A few weeks ago, I had blogged about the importance of getting unimpeded sun to up your Vitamin D levels. And, if you remember, I mentioned that it's all about moderation. You don't want to bake in the sun for 3 hours without any protection. However, a lot of the protection (sunscreen) on the market may be more detrimental to your health than beneficial.
In the beginning of July, there was a research article released by a Washington-based non-profit organization called the Environmental Working Group that pointed to a health-hazard possibility of many sunscreens. In their research, they determined that 4 of 5 national brands of sunscreen do NOT adequately protect from "harmful" UVA and UVB rays and that the sunscreens actually may contain harmful chemicals.
Some of those harmful chemicals are:
Oxybenzone (aka: Benzophenone-3) - linked to allergic reactions when exposed to sunlight; hormone disruptions; cancer
Ensulizole (aka: Phenylbenzimidazole Sulfonic Acid) - known to produce free-radicals (cancer causing agents) when exposed to sunlight
Padimate O (aka: PABA) - research has shown this chemical to cause DNA damage, estrogenic activity (increased estrogen levels), and allergic reactions
Octinoxate (aka: Octyl Methoxycinnamate) - most widely used sunscreen ingredient; estrogenic effects, disruption of thyroid hormone and brain signals
As you can see, many of these ingredients may even cause that from which you are trying to protect yourself, skin cancer. These are just some of the chemicals that are placed in sunscreen to help "protect" yourself from the "harmful" rays of the sun.
I you do need to use suncreen and you want to avoid any potentially harmful chemicals, try to find ones without the four chemicals listed above. A good way to do so is to go to a health foods store or supplement store. One other great source is to use a natural or organic baby sunscreen. My wife, son, and I use an organic sunscreen that we bought at Babies R Us. It's a little more expensive, but at least we're not contaminating our bodies with chemicals that may actually cause cancer when exposed to sunlight.