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Hydrogels for Osteochondral
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Journal of Biomedical

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Anti-Wrinkle Activity
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Journal of Peptide Science
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Pulsed Glow Discharge
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Protective Effects of GHK-Cu
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Anti-Wrinkle Benefits
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Structural Analysis
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pH-sensitive GHK-Cu in
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Acta Biomaterialia
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Particle & Particle (2019)
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OBM Geriatrics
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Frontiers in Neuroscience
Endogenous Antioxidant
International Journal of Pathophysiology and Pharmacology (2018)
Regenerative and
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Skin Regenerative and
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Frontiers in Pharmacology
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Bulletin of Experimental
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New Data of the
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Resetting Skin Genome
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Textbook of Aging Skin
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The Human Skin Remodeling Peptide Induces Anti-Cancer
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Effects of
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American Medical Association
Avoid Buying Fake Copper Peptides Dangerous

Beware of Toxic Sunscreens

You might be tempted to reach for any old bottle of sunscreen on the grocery store shelf to protect yourself from the sun.


Chemical sunscreens contain oily chemicals that strongly absorb the energy in light photons and can cause more harm than good.

Questions or Advice?

Email Dr. Loren Pickart at

Call us at 1-800-405-1912 Monday Through Friday (8 am to 6 pm) PST

Sunscreen Typeswoman naked in the sun

Sunscreens are designed to protect against sunburn (UVB rays) and generally provide little protection against UVA rays. They come in two forms:

CHEMICAL SUNSCREENS prevent sunburn by absorbing the ultraviolet (UVB) rays but may increase your risk of cancers of the breast, ovaries, prostate, and colon. Chemicals such as avobenzone, benzophenone, ethylhexyl p-methoxycinnimate, 2-ethylhexyl salicylate, homosalate, octyl methoxycinnamate, oxybenzone (benzophenone-3) are used as the active ingredients.

PHYSICAL SUNSCREENS contain inert minerals such as titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, or talc and work by reflecting the ultraviolet (UVA and UVB) and visible rays away from the skin.

Recommended and Not Recommendedwoman in the sun

Sunscreens are designed to protect against sunburn (UVB rays) and generally provide little protection against UVA rays. They come in two forms:

CHEMICAL SUNSCREENS prevent sunburn by absorbing the ultraviolet (UVB) rays but may increase your risk of cancers of the breast, ovaries, prostate, and colon. Chemicals such as avobenzone, benzophenone, ethylhexyl p-methoxycinnimate, 2-ethylhexyl salicylate, homosalate, octyl methoxycinnamate, oxybenzone (benzophenone-3) are used as the active ingredients.

PHYSICAL SUNSCREENS contain inert minerals such as titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, or talc and work by reflecting the ultraviolet (UVA and UVB) and visible rays away from the skin.

Recommended Sunscreens

Use Non-Encapsulated Reflective Physical Sunscreens

Physical reflective sunblockers contain inert minerals such as titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, red petrolatum, or talc and work by reflecting the ultraviolet (UVA and UVB) rays away from the skin. They come in two forms - pure sunblocker and various micronized or encapsulated versions.

The best overall reflective sunblocker, at least in theory, is pure titanium dioxide.

Zinc oxide has somewhat better UVA and UVB blocking but also can generate free ionic zinc ions on the skin.

Some women think zinc oxide increases facial pore size.

One problem with titanium dioxide is that it is whiter than zinc oxide and more difficult to formulate as a transparent products.

Thus you may prefer zinc oxide products. Pure sunblockers tend to give a pasty look to the skin.

This is the reason for the popularity of micronized sunblockers which give a better cosmetic appearance on the skin.

Avoid Micronized or Siliconized Physical Sunscreens

Prof. Nicholas Lowe (Dermatology, UCLA) has reported that micronized or encapsulated physical sunblockers such as titanium dioxide penetrate into the skin while pure titanium dioxide remains on the skin's surface - where you really want it to stay.

Micronized minerals are usually used as 'micronized' particles in the size range of 20-50 microns.

But these particles are small in comparison with the wavelength of the ultraviolet and visible light and are virtually invisible and do not effectively scatter of reflect light.

Pure, non-micronized, and often pasty, minerals are better reflectors of ultraviolet light.

Not Recommended - Free Radical Generators & Estrogenic Chemicals

Chemical sunscreens act by strongly absorbing ultraviolet light in the UVB range (290 to 320 nm).

They cannot reflect light. The UVB range is the range that is primarily responsible for sunburning and causing skin cancer.

The UVA range (320 to 400 nm) is responsible for suntanning and photosensitivity reactions (increased sensitivity to sunlight as the result of certain medications, cosmetics, soaps, or plants). UVA is also responsible for serious skin damage.

Such types of chemical sunscreens are potent generators of free radicals and many have strong estrogenic, "gender bending", activities and may increase your cancer risk for cancers of the breast, ovaries, prostate, and colon (see more below).

PABA and PABA esters are rarely used today because of allergic problems.

Chemical Sunscreens Include:

Benzophenones (dixoybenzone, oxybenzone)

PABA and PABA esters (ethyl dihydroxy propyl PAB, glyceryl PABA, p-aminobenzoic acid, padimate-O or octyl dimethyl PABA)

Cinnamates (cinoxate, ethylhexyl p-methoxycinnamate, octocrylene, octyl methoxycinnamate)

Salicylates (ethylhexyl salicylate, homosalate, octyl salicylate)

Digalloyl trioleate

Menthyl anthranilate

Avobenzone [butyl-methyoxydibenzoylmethane; Parsol 1789] - This is the only chemical sunscreen currently allowed by the European Community. However, its safety is still questionable since it easily penetrate the skin and is a strong free radical generator.

Effectiveness and Safety of Various Sunscreens and Sunblockers

Sunblocker or Sunscreen Sunscreen chemicals
UV protective properties Good but partial spectrum
UV blocking properties Absorbs photons
Free radical generating ability High
Ability to penetrate skin barrier High
Relative danger High


Sunblocker or Sunscreen Titanium Dioxide
UV protective properties Very broad spectrum
UV blocking properties Mainly reflects and scatters photons, some photon absorption
Free radical generating ability Low
Ability to penetrate skin barrier Virtually none
Relative danger Very low - the safest known


Sunblocker or Sunscreen Zinc Oxide
UV protective properties Broadest spectrum
UV blocking properties Mainly reflects and scatters photons, some photon absorption
Free radical generating ability Low
Ability to penetrate skin barrier Virtually none
Relative danger May generate zinc ions that decrease skin repair


Sunblocker or Sunscreen Micronized or siliconized titanium dioxide or zinc oxide
UV protective properties Broad spectrum
UV blocking properties Mainly reflects and scatters photons, some photon absorption
Free radical generating ability Low
Ability to penetrate skin barrier Low but significant
Relative danger Moderate

Do Physical Sunblockers Generate Free-Radicals?

There have been reports that physical sunblockers can also generate free radicals after exposure to ultraviolet light.

However, even bare skin will generate free radicals when exposed to UV radiation. The key is whether the sunblocker form will penetrate the skin and be near the skin's sensitive proteins and DNA.

Pure sunblockers such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide do not pass into the skin and remain far from the skin's sensitive areas.

However, sunblockers that are micronized and coated with plastics or silicone more easily pass the skin barrier and can reach the skin's sensitive areas. For this reason, pure physical sunblockers are the safest.

Do Chemical Sunscreens in Cosmetics Increase Cancer?

Worldwide, the greatest rise in melanoma has been experienced in countries where chemical sunscreens have been heavily promoted.

The rise in melanoma has been exceptionally high in Queensland, Australia where the medical establishment has vigorously promoted the use of sunscreens.

Queensland now has more incidences of melanoma per capita than any other place.

Drs. Cedric and Frank Garland of the University of California have pointed out that while sunscreens do protect against sunburn, there is no scientific proof that they protect against melanoma or basal cell carcinoma in humans.

The Garlands believe that the increased use of chemical sunscreens is the primary cause of the skin cancer epidemic.

There is, however, some evidence that regular use of sunscreens helps prevent the formation of actinic keratoses, the precursors of squamous cell carcinoma.

Toxic Problems with Common Sunscreen Chemicals

Many commonly used chemical sunscreens may be dangerous to your health. Up to 35% of an applied sunscreen chemical that is applied to your skin can enter your bloodstream. There is no way to produce sunscreens that are both protective and transparent.

Chemical Sunscreens Aren’t the AnswerWomen getting bride ready

Chemical sunscreens strongly absorb UV radiation, however they also have a dark side... and no, I’m not talking about blocking the dark side of shade! UV absorbers should never have been used for sunscreen protection.

When I was a college student performing chemical syntheses, we would mix UV absorbing oils into batches of chemicals that needed free radicals to start the chemical reaction. We would then flash the mixture with a UV light, and the reaction would commence—sort of like putting a match to paper.

For fifty years, chemists have known that UV absorbing oils and UV radiation generate a huge number of free radicals.

The same free radical damage occurs within human skin. The sunscreen oils do not just sit on the skin’s surface and stop UV radiation. As much as 35 % of a sunscreen chemical can pass through the skin. But the story is more complicated. Sunscreen chemicals, even “stable” ones, breakdown after absorbing UV energy.

These rarely studied breakdown products, which are toxic to cultured cells, then penetrate the skin. The toxic chemicals and their breakdown products then pass the outer layer of dead skin and come into contact with living tissue.

Recent studies led by Kerry Hanson from UC Riverside found that when UV radiation hits the sunscreen chemicals (such as octylmethoxycinnamate, benzophenone-3 and octocrylene) within the skin, these oils generate copious amounts of free radicals that injure cell walls, lipid membranes, mitochrondria, and DNA which produce skin damage and visible signs of aging.

The authors state that, under some conditions, “the UV filters in sunscreens that have penetrated into the epidermis can potentially do more harm than good.” (Hanson et al 2006).

Terge Christensen, a biophysicist at the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority found octyl methoxycinnamate (OMC), a major sunscreen chemical, to kill 50% of cultured mouse cells at 5 parts per million, a dose far lower in sunscreen products.

If the cells were also exposed for two hours with simulated daylight, the OMC and light doubled the toxic actions. So, such “protective” chemicals, may actually increase your risk of sun damage.

As another example of a harmful sunscreen chemical, consider psoralen used with UV light to treat psoriasis. Psoralen is similar to sunscreen chemicals, and the rate of skin cancer in patients treated with psoralen is 83 times higher than among the general population (Stern & Laird 1994).

Many sunscreen chemicals also have strong estrogenic (estrogen-like) actions that may cause problems in sexual development and adult sexual function.

These include an increased rate of cancer, an elevated rate of birth defects in children, a lower sperm count and smaller penis size in men, and a plethora of other medical problems. The effects are similar to those of many banned chemicals, such as DDT, dioxin, and PCBs.

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 et al 2001).

Do Chemical Sunscreens Increase Cancer?

Worldwide, the greatest rise in melanoma has been experienced in countries where chemical sunscreens have been heavily promoted  The rise in melanoma has been exceptionally high in Queensland, Australia  where the medical establishment has vigorously promoted the use of sunscreens. Queensland now has more incidences of melanoma per capita than any other place on Earth. (Garland, Cedric F., et al. Could sunscreens increase melanoma risk? American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 82, No. 4, April 1992, pp. 614-15).

Dr. Gordon Ainsleigh in California believes that the use of sunscreens causes more cancer deaths than it prevents. He estimates that the 17% increase in breast cancer observed between 1981 and 1992 may be the result of the pervasive use of sunscreens over the past decade (Ainsleigh, H. Gordon. Beneficial effects of sun exposure on cancer mortality. Preventive Medicine, Vol. 22, February 1993, pp. 132-40).

Recent studies have also shown a higher rate of melanoma among men who regularly use sunscreens and a higher rate of basal cell carcinoma among women using sunscreens (Garland, Cedric F. et al. Effect of sunscreens on UV radiation-induced enhancement of melanoma growth in mice. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Vol. 86, No. 10, May 18, 1994, pp. 798-801 :Larsen, H.R. "Sunscreens: do they cause skin cancer." International Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, 1994; 12(12): 17-19; Farmer K.C. & Naylor, M.F. "Sun exposure, sunscreens, and skin cancer prevention: a year-round concern." Ann Pharmacother, 1996; 30(6):662-73)

Drs. Cedric and Frank Garland of the University of California have pointed out that while sunscreens do protect against sunburn, there is no scientific proof that they protect against melanoma or basal cell carcinoma in humans (Garland, C.F., et al. "Could sunscreens increase melanoma risk?" American Journal of Public Health, 1992; 82(4): 614-615.) The Garlands believe that the increased use of chemical sunscreens is the primary cause of the skin cancer epidemic.

There is, however, some evidence that regular use of sunscreens helps prevent the formation of actinic keratoses, the precursors of squamous cell carcinoma (Dover, Jeffrey S. & Arndt, Kenneth A. Dermatology. Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 271, No. 21, June 1, 1994, pp. 1662-63).

In February 1998, epidemiologist Marianne Berwick of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York presented a careful analysis of data on sunscreen use and skin cancer at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Sunscreens may not protect against skin cancer, including melanoma, she concluded. "We don't really know whether sunscreens prevent skin cancer," said Berwick. She looked first at four studies of squamous cell cancer, a cancer that appears on the head, neck, and arms but is usually not lethal.

Two of the studies concluded that sunscreen protected against a skin condition thought to precede squamous cell cancer while two other studies reported that sunscreen did not shield people from this type of skin cancer.

She then analyzed two studies of basal cell carcinoma, another nonlethal skin cancer that is the most common form of skin cancer and appears most frequently on the head, neck, and arms.

Those two studies found that people who used sunscreen were more likely to develop basal cell cancer than people who did not. She then analyzed 10 studies of melanoma, the skin cancer is the most deadly.

Melanoma often starts in or near moles on the skin. In five of the melanoma studies, people who used sunscreen were more likely than nonusers to develop melanoma.

In three of the studies, there was no association between sunscreen use and melanoma. In the final two studies, people who used sunscreen seemed to be protected. (Source: Science News, Vol. 153, No. 23, June 6, 1998, p. 360).

"After examining the available epidemiological data and conducting our own large case-control population-based study, we have found no relationship between sunscreen use at any age and the development of melanoma skin cancer," said Dr. Berwick.

Although sunscreens do prevent sunburn, Dr. Berwick concluded that sunburn itself is not the direct cause of cancer. Dr. Berwick objected to the universal blanket advice about using sunscreens during all time spent outdoors.

Dr. Berwick previously conducted a 1996 study that found no link between sunscreen use at any age and the development of melanoma.

The same study also found no relationship between a history of sunburn and the development of melanoma. Berwick continued saying that the relationship between sunscreen use and the development of skin cancer is complicated by evidence that people who are sensitive to the sun engage in fewer activities in the bright sun and wear sunscreen when they do. But if these people develop melanoma, it may be because they are genetically susceptible and likely to develop skin cancer regardless of the amount of sunlight exposure or protection from sunscreen.

"Based on the evidence, we conclude that sunburn itself probably does not cause melanoma, but that it is an important sign of excessive sun exposure particularly among those who are genetically susceptible because of their skin-type," said Dr. Berwick.

The melanoma risk for people with numerous moles was six times higher than that of someone with only a few moles.

Persons most at risk for melanoma are those with red or blond hair and lighter colored eyes. Such light-skinned people have almost six times more melanoma than persons with darker skin.

"The evidence indicates that chronic sun exposure may be protective for the development of melanoma because the skin has adapted to the sun, having become thicker as it has tanned. On the other hand, intermittent sun exposure appears to increase risk, making it much less protective," added Dr. Berwick.

"People need to focus on their individual risk characteristics, such as their pigmentary phenotype, their family history, and the type and number of moles they have. I recommend that people avoid the sun when they are clearly at high risk and that they should enjoy a reasonable amount of outdoor activities with less anxiety when they are clearly at reduced risk," advised Dr. Berwick.

After Dr. Berwick's presentation of this data, the American Academy of Dermatology (ADA) issued a press release attacking her work. The then president of the ADA insulted her as a "number crunching scientist". But then, all scientists spend a lot of time crunching numbers.

Studies have found that the incidence of skin cancers has increased even as sunscreens have become popular among fair-skinned people. The establishment answer to this increase in the cancer rate is that wearing sunscreen makes people stay in the sun too long.

A study by Drs. Mike Brown (Kate Law of the Cancer Research Campaign) Philippe Autier (European Institute of Oncology in Milan) reported that children using sunscreen returned from holiday with more skin moles - a possible sign of increased cancer risk.

Some say that people who wore higher factor sunscreens tend to stay out in sunlight much longer, because they fell protected. However, others have pointed out that if sunscreen chemicals were protective, the factors of longer sun exposure would be somewhat countered by the sunscreen's supposed protective actions.

Skin Cancer Increase Not Due to Ozone Depletion

But what about ozone depletion and skin cancer? Could this be the cause of the increased skin cancer rates? Professor Johan Moan of the Norwegian Cancer Institute found that the yearly incidence of melanoma in Norway had increased by 350% for men and by 440% for women during the period 1957 to 1984.

He also determined that there had been no change in the ozone layer over this period of time. He concludes his report in the British Journal of Cancer by stating "Ozone depletion is not the cause of the increase in skin cancers" (Moan, J. & Dahlback, A. The relationship between skin cancers, solar radiation and ozone depletion. British Journal of Cancer, Vol. 65, No. 6, June 1992, pp. 916-21).

What About Micronized Sunscreens

In an effort to avoid the "pasty white" look of sunscreens containing large particles of zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, sunscreen manufacturers have reduced the particle size of these UV-absorbing molecules to the "nanoscale", meaning that the lotion or cream is more transparent and cosmetically appealing.

Manufacturers know that today's consumers prefer invisible sunscreens and would be more likely to apply such a product multiple times during the day, which would result in big profits for cosmetic companies. But does this nano-techonology used in the development of these sunscreens mean that they are safe?

A recent study performed on a lotion containing nanoscale zinc oxide isotope particles applied twice daily for a five day period found very interesting results. Participants had their skin studied and their urine and blood samples collected. Upon examination, the team detected the isotope in ALL of the participants' samples.

Although the person who conducted the study added, "I've tried to make the point that the amount we actually saw in the blood was quite tiny", the point is that it was found in all the volunteers' samples indicating that it was absorbed into the skin.

The real question is: If this is what was found after only five days of usage, what would have been discovered after 100 days? Or after years of usage?

A safety study in rats found that zinc oxide nanoparticles (in levels used in sunscreens) applied over a period of 28 days, resulted in skin collagen loss.

Along the same line of thought, scientists at the University of California at Los Angeles also found that nanoparticles in sunscreens can enter and "wander throughout the body, potentially disrupting body funcions on a sub-cellular level".

The University Women's Hospital in Basel, Switzerland investigated this phenomenon by testing the breast milk of mothers twice a year for three consecutive years (Schlumpf et al 2010).

The participants' usage of various sunscreens were carefully logged. What did they find? That 85% of the human milk samples that were tested contained UV filters!

Although very little is known about the significance of infants taking in milk contaminated with UV filters, the team leader confirmed that "human milk was chosen because it provides direct information on exposure of the suckling infant and indirect information on exposure of the mother during pregnancy".

There is no denying that suncreen chemicals can be absorbed into the body. This underscores the importance of carefully reviewing the types of products we use.

Using certain products simply because they are more "aesthetically appealing" (such as suncreen oils or clear sunscreen products) does not mean that it is the healthiest option for our skin. It is the potential issues that may arise after long term use of such products that should be of concern to all of us.

Sunscreen Chemicals


  • Para-aminobenzoic acid
  • Octyl salicylate
  • Avobenzone
  • Oxybenzone
  • Cinoxate
  • Padimate O
  • Dioxybenzone
  • Phenylbenzimidazole
  • Homosalate
  • Sulisobenzone
  • Menthyl anthranilate
  • Trolamine salicylate
  • Octocrylene


Recent studies have found that many so called “broad-spectrum” sunscreens provide only minimal UVA protection. The only type of sunscreens that provides balanced UVB/UVA protection is natural reflective minerals such as titanium dioxide. However, chemical corporations try to convince consumers that natural sunscreens (as well as our skin’s own melanin) do not provide enough UV protection. At the same time, sunscreen manufacturers push products with higher and higher SPF that are loaded with alien chemicals. To promote such products they promise such things as “all day protection” and “more time under the sun”. However, starting summer 2012, sunscreen regulations are going to be tightened:

  • To be labeled “broad spectrum” products will be required to pass a FDA approved test for UVB/UVA protection.
  • Only properly tested “broad spectrum” products with SPF no less than 15 will be allowed to claim that they protect against skin aging and cancer.
  • SPF higher than 50 will not be allowed, so that cosmetic manufacturers will not be able to use high SPF as a marketing tool.
  • Waterproof and sweatproof labels will no longer be permitted.

High SPF sunscreens (only achieved by the use of alien chemicals) give the illusion of protection by preventing sunburn and peeling. Truthfully, there is no sunscreen that provides 100% protection.

Fooled by such an illusion, many beachgoers happily bask under the sun for hours without much burning or skin peeling.

So now, while their skin still becomes severely damaged, the injured cells cannot peel off and may remain in the skin for decades as slow ticking time bombs until they turn cancerous.

"Sunscreen use for tan acquisition would thus lead to similar exposure to UVB and greater exposure to UVA, which could explain the slightly higher melanoma risk often found among sunscreen users." Autier P et al. Curr. Opin. Oncol. 2011;23(2):189-96.

"Safety of sunscreens is a concern, and sunscreen companies have emotionally and inaccurately promoted the use of sunscreens". Berwick M. Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2011;89(1):31-3.

"Blanket advice to the public to wear sunscreens at any time outdoors is not at this time warranted." Berwick M. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2007;16(10):1923-4.

"Because sunscreens prevent erythema and sunburn, and inhibit accommodation of the skin to sunlight, their use may permit excessive exposure of the skin to portions of the solar spectrum other than UVB" Garland CF et al. Ann Epidemiol. 1993 ;3(1):103-10.

How to Choose Safer Sun Protection

Gender-Bending Estrogenic Chemicals

For decades, irresponsible cosmetic companies and a small group of very vocal, publicity-seeking dermatologists have strongly advocated that chemical sunscreens  should be heavily applied before any exposure to sunlight, even on young children.

They insisted that such sunscreen use would prevent skin cancer and protect your health. This was despite of a lack of any adequate safety testing of these chemicals. (It should be emphasized that most dermatologists are much more cautious and careful.)

On the other hand, over the past decade, many scientists studying cancer have come to virtually the opposite conclusion; that is, the use of sunscreen chemicals may be increasing the incidence of cancer and that sunlight exposure may actually decrease human cancer rates and improve your health.

It now appears that many heavily-used chemical sunscreens may actually increase cancers by virtue of their free radical generating properties. And more insidiously, many commonly used sunscreen chemicals have strong estrogenic actions that may cause serious problems in sexual development and adult sexual function, and may further increase cancer risks.

It is not that these compounds were ever viewed as benign substances. Organic chemists have been long aware of the dangers of compounds in chemical sunscreens.

Such chemicals are widely used to start free radical reactions during chemical synthesis. These chemicals are the dangerous types that one carefully keeps away from your skin while working in a laboratory.

To use them, you mix them into a combination of other chemicals, then flash the mixture with an ultraviolet light. The ultraviolet absorbing chemicals then generate copious amounts of free radicals that initiated the desired chemical reactions.

Despite the medical establishment's near unanimity on the issue of sunlight exposure, on other health issues in the past, serious errors been promoted to the public.


1. In 1927, 12,745 physicians endorsed smoking Lucky Strike cigarettes as a healthful activity. In the 1940s and 1950s, thousands of prominent surgeons were used in national cigarette advertisements to reassure the public about the safety of cigarette smoking.


2. In the 1950's, lobotomies were promoted for mental disorders and produced near-totally dysfunctional people.


3. In the 1960's and 1970's, diets high in omega-6 polyunsaturated fats and partially hydrogenated fatty acids such as safflower oil and margarine were recommended to reduce heart disease. However, long term studies found that, while such diets decreased heart disease, they increased the total death rate and the cancer rate and produced accelerated aging.

Gender-Bending Estrogenic Chemicals in the Environment

In the 1950s, the effect of estrogenic toxins such as DDT was linked to eggshell thinning in many bird species. Chemicals with estrogen-like actions can also cause severe developmental problems such as turning fish into hermaphrodites. Over the past 50 years, studies on estrogenic toxins have greatly expanded our knowledge of these effect - some of which is detailed below.

Many hormone affecting chemicals remain in widespread use. 2,4-D, and similar products, are largest-selling broadleaf herbicides in North America and some 60 million pounds of such chemicals are applied annually in the USA alone. Three widely used pesticides are estrogenic: dieldrin, toxaphene, and endosulfan. While dieldrin and toxaphene have been banned, endosulfan remains the USA's most heavily used pesticide.

Not all environmental gender-benders are estrogenic. Benomyl, a fungicide used on crops such as rice, tomatoes, apples, and grapes, has toxic actions on the testes where it causes the premature release of cells that would have become sperm.

Also, the greatest increases in human cancers over the last 30 years have been those of the breast, ovaries, testes, and prostate, all tissues that are sensitive to sex hormones.

Many Common Sunscreen Chemicals are Strong Estrogens

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.

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.

Breast milk

Schlumpf's group also found estrogenic sunscreens in the breast milk of mothers at levels of nanograms per kilogram of fat. This is the about same level as other known environmental contaminants such as PCBs.

Schlumpf commented that this exposure could be dramatically increased in childhood by the large amount of sunscreen used by bathers, especially children. Her group is following the offspring of 4-MBC exposed rats to see if they develop health problems.

Based on these results, the Swiss researchers concluded that the impact of sunscreens containing these "endocrine disruptors" should be investigated more closely, in particular their penetration through human skin.

Estrogenic Synergies May Multiply Toxic Effects

Combinations of estrogenic sunscreens and other pollutants may act together to intensify their effects. Researchers at Tulane University in New Orleans believe that a mixture of estrogenic toxins -- such as sunscreens, PCBs, DDT, etc., are more harmful if mixed together. The Tulane researchers found one mixture of estrogenic toxins to be 160 to 1600 times more toxic than the individual chemicals in the mixture.

Gender-Bending Effects are Most Severe During Early Development

Current evidence points to early development (embryo, fetus, juvenile) as the time when children's organs are the most sensitive to estrogen exposure and developmental abnormalities. However, some effects may not become apparent until later in life, when normal sexual maturity is expected.

The basic human form is female. Early in fetal development, the genes must signal if a fetus is to be male. The secretion of male hormones is the signal that activates genes that cause male development. If this does not happen, the human has female imprinting - regardless of whether the person's cells have male (XY) or female genes (XX). If a mother has been exposed to a natural estrogen or estrogenic toxin during the crucial period when genes normally activate masculine patterns, the seventh and 14th weeks of pregnancy, then there is not the proper switching from female to male. If the estrogenic toxins  only appear sporadically (such as when the mother uses an estrogenic sunscreen, the disruptions may not trigger a complete reversal of a male's gender, but may exert subtle physical (such a reduced penis size) and mental changes (such as sex role confusion) that become apparent later in life. Conversely, if a synthetic compound blocks estrogen actions, this can produce the sex organs of a male in a fetus that is genetically female.

After using chemical sunscreens, a pregnant woman mother may unwittingly pass some hormone-mimicking pollutants to her child before birth through her placental blood supply and via her breast milk with which she later feeds her newborn.

Some currently used pesticides have been found to interfere with male development, producing undescended testes, nipples on males, hypospadias, decreased sperm counts, and altered mating behavior. When a widely used insecticide, methoxychlor, was fed at low doses to pregnant mice, it caused permanent increases in prostate weight in male offspring of females.

Endocrine disruptors can affect male/female sex ratio in Daphnia (a water flea).

Feminized Male Alligators

Male alligators exposed to pesticides in Florida have difficulty reproducing, partly because their penises are not developing to normal size. Effects attributed to estrogenic environmental toxins have produced male American alligators with underdeveloped sex organs and vitellogenin (an egg and yolk protein normally found only in females) in male animals.

Also, alligator eggs exposed to DDT or another pesticide, dicofol, hatch male alligators that  grow penises only one-third to one-half normal size, and fail to breed.

In addition, males of of many other wildlife species in the same areas of Florida (birds, fish, amphibians, and mammals) are being "feminized" by exposure to low levels of pesticides and other toxic chemicals released into the environment.

Florida Panthers

The Florida panther, an endangered species, is failing to reproduce itself.  There are only 30 to 50 panthers remaining, and the reason for the decline has postulated to an effect of environmental estrogens. Between 1985 and 1990, 67 percent of male panthers were born with one or more undescended testicles (cryptorchidism). Some Florida panthers are sterile and many others produce abnormal or deformed sperm.

Loss of Libido in Men

Estrogenic chemicals block testosterone actions. This can reduce sexual arousal and sensation and contribute the a loss of libido.

Testicular Cancer

Many industrialized countries have witnessed recently a sharp rise in testicular cancer, according to Dr. Skakkebaek, (Department of Growth and Reproduction at Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen, Denmark). Some of the first data reporting this increase emerged in Denmark, which has maintained a national cancer registry since 1947.

In Denmark, the incidence of testicular cancer has more than tripled over the past 50 years and the rate of increase continues to grow. Similar increases have also been reported in Scotland, the United States, and other Scandinavian countries.

Human Sperm Counts Decline

The sperm count in men in industrialized countries has dropped 50% during the past 50 years, and the exposure to endocrine-disrupting compounds is the most likely cause.

Skakoebaek and his group conducted an analysis of previously published studies on semen quality. The international data, from studies involving 14,947 men, indicate that the average density of sperm has fallen from 113 million per milliliter of semen in 1940 to just 66 million per ml in 1990.

Skakkebaek's group also noted that because the volume of semen available in these men at any given time has also dropped an average of 19 percent, the 50-year drop in sperm count has been larger than sperm density alone would indicate.

Undescended Testicles (cryptorchidism)

Though formed near the kidneys, both testicles should migrate down into the scrotum by birth. Undescended testicles usually complete their migration within a year or two after birth, but some never do. Men with undescended testicles are unable to make sperm.

Only a few countries maintain registries on this condition, but Skakkebaek found that two British studies documented a near doubling of the number of boys born with at least one undescended testicle from about 1.6 percent in the 1950s to 2.9 percent in the late 1970s.

Other studies have reported that in England and the USA, cryptorchidism has more than doubled in men during the last four decades. (A. Giwercman and N.E. Skakkebaek, "The human testis--an organ at risk?" INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF ANDROLOGY Vol. 15 (1992), pgs. 373-375: Elisabeth Carlsen and others, "Evidence for decreasing quality of semen during past 50 years," BRITISH MEDICAL JOURNAL Vol. 305 (1992), pgs. 609-613)

In young boys living in an area of heavy agricultural activity on the Spanish Mediterranean coast, there was found an association between pesticide exposure and undescended testicles.

Hypospadias in Men

Hypospadias are congenital abnormalities of the urinary tract. During fetal development, the penis possesses an open groove down its length that normally closes before birth. Boys born with only partial closure of the groove need surgery to correct the problem.

Birth registries in England and Wales record that hypospadias more than doubled between 1964 and 1983. Further studies found link between undescended testicles at birth and testicular cancer in adulthood. Low sperm counts or abnormal sperm also are associated with testicular cancer.

All these changes may be the consequence of fetal exposure. Testicular cancer, undescended testicles, hypospadias, and poor-quality semen have been found in the male offspring of women who, during pregnancy, were treated with diethylstilbestrol (DES), a potent synthetic estrogen. Research at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park, N.C. found many environmental contaminants can mimic the reproductive effects of estrogen and DES in male animals.

Estrogenic PCBs and Insecticides Diminish Penis Size in Humans and Animals

Boys in Taiwan exposed to PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) while in their mothers' womb developed smaller than normal penises as they matured. (Marguerite Holloway, "Dioxin Indictment," SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN Vol. 270 (January 1994), pg. 25.; Gina Kolata, "PCB Exposure Linked to Birth Defects in Taiwan," NEW YORK TIMES August 2, 1988, pg. C3)

The boys in Taiwan are called the "yucheng" (or "oil disease") children.  A similar PCB contamination ("yusho") occurred in Japan in 1968. When 115 yucheng children were examined, they were found to be delayed when compared to controls. The delayed development effects in the children's behavior that were most noticeable were the age when they first  (1) talked with sentences, (2) turned pages of books, (3) carried out requests of parents, and (4) were able to hold pencils and catch balls.

The boy's mothers had eaten PCB-contaminated rice oil in 1979.  The children consumed none of the oil but they were exposed before birth to PCBs in their mother's blood and after birth to PCBs in their mother's milk.  The rice oil contained 100 parts per million (ppm) PCBs. A new mother in the USA has an average of one ppm PCBs in her breast milk.

Researchers at University of Wisconsin found low exposures before birth to dioxin, another toxic estrogen, feminized the behavior of male rats during adulthood, and sharply reduced their sperm production.  The researchers concluded that the fetal male reproductive system was more sensitive to dioxin than any other organ-system studied." (Janet Raloff, "The Gender Benders," SCIENCE NEWS Vol. 145 (January 8, 1994), pgs. 24-27; Perinatal dioxin feminizes male rats," SCIENCE NEWS Vol. 141 (May 30, 1992), pg. 359; "EcoCancers," SCIENCE NEWS Vol. 144 (July 3, 1993), pgs. 10-13)

Santa Barbara's Lesbian Seagulls

Dr. Michael Fry at University of California, Davis, reported that Western gulls on Santa Barbara Island are often in recent years becoming lesbian gulls, with female pairs building nests and trying to hatch eggs and raise offspring.  Fry attributes this as partly due to male seagulls' increasing indifference to sex. Examinations found that the male gulls often have feminized sex organs, attributed to the males being "chemically castrated" by DDT and other estrogenic other environmental pollutants.

Symptoms of excessive estrogen in women

In women, excessive estrogen and estrogen-like chemicals produce intensified estrogen effects on the body.

Excessive estrogen:

  1. Affects your fluid balance, so that swelling due to fluid retention may become noticeable. It can causes elevations of blood pressure, headaches, and migraines.
  2. Has a stimulating effect on breast tissue but excess estrogen can also increase fibrocystic breast disease and painful breast swelling.
  3. Suppresses thyroid hormone production and this may cause fatigue plus aches and pains in muscles and joints.
  4. Stimulates the appetite, makes you crave sweets, leads to weight gain from fat as well as fluid.
  5. Intensifies PMS symptoms and produce a mental feeling of being edgy and nervous. Insomnia is also a common side effect.
  6. Increases your chances of developing emdometriosis, breast cancer, and uterine cancer.

(An updated review of environmental estrogen and androgen mimics and antagonists. Sonnenschein C, Soto AM. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol 1998 Apr;65(1-6)143-50)

Orcas of Pacific Northwest Dying from Estrogenic Toxins

Every summer, I spend many happy weekends fishing for salmon off the coast of American Camp National Park on San Juan Island in Washington State.

Normally, when we are fishing, we get a visit from the San Juan Orca Pod. Usually Orca just check out the area around the boat for salmon but at times they stop for hours and fish around the boat.

The smaller Orca spend a lot of time with their heads out of the water or "spying" to see what happens above water. In the picture, my wife is watching two Orca immediately to the right of her head (but not easy to see in this photo) who were fishing around our boat. The Orca are friendly and very inquisitive.

However, the resident Orca pod of Washington State and British Columbia is severely contaminated with organic pollutants like PCBs. The pod has suffered a drastic reduction in numbers in the past 10 years. Scientists have used a light-weight dart system to obtain small samples of skin and blubber from Orcas and these were analyzed for PCBs and other contaminants.

The samples obtained from individually recognizable Orcas that have been the subjects of studies and photo identification since 1973 and were analyzed in relation to sex, age and subpopulation.

The Orcas in this region are separated into two groups: the resident Orca that feed primarily upon salmon, and "transient" Orca that feed mainly on other marine mammals. Samples were obtained from 47 individuals: 15 samples from transients and 32 from residents (subdivided into individuals from a northern and a southern pod).

Average Concentrations of PCBs
Males - PCB concentration
Females - PCB concentration
251 mg/kg
59 mg/kg
Northern residents (Mainly British Columbia) 
37 mg/kg
9 mg/kg
Southern residents (Mainly Washington State)
146 mg/kg
55 mg/kg

he concentrations of PCBs in all groups were high, especially in transient males. The sexual differences in contaminants are similar to other whales. Females transfer accumulated PCBs to their offspring, first in the womb and then via lactation. Males have no no way to remove the contaminants.

The greater PCB concentrations observed in 'transients' is a result of dietary differences. By eating other marine mammals, the 'transients' are one level higher in the food chain. They eat predators of salmon who have already accumulated PCBs, in contrast residents eat salmon directly.

(Ross, PS, GM Ellis, MG Ikonomou, LG Barrett-Lennard and RF Addison. 2000. High PCB concentrations in free-ranging Pacific Killer Whales, Orcinus orca: Effects of age, sex and dietary preference. Marine Pollution Bulletin 40:504-515)

Wider Social Effects of Estrogenic Sunscreens

In countries where sunscreens have been extensively used over the past 50 years, there have also been profound changes in sexual attitudes and conduct. Many scientists are of the opinion that some of these changes have been induced by the widespread exposure to estrogenic chemicals.

These effects include sexual confusion, unhappiness, and a difficulty in bonding with others. This is exemplified by falling or negative birth rates in most culturally advanced societies.

The texts from classical Greece and Rome indicate that while the ancients may have been guilty of sexual excesses, trying just about anything that humans could think of, but they seemed to have never suffered the types of sexual insecurity and sexual gender confusion that typifies our current society.

Today we think in terms of various types of rigid sexual life styles but the ancients viewed all variants of sexual attraction as aspects of one common theme.

It may be that environmental estrogenic toxins (in sunscreens and the wider environment) are altering normal brain development during fetal development and this alters subsequent thought patterns and desires and produces the subsequent confusion.

If you have questions about this assertion, you might read the The Satyricon of Petronius by Gaius Petronius (~27-66 A.D.) who was the emperor Nero's advisor in matters of luxury and extravagance (his unofficial title was arbiter elegantiae).

He is recorded to have slept his days and partied nights. A lover of style, manners, and literature, and his personality was characterized by freedom, a lack of self-consciousness, a loose tongue, and was capable of writing the most literate and creative prose in Latin.

He focused on satire that could be written about some social arenas written today. An example (non-sexual) is as follows,  " We reached the dining room. Boys from Egypt poured cooled water on our hands while others ministered to our feet, removing the hangnails with precision.

I began chatting with my neighbor. Who was that woman running here and there? "The host's wife," he replied. "She counts her money by the bushel. But take care you don't scorn the other freedmen here. They're oozing wealth too. See that one reclining at the end of the couch? Today he's worth 800,000. He's newly freed. Not too long ago, he carried wood on his back."

An alternative is to watch Frederico Fellini's film " Satyricon" released in 1969. The film is toned down from the book but you will get the general idea.

The Failure of Academic Dermatologists to Protect the Public

Why did this situation with sunscreens arise? Why was it only research scientists who repeatedly raised concerns about sunscreen safety? Why was the academic dermatology community silent?

Most of the academic community has a long tradition of informing the public about real and potential dangers to the wider social community.

When I lived in Santa Barbara, Linus Pauling held a weekly protest in front of the Santa Barbara Library against the testing of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere.

He continued his protests in spite of intense pressure from the US Government and covert campaigns of slander against him.

In 1952, the State Department refused to renew Pauling's passport. The official reason was that his travels "would not be in the best interest of the United States".  Pauling was unable to attend a meeting of the Royal Society in London which was called to honor him and to discuss his ideas about potential structures of DNA.

Many felt that he missed the chance to be the first to unravel the structure of DNA because he wasn't able to confer with colleagues.

Although issued a short term passport in the summer of 1952, Pauling's requests for passport renewals were routinely denied during the next two years.

Pauling eventually won the 1962 Nobel Peace Prize for his campaign and nuclear weapons testing in the atmosphere was terminated.

But even today, in year 2002, a study by the Center for Disease Control estimated that the radioactive fallout from the atmospheric nuclear weapons tests caused about 11,000 deaths from cancer in the USA and produced a minimum of 22,000 new cancers.

Some non-governmental groups are of the opinion that the deaths were far higher and still are responsible for 15,000 deaths yearly in the USA.

Many other academics have, in recent years, led protests against actions and policies that were damaging to the wider community.

These include campaigns to remove chemical toxins from foods, clothes, building materials and the wider environment. Other concerns over global warming, species extinction, and global poverty have been sharply delineated by members of the academic community.

This raises the questions as to why no member of the academic dermatology community, over the past 30 years, raised warnings about the dangers of chemical sunscreens.

The answer is that the cosmetic industry has effectively silenced leading academic dermatologists by a widespread pattern of payments in the form of consulting fees, grants, retainers, vacation arrangements, and so on. In essence, industry has bought their silence on issues and products that might be embarrassing.

Most academic dermatologists focus their attention on innocuous, safe, non-controversial topics that will not offend their corporate sponsors. Like Dr. Faust, they must honor their agreements with their benefactors.