1. Great article Amy.

    Micoronized is not the same as nano. Micronized is bigger. Most companies that use titanium dioxide have to use coated because it is photo-sensitive. It breaks down in the sun causing DNA damage, which can cause cancer. So then we have the issue with the coatings on the titanium dioxide.

    I used to use California Baby too. But, I prefer not to take the risk. Especially on my daughter. I only use products with uncoated zinc oxide. Zinc has been safely used for hundreds of years.

    Our rule is we use sunscreen if we are going to be out in the sun for 2 hours or more, or when we are out for 1 hour or more during the hours when the sun is strongest (we are really fair skinned…other’s may be able to stay out longer without burning). Or we just wear protective clothing. The rest of the time we go without to make sure we are getting our Vitamin D from the sun.

    You may also be able to protect your skin by taking a high ORAC antioxidant. Many of our customers have found that when they are doing this, their skin burns less (likely because their skin cells are healthy) and if they do burn they heal much faster.

  2. eew, ICK. This ticks me off.

    I wonder, though–I mean, asbestos, something that whenever a ceiling tile gets disturbed or broken or removed, the particles are in the air and we breathe them. When the TiO2 is in a cream, is that happening? Is it problematic only when breathed, or when on the skin as well?(Not that the answer will make me feel all warm and fuzzy about it, I’m just curious…)

    Zinc oxide makes me break out. So I guess I’m just screwed, and should move to Great Britain or maybe Oregon.

    I’m going to be one of those old ladies at the beach with a giant sun hat and every inch of skin covered, I just know it. I mean, I’ll be that lady at 43.

    Sigh. Thank you for this post–I absolutely hope you keep us posted on what happens here!!!

  3. As long as you don’t burn wouldn’t be exposing yourself to the sun be better than using sunscreen?

    Although, what about people in NZ and Australia, they have a hole in their ozone layer so you can burn in literally 10 minutes without protection, would sunscreen be better in that instance? They have successfully had a campaign for kids to wear sunscreen, but now they have large portions of the population of rickets!

    I hardly ever wear the stuff, I tan quite well, and it takes a long time for me to burn in the sun, even direct sun on a beach.

  4. Did you read Badger’s information on the zinc oxide they use in their sunscreen? It can be found here: http://www.badgerbalm.com/t-sunscreen_zinc_oxide_nanoparticles.aspx

    The summary is: they don’t think nanoparticles are dangerous and no studies support the idea that they’re dangerous. They use micronized zinc, which while generally larger, contains a range of particle sizes, some in the nano range.

    There is a lot more info in their article. Definitely interesting to read.

  5. Author

    Kimberly – I would think that as long as you aren’t in the sun for a long period of time, the sun exposure would be better (but I’m not an expert). ;) And yes, we still need our vitamin D.

    Annie – I’ll check that out info about Badger. Thanks for sending it along. It’s hard to know who to trust.

  6. Hi Amy, we started using the Lands End rashguard swimwear and I won’t go back! They cover kids up well, are UPF 50, and the best part is they can take them on and off by themselves.

  7. I started using organic cold pressed coconut oil last summer. It was amazing and I didn’t need to worry about sunscreen unless we were going to be out all day. I’m really fair skinned, but would use it even in the pool…no burns.

  8. @Danika–honestly, I’m not sure. Just whenever I’ve used zinc oxide products, I get a rash. It could be something else in the mix, but it’s not just sunscreen, it’s deodorants too.

  9. I really wrestle with the sunscreen / sun exposure conundrum. My solution is to use alternatives to sunscreen, and to only apply sunscreen when I feel it’s actually needed. If we’re going to the mostly-shaded park for half an hour, and my kids are wearing hats, we omit the sunscreen. But when we go to the beach, even with other measures, we do use it.

    And, like you, I try to make the best choice based on the information I have and advocate for better choices overall.

  10. Well we actually live in oregon, lol, and for most of the year I really don’t have to worry much about sunscreen. In fact, more worry comes from a lack of Vitamin D.

    I do worry about the nanoparticles and have had Oxybenzone off the list for years. I try to have a balance. No sunscreen on short exposures and the best researched sunscreen I can do on days when exposure would cause a burn. We also try to use protective clothing and shade as much as possible too.

    I am starting to think sunscreens benefits do not outweigh the risks for the most part.

  11. I’m a super pale redhead and I use enough sunscreen that I got curious and started reading up. Here’s what I know.

    Titanium dioxide has been classified as possibly carcinogenic to humans by the International Agency for Cancer Research, a part of the World Heath Organization.

    Studies so far have involved rats inhaling ultra fine TiO2, (particles in the nano-scale). The rats developed lung inflammation, lung cancer and respiratory tract cancer.

    Retrospective studies of humans who worked in production of TiO2 showed no link to lung cancer.

    There have been no studies about TiO2 as a pigment in paint or cosmetics (as it is used in sunscreen).

    That said, inhaling TiO2 nanoparticles on a regular basis seems much different from using it in sunscreen. Can the nanoparticles in sunscreen become airborne and then be inhaled? How far do they penetrate the skin? I don’t know, and I haven’t seen any research getting toward an answer.

    I like to be well informed, but I decided not to worry about this. We still have a lot to learn, and I’m not going to drive myself crazy.

    Lastly, as for the term ‘micronized’, it simply refers to the size of the TiO2 particles as being a few microns. One micron is 1000 times one nanometer, and a nanoparticle is 1 to 100 nanometers. A micron is still very small, but the idea is that a micron-sized particle is not as easily absorbed by the body.

  12. We don’t use sunscreen except in the event that we’ll be out in the sun all day, without reliable shade – i.e. at the beach or waiting in lines at Disney.

    Otherwise, I believe the risks from not getting ENOUGH UV exposure (things like Vitamin D deficiency – which can contribute to a supressed immune system), combined with the potential risks from the chemicals in sunscreen, FAR outweighs the potential risk of skin cancer.

    I do insist on sunglasses and/or hats and when we do wear sunscreen, we use Badger brand.

    Smart sun exposure is key. There’s just no reason to wear sunscreen all day every day as some recommend. You NEED the sun. You just don’t want to get burned.


  13. Greenpeace believes that all new nano-particles and chemicals should be
    fully tested for their all potential health effects before being allowed
    on the market. This also goes for all the substances already on the
    market which have yet to be full tested. In addition to the risks posed
    by chemicals in consumer products, the manufacture of these substances
    can also put large numbers of people at risk. For example, when
    chemical manufacturers such as DuPont make titanium dioxide (T2), they
    use huge amounts of chlorine gas. In the event of a catastrophic leak
    that gas could kill or injure thousands of people living up to14 miles
    away. Senator Lautenberg (D-NJ) plans to introduce disaster prevention
    legislation very soon. If enacted it would ensure that the highest risk
    plants use safer available processes to eliminate these risks. Last year
    we inspected several high risk plants including a DuPont plant that
    makes T2. To see what we found and what you can do go to:

  14. Thanks for writing this. I was thinking of this same subject the other day, when I took some jerseys out of my soccer coaches bag and they smelled like sunscreen. I looked up our current sunscreen on EWG’s website and saw that ours was one of the worst ones out there. You get what you pay for I suppose. This year I am on the lookout for a good safe economical (okay cheap) sunscreen for my family. My husband has a family history of skin cancer so it is important to protect my family and not wearing sunscreen is not an option.

  15. Amy, thanks for the great info about the dangers of sunscreen ingredients. It’s a shame when folks are trying to protect themselves and end up doing more damage in the long run. Great work getting the truth out!
    Nanoparticles In Sunscreen

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  18. I hardly ever wear the stuff, I tan quite well, and it takes a long time for me to burn in the sun, even direct sun on a beach.Exotic Dancers Atlantic City

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