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New Research Calls Sunscreen Safety Into Question

lady at the beach

Last month, an independent laboratory found cancer-causing chemicals in 78 of the sun care products they tested.1 Some of them contained up to three times what the FDA allows.

Almost immediately, the sunscreen industry questioned the accuracy of the study. When that didn’t work, they blamed the manufacturing process.

I’ve been telling you for years that commercial sunscreens put you at risk for the skin cancer it’s supposed to protect you from.2 But these lotions also increase your risk of heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, depression, cognitive decline – and even skin wrinkles.3,4,5,6,7

The ingredient found by this lab is one of the most concerning human carcinogens we know of. Even tiny amounts increase your risk of leukemia and other blood disorders by as much as 40%.8

And this isn’t the first time cancer-causing ingredients were detected. The EWG – a nonprofit environmental advocacy group – discovered DNA-damaging chemicals in 75% of the products they tested.

Most people think sunscreens just sit on the surface of the skin.

For years, I’ve been fighting this misperception and revealing the real truth.

These Cancer-Causing Chemicals are Absorbed Through Your Skin

A recent clinical trial funded by the FDA and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association confirms this. Researchers studied the effects of the active ingredients in four popular sunscreens applied topically and found that the chemicals were absorbed into the bloodstream. And at higher concentrations than an established FDA threshold.

Yet, the FDA continues to tell us that sunscreen is “safe” and should be applied often.

But these dangerous ingredients aren’t the only secret the sunscreen industry is hiding. They don’t want you to know that their lotions are causing your skin to age in two ways.

First, by increasing damaging free radicals in your skin.

Free radicals are molecules that do serious damage to DNA and skin cells, causing rapid skin aging as well as skin cancer.

When sunscreen is absorbed into your skin and then exposed to sunlight, it causes a molecular reaction that results in free radicals.

In one study, researchers covered skin with a variety of popular sunscreens and then exposed the skin to UV light.

Then they measured the level of free radicals in the skin and compared the results to what they found when they exposed skin to UV light without sunscreen.

Shockingly, there were fewer free radicals in the skin that had no sunscreen!9 That’s because the ingredients in most sunscreens react with UV light to create free radicals.

But, there’s an even bigger reason to stop slathering sunscreen all over your body… It blocks your vitamin D production by a whopping 98%.

And vitamin D is one of the hormones that controls how fast your skin ages.10

Studies show that women over age 40 with low vitamin D have more facial skin aging than those with adequate vitamin D.11

Researchers in England at King’s College London followed more than 2,000 women. They found that those women with lowest vitamin D levels had the greatest signs of biological and telomere skin aging.

The best way to increase vitamin D is with what I call gentle tanning. This can give you all the vitamin D you need without burning. And without having to use toxic sunscreens.

Gentle tanning allows your body to build up melanin. That’s the pigment that causes skin to tan. It’s your built-in sunscreen.

By slowly developing this basic tan, you can eventually stay in the sun longer without burning.

Sit in the sun for a 15- to 20-minute period. Do this every day, or at least a few times a week. And be sure to expose the parts of your body that are usually covered by clothing. Roll up your sleeves and pant legs. But do wear a hat. Your face gets enough natural sun exposure every day.

Protect Your Skin From The Dark Side Of Sunscreen

But if you’re going to be outdoors for an extended amount of time, here’s what I suggest.

  • First, choose a zinc oxide-based sunscreen. Unlike chemical sunscreens, zinc oxide sits on top of your skin. It reflects and scatters UV rays and doesn’t penetrate your skin or accumulate in your bloodstream or fat cells. Apply zinc oxide generously on exposed skin at least 30 minutes before sun exposure. Look for microfine zinc oxide. It’s nearly invisible.
  • Then, mix in a small amount of cupuaçu butter. Natural flavonoids and antioxidants in this Brazilian rainforest fruit act as a sunscreen. They protect you from UVA and UVB damage. Just make sure your cupuaçu is “cold-pressed.” Heat processing destroys the natural antioxidants.

To Your Good Health,

Al Sears, MD

Al Sears, MD, CNS



1. Valisure Detects Benzene in Sunscreen. Valisure. Published May 20, 2021.
2. T Churilla et al, Serum vitamin D levels among patients in a clinical oncology practice compared to primary care patients in the same community: a case–control study, British Medical Journal, Dec 2011, 1(2)
3. S Judd et al, Vitamin D Deficiency and Risk for Cardiovascular Disease, American Journal of Medicine and Science, July 2009; 338(1): 40-44
4. I Kostoglou-Athanassiou et al, Vitamin D and rheumatoid arthritis, Therapeutic Advances in Endocrinology and Metabolism, Dec 2012; 3(6): 181-187
5. G Schwalfenberg, Vitamin D and diabetes, Canada Family Physician, June 2008; 54(6): 864-866
6. S Penckofer et al, Vitamin D and Depression: Where is all the Sunshine?, Issues in Menthal Health Nursing, June 2010; 31(6): 385-393
7. P Knekt et al, Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin d concentration and risk of dementia, Epidemiology; Nov 2014; 25(6): 799-804
8. Turner T. Benzene. Published February 21, 2018.
9. D Fernandes, MD. Is sunscreen causing more free radical damage to your skin?, Nov 18, 2008
10. J Reichrath, Unravelling of hidden secrets: The role of vitamin D in skin aging, Dermatoendocrinology, July 2012; 4(3): 241-4
11. A Chang et al, Association of facial skin aging and vitamin D levels in middle-aged white women, Cancer Causes and Control, Dec 2010; 21(12): 2315-2316