Why Your Sunscreen Isn't Giving You Cancer

Airdate: 10/25/13

This is it! We put an end to all the misinformation and fear-mongering surrounding the topic of sunscreens and your health. Bryan and Nathan from The Paula's Choice Research Team discuss the latest research on oxybenzone, nanoparticles of titanium dioxide, micronized zinc oxide, retinyl palmitate, and more! Stop looking at your sunscreen with trepidation and get the facts in this vitally important episode.

Bryan Barron: Hey everyone! It is Bryan Barron, Research and Content Director for the Paula's Choice Research Team. I'm here today with Nathan Rivas, the Paula's Choice Social Media and Community Manager. He is with me on the content team as well. Hi Nathan.
Nathan Rivas: Hello.
Bryan Barron: Together we work on reviews on Beautypedia, the Expert Advice articles that you read. We work with Paula Begoun. Many of you know her as the Cosmetics Cop, co-authors of "Don't Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me."
00:00:31 And we do our best to keep you beautifully informed so you can make the best decisions about the products that you use, the procedures you consider, the advice that you read that you wonder, "Is that really true?" And that is pretty much the topic that we're going to be addressing on this show. And we're calling it "Your Sunscreen Isn't Giving You Cancer: Separating the facts from fiction."
00:00:55 So, we're going to go over all of the major claims that have caused quite a bit of controversy. Fear about sunscreen ingredients causing cancer, it seems like it's just endlessly paraded in the media. It's often fueled by lobbyist groups whose goals may not be entirely in your best interests. That's a topic for another show. The scientific sounding, the allegations that they makes, they're definitely -- I mean, we get it. If you don't know anymore, they're frightening.
Nathan Rivas: Absolutely.
Bryan Barron: And they're getting a lot of people to look at their sunscreens with the same fear that they'd give a bottle of rat poison.
Nathan Rivas: Ha!
Bryan Barron: You know, they don't want it anywhere near their face.
00:01:37 You know, when you first see these reports, if you don't know any better it can absolutely seem legitimate, but when we looked at the research which is what we always do, I wish I could say the same for the mass media at large. But one of the things that our research revealed, and that Nathan has done a lot of the groundwork here, is that what is reported in the media and the studies that they cite, they rarely if ever look to see, or if they're looking they're not telling you, if there's any studies that conflict that.
00:02:10 They rarely question how the study was done and whether or not the results of that study could even possibly apply to how people use sunscreen on intact skin. So, there's a lot of nuances and a lot of different issues that the mass media just doesn't bring into question. And we have to surmise that the reason for that is because the headlines are just so compelling.
Nathan Rivas: They are.
00:02:36 It's much more compelling to read a headline like "Sunscreen is giving you cancer" than it is to say, "Nothing to see here. You're sunscreen is great."
Bryan Barron: Yeah. "Should you keep applying sunscreen? Research shows a tan may actually be," or whatever the headline is. But here's the facts: no matter what the headline is, no matter the study that's cited, at least up to this point from what we've seen, the benefits of daily sunscreen use are abundantly clear.
00:03:03 Research has shown, and we're talking about a lot of research here.
Nathan Rivas: A lot.
Bryan Barron: This is not just a single study looking at skin cells in a Petri dish with a little UV lamp. This is years, and years, and years of research, accumulated research, demographic studies, longitudinal studies. Research has shown that when you wear a broad spectrum sunscreen that's rated SPF 15 or greater, and a lot of dermatologists are stressing SPF 30 as the new normal, when you're properly applying it, which means applying liberally, and reapplying after more than a few hours in direct daylight every day, your risk of getting skin cancer is decreased.
00:03:40 Not to mention, and this is a study that we just heard about on the news today, finally showed what we expected and what a lot of other research has been showing in bits and pieces is that when you protect your skin with sunscreen every day you will see far fewer signs of premature aging. Less wrinkles. Fewer brown spots. Less signs of sagging.
00:04:03 A more even skin tone. There are just multiple benefits to wearing a sunscreen and none of the cancer-causing things that you've read about -- they don't apply to how, if you're using a sunscreen as directed, and we'll go into this in more detail, but if you just wanted to listen to this show to find out whether the fear is founded or not, let me just cut to the chase and say it isn't.
00:04:29 But let's talk about why.
Nathan Rivas: The interesting thing I thought with this is, this claim of cancer rising because of sunscreen, is that cancer rates are not rising at all. They're actually decreasing. The American Cancer Society found that in 2012 cancer statistics overall had actually decreased. And that's one interesting to consider that the production of sunscreen has not decreased.
00:04:58 Many new products that have come out, the people who work along sunscreen ingredients and formulas all day long, those groups would absolutely be showing a huge spike in the rates and instances of cancer because just the exposure rate to pure ingredients in sunscreen that they have. But it's not actually the case. Employees of Estée Lauder aren't dropping dead every five minutes.
Bryan Barron: Sunscreens have gotten better over the years. I've been reviewing sunscreens with Paula since 2000.
00:05:30 And back then it was kind of a 50/50 chance as to whether or not any given sunscreen was going to supply enough UVA protection. UVA's are the sun's most damaging rays. They're UVA -- A for Aging -- they penetrate far deeper into the skin and are much more damaging than UVB rays, which primary cause sunburn and contribute to brown spots. The sneaky thing about UVA rays are that they are present all year long, relatively same intensity. It's going to vary by geographic location, but you may have read that UVB radiation is strongest between 10am and 2pm, which is true.
00:06:08 UVB radiation tends to weaken as the day goes by. UVA intensity pretty much stays the same from sun up to sun down in that if you can see daylight you're seeing UVA radiation. Unlike UVB, you don't feel UVA radiation damaging your skin. That's why it's often referred as a silent killer.
Nathan Rivas: And it penetrates through glass.
Bryan Barron: Yes. Unless your glass a special UV coating and the average household, the average car, the windows there, or in the average office building, they don't.
00:06:37 So, you can ask around and see if yours may happen to have that and then you can consider adding it. But it just can add up to a lot of exposure. Nathan is going to talk about the first in this rogue's gallery of potentially evil but not really sunscreen ingredients. The one that has come up quite a bit, and we're still asked about, is Vitamin A.
Nathan Rivas: Poor Vitamin A.
Bryan Barron: The unjustly accused antioxidant.
Nathan Rivas: Poor Vitamin A.
00:07:10 And Retinyl Palmitate is the other way to phrase that. Sometimes reports will say Vitamin A, or some of them will say Retinyl Palmitate. But Retinyl Palmitate is an antioxidant. It has benefits in terms of warding off free radicals. And that's why your body produces it, well, for a variety of reasons. But you actually have natural sources of Vitamin A.
00:07:32 And that's one of the reasons that your body produces that particular antioxidant in the skin is to ward off free radical damage, including sun exposure or different environmental exposures. Well, the interesting thing about this whole Retinyl Palmitate claim, or this Vitamin A claim, is that most of it comes from a single study. It was a study that was done on animals, on rats actually. And it was using a large concentration, or a large amount of Retinyl Palmitate and then exposing the rats to UV radiation.
00:08:06 So, no sunscreen on these poor rats. A pure dose of Retinyl Palmitate. And then they were radiated with UV radiation.
Bryan Barron: Did you mention this is a 10-year old study that's never been reproduced.
Nathan Rivas: That's correct. This is a 10-year old study that has never been reproduced.
Bryan Barron: Why the media just caught onto this about a couple years ago and then it still comes up in certain circles, I don't understand that part of it. But…
Nathan Rivas: Some poor intern in the bottom of some basement of magazine somewhere found it.
Bryan Barron: Maybe.
Nathan Rivas: And eureka! And an endless headline was born.
Bryan Barron: Hello Pulitzer!
Nathan Rivas: Exactly.
00:08:43 The interesting thing about this whole breed of rodents that they used for this study was that it's a rodent that is very predisposed to developing skin cancer. And 80% of the mice who were exposed to UV light that didn't have any Retinyl Palmitate applied at all actually developed skin cancer anyway.
00:09:00 So, with the pure concentration of Retinyl Palmitate they used, when Retinyl Palmitate is used in a sunscreen or as an antioxidant in any formula, we're talking about a very, very small amount, small percentage of that ingredient is really all that's necessary to have it work as an antioxidant. So, it's nowhere near the high percentage that's used in these types of experiments. Having a very small amount of Retinyl Palmitate in a sunscreen would never have that -- you wouldn't have that same result in terms of that inducement, or that higher risk of cancer.
00:09:33 And other people also agree, including the Skin Cancer Foundation. Their Photobiology Committee, they actually took an assessment of this whole Retinyl Palmitate controversy and they found -- this is actually a direct quote -- that there was "no scientific evidence that Retinyl Palmitate causes cancer in humans. And no published data suggests that topical retinoids increase skin cancer risk."
00:09:58 So, Retinyl Palmitate or topical retinoids, like for example retinol on a label, that does not increase your risk of cancer. In an even larger study, in 2011 the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center had a study that was published, peer reviewed, in the Photo Dermatology, Photo Immunology, and Photo Medicine Journal -- boy, I didn't think I was going to be able to pronounce that in one breath!
00:10:28 They also reviewed all of this data that was being cited and all the data that was existing on this and said that in conclusion the available evidence from in vitro in animal studies fails to demonstrate any sort of convincing evidence indicating that Retinyl Palmitate has an increased risk of cancer.
Bryan Barron: And that's completely not surprising because Retinyl Palmitate is naturally present in skin.
Nathan Rivas: Exactly.
Bryan Barron: And we're getting Vitamin A from a lot of the foods that we eat.
Nathan Rivas: It's such a…
Bryan Barron: You know, sunscreen gets blamed, sunscreen is the scapegoat, the bad guy, but you're not seeing headlines saying no one should eat Vitamin A rich foods.
Nathan Rivas: That's exactly true.
Bryan Barron: You know, "Put down that carrot; it's giving you cancer."
Nathan Rivas: Exactly.
Bryan Barron: It's "put down that sunscreen."
00:11:12 Because there's this whole camp that wants to think, "Well, sunlight is natural. Sun tanning is natural. And we should want to be one with nature in that sense."
Nathan Rivas: Snake venom is natural.
Bryan Barron: So is skin cancer.
Nathan Rivas: Yeah, exactly! There are a lot of things that are natural.
Bryan Barron: Pretty much most cases of skin cancer happen as a result of sun exposure.
00:11:32 There are exceptions and other mitigating factors, but...Oy!
Nathan Rivas: And this is decades. These aren't just studies that have shown it being safe in the last few years. This is decades of clinical research that's shown that Vitamin A does not have this impact in humans.
Bryan Barron: Yeah.
Nathan Rivas: It's nothing to be concerned with. Let's just go ahead and forget about blaming Vitamin A for instances of skin cancer.
Bryan Barron: Exactly. The next one that we wanted to address is a sunscreen active known as Oxybenzone.
Nathan Rivas: Dun-dun-dun!
Bryan Barron: And this one is another that's unjustly maligned.
00:12:08 It is a UVB and UVA sunscreen, but it only goes up to about 360 nanometers on the UVA scale, so it doesn't quite provide enough UVA protection. It gets close, but close isn't good enough if you want to look younger longer. Anyway, Oxybenzone has been accused of all sorts of things. I'm surprised it hasn't been accused of rigging a presidential election. But apparently it gets into the body and does all sorts of evil, evil things.
00:12:35 And who knows where it's going. It's probably accumulating in the liver. And however they want to spin it, here is the truth: Oxybenzone has been in use for over 20 years. The safety data on it is exhausting. And this is a globally approved and recognized as safe sunscreen ingredient There's headlines that hope to get your attention and they love stating that minute levels of Oxybenzone are absorbed by skin.
00:13:05 That's true. It can get -- depending on the sunscreen formula, it can get into the body. But, it is also eliminated by the body. Trace amounts of it are detectable in urine, but to give you an idea of what a small amount is getting through and then it's excreted. The body is doing what it's supposed to be doing. The Oxybenzone isn't taking up residence somewhere amassing in numbers and then eventually you'll end up with a tumor.
00:13:32 One millionth per gram is about how much is detected in an average urine sample. And that's according to a CDC -- Centers for Disease Control -- report from 2008. "The presence of substances like Oxybenzone that researches have seen in urine samples, that doesn't denote anything on its own." The volunteers, they looked at the effect, the rate of absorption, the potential of Oxybenzone to accumulate, but otherwise it's just your body metabolizing the substance as it should.
00:14:02 So, it's not cause for alarm.
Nathan Rivas: You know, one thing that's also important to mention is that Benzophenone-3, its compound, is present in nature. It's present in a lot of plants. It's present in a lot of foods.
Bryan Barron: Oh, real quick. Another name for Oxybenzone is Benzophenone-3.
Nathan Rivas: Oh, that's true, we should mention that before we jump on…
Bryan Barron: And you were saying it is found in nature.
Nathan Rivas: It is. It's found in plants. It's found in foods. It's found in a lot of sources. So, when you find this infinitesimally small amount of Benzophenone-3 in your urine, you don't even know where that came from. You don't even know if that came from the foods that you were eating, from all sorts of different sources.
00:14:36 The fact being aside that it is an impossibly small amount anyway that's already been processed out.
Bryan Barron: Exactly. So, after we looked at the research we came to the following conclusions. I'm going to be doing some quotes here, but we looked at several different sources. "We do not feel that Oxybenzone is a harmful ingredient or ingredient that you should avoid in sunscreen." Now, some people can be sensitive to it, and if you know that's the case, then yes, of course it makes sense to avoid sunscreens with Oxybenzone. And that's easy enough to do.
00:15:06 We list the complete ingredients for every sunscreen product reviewed on so you can double check there. You can look on the back of the bottle itself. They have to be listed in the US. Sunscreens are over-the-counter drugs and if it does contain Oxybenzone it would be among the active ingredients. But here are the conclusions after the research was combed over.
00:15:28 The American Academy of Dermatology concluded that "no data shows that Oxybenzone causes any significant health problems in humans." The Skin Cancer Foundation, they have a special, what's called a Photobiology Committee, and they agreed with the American Academy of Dermatology. Their assessment was "there is no evidence that Oxybenzone, which is FDA approved and has been available for 20 years, has any adverse health effects in humans."
00:15:56 Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center did a study in 2001 that was published in Photodermatology, Photoimmunology, and Photomedicine, which I have on my bed stand at home, doesn't everyone?
Nathan Rivas: Absolutely!
Bryan Barron: Concluded that "the available evidence does not demonstrate biologically significant hormonal disruption with topical application of Oxybenzone in humans." The hormonal disruption thing is important because that's a big part of the scare tactic with Oxybenzone. What a lot of people don't realize is that there are countless things that we come across in our everyday life that can cause some amount of hormone disruption.
Nathan Rivas: Our hormones are being disrupted all the time.
Bryan Barron: Exactly.
00:16:35 It's just, that's why we have a hormonal balance. There's a system in place that helps to naturally account for that. Sometimes the hormone disruption is good. Sometimes it's not so good. But the impact that an ingredient like Oxybenzone has on that is just miniscule. Lastly, the scientific and regulatory bodies that make up the European Union, so kind of the European Union's, their version of the US FDA, they produced a report in 2008 which is called Opinion on Benzophenone-3, again, Benzophenone-3 being another name for Oxybenzone, that concluded that "Oxybenzone in sunscreen does not pose a risk to the health of the consumer."
Nathan Rivas: That's the EU!
00:17:20 I mean, that's a lot of countries.
Bryan Barron: And the EU is notoriously harsh on sunscreen ingredients in particular, even though over in Europe sunscreens are not regulated as over-the-counter drugs. They're considered cosmetics. That's one of the reasons why there are more sunscreen actives approved for use throughout Europe than there are here. And the hope is that the FDA will start approving some more actives in combination of actives so that consumers have an even better selection of sunscreens.
00:17:53 But, Nathan, let's talk about another sunscreen active that is misunderstand, and that's Octinoxate.
Nathan Rivas: Octinoxate. Octinoxate is one of the oldest sunscreen actives. It's been around for decades. It also has some of the lengthy safety data on it. Absolutely a very, very solid record of safety in terms of using it in sunscreen actives. And Octinoxate also has the unfortunate claim of it being a cancer-causing sunscreen active. And this is just, it's just not the case.
00:18:28 Essentially with, same thing with Oxybenzone and also with Vitamin A, these claims of cancer-causing are completely unfounded. There are no studies anywhere that we've found that have been published, that have been peer reviewed, that demonstrate that Octinoxate when used in sunscreen has any sort of impact on your risk for developing cancer, aside from the fact that if you're using it in a well formulated sunscreen it's reducing your risk of developing skin cancer.
00:18:55 Now, it is true that like Oxybenzone, Octinoxate as a synthetic sunscreen active can have some sensitizing capacity for some people, especially if you have a high SPF like an SPF 50 or an SPF 50+, or something along those lines. It can have some sensitization on the face, especially around the eye area. But that's completely different than -- a whole different area than this claim of being a cancer-causing agent.
Bryan Barron: Yeah. One of the theories on why Octinoxate, another name for that is Octyl methoxycinnamate, and it's the cinnamate portion of it that actually is derived, in part, from cinnamon.
00:19:32 There is a relation there. And cinnamon as an ingredient, whether it's an oil or an extract, has the potential to be sensitizing. Cinnamon is a natural ingredient. Octinoxate is synthetic. But like a lot of synthetic ingredients, they are naturally derived and then what makes the final ingredient, the process that goes through is anything but natural. So, therefore by definition you no longer have a natural ingredient.
00:19:58 But in terms of the sensitization, that is the latest theory that it's that cinnamate part of it that causes the stinging sensation.
Nathan Rivas: That makes complete sense.
Bryan Barron: It's not true for everyone. I have found, I don't know if it's Octinoxate or not, but I have found that certain sunscreens I can use it with Octinoxate, I can use around my eyes with no problem, and others cause stinging.
Nathan Rivas: I've found I kind of luck out in a lot of ways.
Bryan Barron: Including from Paula's Choice.
Nathan Rivas: Yeah.
Bryan Barron: I don't tend to get a lot of stinging from those.
Nathan Rivas: Sometimes when I use some of our stronger exfoliants or when we're testing some of our stronger products that we're working on, I can notice that some of the synthetic actives that can sting just a little bit…
Bryan Barron: But what about when you sweat?
Nathan Rivas: Oh, no.
00:20:42 I mean, maybe if it's very, very hot out, or if it's on a long run or something like that it can be a little irritating, but you know, for the most part I kind of luck out there. I don't get a lot of irritation from that. But, no, that's absolutely completely logical, a completely logical theory. In terms of why Octinoxate was attributed to being a cancer-causing agent, this one is sort of rich for me.
00:21:06 The research that was done, it's instances of Octinoxate being applied in high volumes to rodents, but not on their skin, actually in their mouth, being fed high volumes of Octinoxate. Having Octinoxate applied directly to skin cells in a Petri dish for example and then these poor test areas being radiated by UV radiation.
Bryan Barron: Don't eat your sunscreen.
Nathan Rivas: Exactly.
00:21:31 Don't drink your sunscreen and you're going to be fine. Now, remember that we mentioned a moment ago that the EU has rather strict regulations on a lot of different types of ingredients. Well, Octinoxate is so safe that their usage level, their limits for Octinoxate is actually higher than ours. The limit for Octinoxate in a formula is 10% in the European Union. In the US it's 7.5%. It's not because of safety. Well, it's for a variety of reasons, but it's not that Octinoxate is harmful at above 7.5%. That's just the usage levels for irritation and all these other sorts of things.
00:22:06 But Octinoxate, the summary there, it's nothing that you need to be concerned with. The claims that it causes cancer or increases your risk of cancer are absolutely not accurate.
Bryan Barron: The next hot topic is nanotechnology. You know, as we like to say, the way we phrase it is how much does size really matter? Nanotechnology is a broad field, and it's used in many different areas such as medicine, manufacturing, to some extent in cosmetics.
00:22:34 And it simply refers to a range of particle sizes that are between the size of one and 100 nanometers. Something -- Nathan -- correct me if I'm wrong -- but something that's larger than 100 nanometers is no longer considered a nano-particle.
Nathan Rivas: Correct. It's a micro, at that point, micronized.
Bryan Barron: So, in sunscreens you might see a claim of no nano-particles or non-nano-sized, and what they might say instead, particularly in regards to the mineral sunscreen actives, which are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, instead of saying nano-particles or non-nano they may say "micronized."
00:23:10 And micronized is a smaller particle size, it's not quite in the nanometer, or nano-particle size range, but the difference, just to put this in perspective, the difference between one and 100 nanometers would be similar to comparing the size of an average person to the size of that person, say a six foot tall man or a five foot four woman, multiply it by 100.
Nathan Rivas: That's quite a lot.
Bryan Barron: It's quite a lot. Yes.
00:23:38 So, in the vast range of applications and the substances where that technology is used, it's meaningless to categorically state that all nano-particles are dangerous. It would be the same as saying, like Nathan mentioned earlier, that all red things are hot and therefore if you don't' want to get burned don't touch anything that's red. The size and substance makes all the difference.
00:24:00 So, when we ask the question of whether a nano-particle sunscreen ingredient, and again, we're talking primarily about titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, can penetrates skin and enter the bloodstream, and that's the scary part, it's important to ensure that we're looking at the right information which is what we do our best to focus on and straighten it all out for you. First of all, the reason that titanium dioxide and zinc oxide would even be micronized or nano-sized is because those two ingredients in their regular size, I don't want to say natural state, because although both of those sunscreen actives have a natural source, they are definitely synthetic ingredients.
00:24:40 There is no such thing as a 100% natural sunscreen.
Nathan Rivas: You wouldn't want that on your skin anyway.
Bryan Barron: Yeah. Any company that says otherwise is misleading or they're unaware of the facts. Just don't buy into the natural sunscreen claim. It does not exist. Maybe the only natural sunscreen would be a lead blanket.
00:25:01 But you don't want to walk around with that over your head all day, either. Where was I going with all that?
Nathan Rivas: Well, we were looking at the…
Bryan Barron: Oh, why they'd be micronized.
Nathan Rivas: That's correct!
Bryan Barron: Why they would be nano-sized? Because in their larger size, if you grew up in the ‘60s and you recall the image of a lifeguard on a beach wearing, and his nose was all white, or pink or blue, and it had that thick pasty quality, it was that heavy duty sun block, because those mineral particles are large.
00:25:30 And they do something that's called a agglomeration, which means that when they meet each other in a formula they get together and it's like they have a party. And the more people get together the bigger the party gets until you've got this big agglomerated mess of titanium dioxide or zinc oxide particles that don't spread easily on the skin because they don't want the party to get broken up. It's not time to turn on the lights and send people home. So, they're not spreading evenly over the skin and you're not getting even sun protection. And it's just you're blending, and blending, and blending, and blending, and that white cast just isn't going away.
00:26:07 So, Nathan, talk about how if a mineral sunscreen doesn't leave a trace of a white cast it can't possibly be non-nano.
Nathan Rivas: That's absolutely true. So, as Bryan was mentioning, the whole reason that something goes through that nano-sized process is to improve the aesthetics. And also it does have an impact on the UV protection as well. Between titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, you know, they really kind of work best at certain sizes.
00:26:37 You know, one works best at a smaller particle size. Another works best at slightly larger one. But there's also the aesthetic quality. Whenever you have the larger particle sizes you have that greater white visibility and that's where that white cast comes from. So, when you have a particle that gets smaller, and smaller, and smaller, and smaller down that nano-sized scale, you also have that reduced visibility of white cast.
00:27:01 Now, Bryan was mentioning that agglomeration. When you're formulating a mineral sunscreen, essentially you have kind of three different stages of particles. You have the first stage of the particle, which we can just call the mall size. And then we have the second stage of the particle which is the aggregate, which is the medium size, and then you have the large size, which is the agglomerate. And actually the whole agglomerate, that's really not something that you really want to see in a sunscreen formula.
00:27:28 So, it's really just to worry about the small and medium.
Bryan Barron: Yeah. The large part, again, that's the big party. It's sort of like the neighbor that has the big party late into the night when you just want to sleep. You do not want that.
Nathan Rivas: That's true. And most cosmetic chemists today, they formulate sunscreen and mineral actives so that that's not an issue. But every sunscreen active starts out at that small particle size. No matter what, you always have to, that raw material starts out there.
00:27:55 And that size is, for the most part, always going to be nano, a nano size, because when they're formulated into a sunscreen active they're going to glom together in some respects and from that aggregate size which is going to be like the medium size. And that is going to be kind of the average size of the sunscreen active particle that you'll see in a sunscreen formula. And that size is almost always going to be a micronized size. It's going t be above that 100 nanometer size.
Bryan Barron: Right.
Nathan Rivas: And so that's why, because technically it's not, this isn't wrong, that's why you can claim that a sunscreen formula that starts out as a nano-particle is actually a non-nano because they're measuring that medium size.
00:28:37 They're taking that medium size and saying this is the size of our particle.
Bryan Barron: Right. So, they're formulating with nano-particles because whoever is behind the chemistry or whoever is doing the formula knows just what you said, they group together, they become a micronized size.
Nathan Rivas: That's correct. Absolutely.
Bryan Barron: Smaller particles joining together become a larger particle. You're not joining small particles and then that larger group of particles somehow becomes even smaller.
Nathan Rivas: That's correct.
00:29:05 And so with formulas that claim the non-nano, if they go on clear or they go on without a white cast, that means that those particles have to be nano-sized, because micronized particles will never, ever go on invisible. They won't go on clear or with a clear finish. They'll always have some white cast. Because once you get above that 100 nanometers you're going to have some visibility of it.
00:29:29 But when you have something that has no white cast at all, it absolutely has to be within that one to 100 range of nanometers. And that's that medium size, what their actual finished sunscreen particle is. So, if you have a sunscreen, bottom line, that is going on invisibly, or with little to no white casts, regardless of what they're saying they are using nanotechnology. But, let's talk about why that is nothing you need to worry about.
Bryan Barron: Right.
Nathan Rivas: Absolutely. So, the first study I would say, and actually nanotechnology across the board, just to preface this, in terms of sunscreen usage globally has been given the green light of safety.
00:30:09 There is no country anywhere that's published a study that has banned nanotechnology or found any sort of actual harm from that. And a lot of the worry comes from whether or not these ingredients are penetrating into skin, being nano-sized. So, with sunscreen actives, if they penetrate into skin then they don't do their job. You know, they have to actually sty on that surface layer in order to actually work to do their sunscreen protection of your skin.
00:30:36 And so they're coated with a type of polymer, sometimes -- it's silicone, I think, is the major one. [Z-Coat ] I think is the name of that, a major brand.
Bryan Barron: Z-Coat would be a trade name. Mm-hmm.
Nathan Rivas: That's a good example. So, they're coated with these polymers specifically to keep them from getting into skin, because the cosmetics chemists and formulators know that in order to keep those sunscreen actives doing their job, they have to do something to them to keep them on that surface layer.
00:31:03 So, they're always coated with this type of polymer that's going to keep them from penetrating into skin.
Bryan Barron: And it's win-win for the consumer because by doing that coating the safety concerns of those nano-particles or micronized particles penetrating past the surface layers of skin and getting into the body itself are completely eliminated. And, the consumer is getting a more cosmetically elegant sunscreen that is easier to apply, it feels more pleasant.
00:31:31 it feels lighter on the skin. And what's going to happen when you end up with a product like that, you're going to want to apply it, which is the whole point of sunscreen.
Nathan Rivas: It's not going to look like Kabuki Makeup.
Bryan Barron: Exactly. Exactly. So, but just that we could stop the titanium dioxide, zinc oxide nano-particle conversation in its tracks simply by talking about how those two ingredients are always coated. And the very fact that that their coated in a substance like a silicone or some other type of a silicone polymer that keeps them in the surface layers of skin, that negates the concern right there.
Nathan Rivas: Absolutely.
00:32:06 But not to be outdone, we do have just a few brief studies to mention that have reinforced the safety. One is, of course, the FDA. In 2007 they did a published research study in the Toxicologist Journal, which is produced by the Society of Toxicologists. And they demonstrated that in human skin, in human studies, that nano-sized particles did not penetrate. They were all found still in that surface layer of skin.
Bryan Barron: And they looked.
Nathan Rivas: And they looked. They did.
00:32:37 Then Australian and Swiss research teams, they did in the same year, or actually, not the same year, a few years later, in 2011 they also did studies on human skin. And this was actually published in the Biomedical Optics Journal, which is also one that I have on my nightstand, doesn't everyone? Ha!
Bryan Barron: Oh, I keep that on my coffee table.
Nathan Rivas: Oh, yes, because that's for company.
Bryan Barron: I want everyone to know that I read that one.
Nathan Rivas: So, in 2011 they established that no nano-sized particles, titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, penetrated beyond that superficial layer of skin when applied in these sunscreen tests in these studies.
00:33:17 The EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency in 2010, they also released a study of nano-scale titanium dioxide, just titanium dioxide in this particular study, in sunscreen formulas, and they found that there was still no health problems that were associated with this. They also confirmed that people who worked around this pure ingredient also had no signs of penetration in the skin.
00:33:43 And there was actually a very, very, very small amount that was present even in their body. And these were actually workers who worked around the substance all the time. So, you kind of see a trend here that globally that this particular technology with these types of sunscreen actives have really been given the green light.
Bryan Barron: Yeah, exactly. That was great, Nathan.
00:34:03 There was one more study that I read awhile back, like when this whole nano-particle thing with titanium dioxide kind of became a controversy, and I believe it was a Japanese study. And they actually applied pure nano-particles of titanium dioxide to wounded skin -- open wounded skin -- which is obviously much different than putting a sunscreen on intact skin, and found that the nano-particles of titanium dioxide, it was a comparison study to wounded skin with titanium dioxide versus wounded skin with nothing, the titanium dioxide nano-particles actually seemed to speed wound healing and what's called Reepithelialization, which is essentially a fancy word that describes the coming together, the reforming of skin that has been cut and broken.
Nathan Rivas: That's interesting.
Bryan Barron: Yeah.
00:34:52 You would think that if it was a truly harmful ingredient that it would have delayed wound healing, or may have even caused some sort of an infection, or caused some sort of abnormal scarring. Didn't happen.
Nathan Rivas: Well, the zinc oxide, with it being that it does have those anti-inflammatory benefits to it, that's why it's in diaper rash balm as well.
Bryan Barron: Right. This particular study was titanium dioxide.
Nathan Rivas: Oh, yes. Okay.
Bryan Barron: But you're absolutely right. Zinc oxide has a dual classification by the US FDA as a skin protectant, which is how it is used in those diaper rash ointments like Desitin, or the A&D Ointment, and then it's also a sunscreen.
00:35:30 And it does have natural skin calming properties.
Nathan Rivas: So, the bottom line is that the worry over nanotechnology with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide is really a worry over nothing. There is no research out there that corroborates that this is a harmful thing for you to do in your -- harmful thing for you to have in your sunscreen formulas and you should be worried about it. You absolutely should not be worried about it. And pretty much the whole world agrees in terms of the scientific and regulatory bodies globally.
Bryan Barron: Yeah.
00:36:00 And just wrapping up this entire topic of "Is Your Sunscreen Giving You Cancer?" first of all, no, it is not. There is no definitive proof or even minor demographic or long term evidence of hat. What we do know is that daily application of a broad spectrum sunscreen applied to exposed skin is a proven way to not only prevent multiple signs of aging but also to prevent every type of skin cancer.
00:36:28 It is fundamental. Going without sunscreen, regardless of what the headlines say, and we know sometimes it can be scary, you can count on us to present the facts to you, but if it's something that we haven't quite covered yet, if it's something that we're in the process of working on, always remember that it is just better to use sunscreen than to not use sunscreen. The changes that happen to skin over time when it is routinely exposed to sunlight without protection are far scarier than any headline that might convince you to not use sunscreen.
Nathan Rivas: It's absolutely true.
00:37:03 And this is globally, to reinforce globally, this is a unanimous decision that's been approved or been corroborated across multiple different scientific and regulatory bodies throughout the world.
Bryan Barron: Exactly. It's not like we only looked at what the research said from the companies that sell these sunscreen actives, or from companies that sell sunscreen products.
00:37:25 We really in this situation we wanted to find the least biased, the most independent information, and then balance that with what we have always known to be true about these ingredients. So, we hope that you feel better. We hope that you will bring that sunscreen out of hiding, that you are not looking at it in fear anymore. I know it's frustrating for me, too, when information to the contrary comes out in publications that we respect, such as Consumer Reports, or their sister publication which is called Shop Smart.
00:37:53 I love both of those magazines and I grit my teeth when I hear them jump on the media bandwagon about reinforcing and perpetuating those sunscreen scares that have you worried. And hopefully as you feel at the end of this show that you were worrying and it was unfounded and that you feel much better and that you will go back to using that sunscreen. Take a look at the ones we review on, what we offer from Paula's Choice, and be sun smart. That's what it's all about. Anything else to add?
Nathan Rivas: I don't. Everyone just put on your sunscreen and we'll see you next time.
Bryan Barron: All right. Thanks for listening everyone. Until next time, this is Bryan Barron and Nathan Rivas from the Paula's Choice Research Team. Enjoy your summer.
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