Sunscreen Toxicity Report

Do you really know what’s in your sunscreen? You are rubbing or spraying this lotion on your own skin or that of your children without thought of what composes the chemical makeup of your sunscreen. Unfortunately, most of the sunscreens on the market today contain one or all of these toxic chemicals.



  1. Homosalate 

 Homosalate accumulates in our bodies faster than it is excreted finally reaching levels that may become toxic. It is a weak UVB absorber, so it must be used at higher concentrations in laboratory testing. The chemicals in this category are known endocrine disruptors; hence a threat to reproduction and can be transmitted to future generations. 

 Homosalate now joins a growing list of water environmental pollutants and may be a prime reason for reef damage where swimmers are using this product in the sunscreens. A few studies at the molecular lever and ‘in vivo’ have shown the interaction of HMS with antiandrogenic and estrogenic receptors.

  Homosalate has endocrine disruptors activity. The long-term exposure to HMS can cause serious toxic effects including mutations and genetic instability. 

  1. Avobenzone 

Avobenzone when exposed to light in a chlorinated water solution, breaks down into a combination of aromatic acids, aldehydes, phenols, and acetyl benzenes, several of which are highly toxic. 

  1. Oxybenzone 

The Environmental Working Group reviewed existing data for human exposure and toxicity for nine of the most common sunscreen chemicals. Oxybenzone was the most worrisome of the nine chemicals reviewed. Oxybenzone can cause allergic skin reactions (Rodriguez 2006). In laboratory studies, it becomes like a weak estrogen and has potent anti-androgenic effects (Krause 2012, Ghazipura 2017). 

  1. Octocrylene

Octocrylene is absorbed into the skin quite easily, thereby increasing danger of forming free radicals that may become unstable and react with other compounds forming harmful substances when used in excess quantity. This is a paradoxical concept, because the chemical is meant to decrease free radicals on the surface on the skin. But when it enters the body, it has more opportunities to react with other chemicals and cause changes in the deeper layers of the skin. This is why the concentration quantities of this ingredient are limited, as larger doses could be potentially harmful. Possible reproductive toxicity is also a possible side effect, albeit a smaller one. If you are worried about the potential effects of octocrylene, speak with your dermatologist and your physician, especially if you are pregnant. 

  1. Octisalate 

Octisalate is shown to penetrate the skin in laboratory studies. One study demonstrated allergic contact dermatitis from a sunscreen containing octisalate (octyl salicylate, 2-ethylhexyl salicylate). Results of patch testing and provocative use testing confirmed that the subject was allergic to octisalate

Case studies show immune and/or allergenic effects from this chemicalOctisalate is suspected to be an environmental toxin according to the Environmental Working Group. Concerns are also indicated for organ system toxicity according to Environment Canada Domestic Substance List. 

  1. E.D.T.A. 

Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid behaves as a persistent substance in the environment and that its contribution to heavy metals bioavailability and remobilization processes in the environment is a major concern. These findings are a concern for the aquatic environment subjected to those wearing sunscreen with E.D.T.A. as an ingredient. According to a recent publication in Quimica Nova, the interaction mechanisms of EDTA with living organisms are not sufficiently clarified and the range of their potential risks is not known. The studies that evaluate the toxicity of free heavy metals and complexed with EDTA do not enable the prediction of what the effect of the chelate presence will be. 

  1. B.H.T. 

BHT is the recognized name in the cosmetics industry for butylated hydroxytoluene. In addition to liver and kidney effects, BHT applied to the skin was associated with toxic effects in lung tissue. 

While there is limited evidence of carcinogenicity, one or more tests on mammalian cells show positive mutation results. The Environment Canada Domestic Substance List indicates concern for organ system toxicity, and the European Food Safety Authority suggests that there is concern for Endocrine disruption. 

  1. Dimethicone 

There are several known side effects of Dimethicone in humans. One of these is that it could lead to more breakouts and blackheads on the skin as it traps everything beneath it, such as bacteria, sebum, and impurities. Moreover, its coating action inhibits the skin from doing its normal functions, such as sweating, temperature regulating, and shedding off dead skin cells. Another side effect of dimethicone is that it can increase skin irritation and cause eye irritation in prolonged exposures and may cause allergic reaction to those with sensitive skin. For its environmental consequences, it is considered harmful for the environment because it is a nonbiodegradable chemical. 

The European Union has found the substance to be an endocrine disruptor based on evidence it interferes with human hormone function and as a possible reproductive toxicant that may impair human fertility. It is also possible that Dimethicone has the ability to influence neurotransmitters in the nervous system. It is not biodegradable. In Canada this ingredient has been shown to be persistent in the environment and to accumulate in aquatic organisms and a proposal has been forwarded to add Dimethicone to the “List of Toxic Substances.” 

  1. Propylparaben and Methylparaben 

Parabens, which can be dermally absorbed, are present in many cosmetic products, including antiperspirants. Their estrogenicity and tissue presence are a cause for concern regarding breast cancer. A research experiment in 2004 showed the first measurement of intact esters of p-hydroxybenzoic acid (parabens) in human breast cancer tissues, and their suggestion was that the chemical’s presence in the human body might originate from topical application of body care cosmetics. The presence of intact paraben esters in human body tissues has now been confirmed by independent measurements in human urine, and the ability of parabens to penetrate human skin intact without breakdown by esterases and to be absorbed systemically has been demonstrated through studies not only in vitro but also in vivo using healthy human subjects. Using a wide variety of assay systems in vitro and in vivo, the oestrogen agonist properties of parabens together with their common metabolite (p-hydroxybenzoic acid) have been extensively documented, and, in addition, the parabens have now also been shown to possess androgen antagonist activity, to act as inhibitors of sulfotransferase enzymes and to possess genotoxic activity. 

  1. PEG-100 

PEG 100 Stearate is thought to be a moderate to high hazard ingredient depending on usage. The EWG issues warnings regarding: cancer, developmental and reproductive toxicity, contamination concerns, irritation, and organ system toxicity. 

According to a study published in the International Journal of Toxicology, PEGs (including PEG 100 Stearate) can contain harmful impurities, including: Ethylene Oxide, known to increase the incidences of uterine and breast cancers and of leukemia and brain cancer, according to experimental results reported by the National Toxicology Program; 1,4-dioxane, a known carcinogen; PAHs, known to increase the risk of breast cancer; lead; iron; and arsenic. While some studies conclude PEG-100 is safe to use, there is usually a qualifier that it should not be used on broken or damaged skin. A previous sunburn for example would not be a place recommended for PEG-100 to be applied.