the body fat for decades. Many of these mimicking hormones were previously thought to occur in pesticides. However, many of the newly discovered xenoestrogens are found in every day previously thought to be inert materials.

Preservative Methyl Paraben in Skin Lotions and Gels

For many years, parabens were considered among those preservatives with low systemic toxicity, primarily causing allergic reactions. However, as we have become aware that some synthetic chemicals mimic the female hormone estrogen, our understanding of the toxic effects of both synthetic and natural substances has changed. Now, John Sumpter from the Department of Biology & Biochemistry, Brunel University, Uxbridge, Middlesex, have found that alkyl hydroxy benzoate preservatives (namely methyl-, ethyl-, propyl-, and butylparaben) are weakly estrogenic. In an estrogen receptor-binding assay, butylparaben was able to compete with the female hormone estradiol for binding to estrogen receptors with an affinity approximately 5 orders of magnitude lower than that of diethylstilbestrol (a highly carcinogenic synthetic estrogen), and between 1 and 2 orders of magnitude less than nonylphenol (an estrogenic synthetic industrial chemical).

Although it is reassuring to note that when administered orally, the parabens were inactive, subcutaneous administration of butylparaben produced a positive estrogenic response on uterine tissues. Although approximately 100,000 times less potent than17 beta-estradiol, greater exposure to the parabens may compensate for their lower potency. The researchers conclude that, “Given their use in a wide range of commercially available topical preparations, it is suggested that the safety in use of these chemicals should be reassessed . . .”

The European Union has asked the European Cosmetics and Toiletry industry about these new findings and the implication for breast cancer. These preservatives are found in the vast majority of skin an body lotions, even in natural progesterone creams. Generally, for the sterol hormones, taken orally the hormones are 90% first pass metabolized by the liver. Thus, taken orally only 10% reaches the body. In contrast, anything absorbed by the skin is directly absorbed. In other words, anything absorbed through the skin may be as high as 10 times the concentration of an oral dose.

Unfortunately, some natural progesterone creams were found to contain methyl and propyl parabens as a preservative

5 Out of 6 Chemicals Used to block UV in Sunscreen are Estrogenic

Margaret Schlumpf and her colleagues (Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Zurich, Switzerland) have found that many widely-used sunscreen chemicals mimic the effects of estrogen and trigger developmental abnormalities in rats. (Schlumpf , Margaret; Beata Cotton, Marianne Conscience, Vreni Haller, Beate Steinmann, Walter Lichtensteiger. In vitro and in vivo estrogenicity of UV screens.Environmental Health Perspectives Vol. 109 (March 2001) pp 239-244) Her group tested six common chemicals that are used in sunscreens, lipsticks and facial cosmetics. Five of the six tested chemicals (benzophenone-3, homosalate, 4-methyl-benzylidene camphor (4-MBC), octyl-methoxycinnamate and octyl-dimethyl-PABA) behaved like strong estrogen in lab tests and caused cancer cells to grow more rapidly. Only one chemical – a UVA protector called butyl-methoxydibenzoylmethane (B-MDM) – showed no activity. Uterine growth and endometriosis :One very common sunscreen chemical, 4-MBC, was mixed with olive oil and applied to rat skin. This caused a doubling of the rate of uterine growth well before puberty. “That was scary, because we used concentrations that are in the range allowed in sunscreens,” said Schlumpf. Three of the six caused developmental abnormalities in animals. The major cause of sterility in women in the USA is endometriosis, a condition afflicting 5.5% of American women. Exposure to excessive estrogen, that may have come from such sunscreens, is felt to be the primary cause of endometriosis. Perhaps a sunscreen using zinc oxide is a better choice.

When applied to breast cancer cells in vitro (test tubes) the following chemicals increased cancer cell proliferation/growth:
– Benzophenone-3
– Homosalate
– Octyl Methoxycinnamate
– 4 Methyl-benzylidene camphor (4-MBC)
– Ocryl-dimethyl-PABA

These are the Chemicals found in your typical store bought sunscreens that you are putting on yourself and your children!

[Source: Environmental Health Perspectives, Volumn 109, Number 3, March 2001,

In Vitro and in Vivo Estrogenicity of UV Screens. Margaret Schlumpf, Beata Cotton, Marianne Conscience, Vreni Haller, Beate Steinmann, and Walter Lichtensteiger]

Titanium Dioxide–a carcinogen?

Risk to humans from titanium dioxide
One form of mineral or mineral extract, including titanium dioxide, that we should be concerned about is ultrafine or nano particles. As technology has advanced, so has its ability to take normal sized particles of minerals and reduce them to sizes never before imagined. While many are praising this new technology, others are warning of its inherent dangers to our bodies. A study by Churg et. al. at the University of British Columbia in their paper “Induction of Fibrogenic Mediators by Fine and Ultrafine Titanium Dioxide in Rat Tracheal Explants” (1999) found that ultrafine particles of the anatase form of titanium dioxide, which are less than 0.1 microns, are pathogenic or disease causing.”

Chemical versus Physical sun blockers

With so much that is known about the risks of chemical sunscreens–they generate free radicals and in addition octyl metoxycinnimate and benzophenones have been implicated in estrogenicity studies. A few facts about how chemical sunscreens and physical sunblocks work may help to put it in perspective.

Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing UV rays and absorbing the radiation. In the process of breaking chemical bonds they release free radicals. About 15% of the population will experience skin irritation from some component found in a typical chemical sunscreen. Physical sunblocks, on the other hand, work by reflecting and/or scattering UV rays and radiation. The following brief list describes how each type of sunscreen performs:

IngredientUVB ProtectionUVA
Chemical AbsorbersAvobenzone
(Parsol 1789)
Oxybenzone (Benzophenones)NoYes
(para-aminobenzoic acid)
(Octyl dimethyl paba)
Physical BlockersTitanium DioxideYesYes(up to about 360nm on the UVA spectrum)
Zinc DioxideYesYes(protects along the full UVA range, up to 400nm)

A look at the list should indicate the superiority of physical sunblocks. In addition, only one chemical agent, avobenzone, is allowed in sunscreens in Europe, Australia and Canada. They use primarily titanium dioxide in their sunscreens–and my guess is that avobenzone is on the allowed list because it in conjunction with titanium dioxide gives you full UVA/UVB protection–at least in theory. In practice avobenzone degrades about thirty minutes after application, hence does not offer very effective protection.

Zinc Oxide–a physical sunblock that works

Zinc oxide emerges as the clear winner in the sunblock wars, and it eludes me why it is not used more frequently. Not only is it the only mineral to provide complete UVB/UVA protection, it is also a wonderful anti-inflammatory and has great healing properties. It is safe for use by people who have rosacea, both because it is anti-inflammatory and because it provides the protection they, more than most, so urgently need.