Colombian skin care expert Dr. Maribel Pedrozo, known as the Beauty Alchemist, talks to People CHICA about the benefits of sunscreen, addressing notion that chemicals in sunscreen may cause cancer.

By Lena Hansen
June 24, 2019 02:17 PM

Can sunscreen cause cancer? Recent claims by some health and environmental groups that toxic chemicals in sunscreen can be harmful and cause cancer has consumers worried. The trend of using diaper rash creams instead of sunscreen for protection against ultraviolet rays is also alarming. Some reports claim that oxybenzone, an ingredient commonly used in sunscreens, can cause skin allergies and affects hormones. Some studies also suggest that oxybenzone may be harmful to coral reefs, motivating Hawaii to ban the sale of sunscreen products containing this ingredient starting in 2021.

CHICA spoke to celebrity aesthetician Dr. Maribel Pedrozo about this controversy. The Colombian skin care expert and owner of Biobell Oriental MedSpa in Miami says that not using sunscreen is far more harmful than using it. She recommends using sunscreens with a sun protector factor (SPF) of at least 30 for people staying mostly indoors and using one over 50 or 80 SPF for those directly exposed to the sun outdoors. "We must realize that ultraviolet sun rays have very harmful effects on the skin, producing photoaging, sunburn, and skin cancers like melanoma. There are studies that show that certain chemical ingredients in some sunscreens affect the skin and cause diseases, but at this time, the known risk of sun rays far exceeds the potential risk posed by these substances," Pedrozo emphasizes.

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According to Pedrozo there is no excuse to stop using sunscreen, we just have to chose the right one. She recommends sunscreens with mineral ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. "These are safe and have been tested in clinical studies, besides the fact that these mineral ingredients create a physical barrier that protects against the sun," she says.

Pedrozo explains that sunscreens with "chemical ingredients" use a variety of chemical substances like "oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, homosalate, octocrylene, octinoxate, Para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), dioxybenzone and parabens, among others, and these create a chemical reaction in order to prevent damages caused by UVA and UVB rays. These chemicals are worrisome since they are capable of penetrating the skin barriers and other issues according to medical studies." The aesthetician adds that many beauty items such as BB creams that have artificial dyes and moisturizers now contains sunscreen, so sun protection is now incorporated into much more complex cosmetic products.

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Len Lichtenfeld, MD, deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, recommends sunscreens sold and marketed in the US due to limited information about sunscreens produced in other countries, according to an article on http://www.cancer.org. "Each person should make an individual decision that's most appropriate for themselves," states Lichtenfeld. "But the experts who have looked at the data have concluded that the potential risk of not using sunscreen far outweighs the risks of using sunscreen."

Also, the FDA recommends not using sunscreen past its expiration date to ensure it is still safe. "I'm concerned about the human impact to limiting the use of sunscreen. I personally accept the FDA's advice that available sunscreens are safe. But I encourage people to read the reports for themselves and make an individual decision on the type of sunscreen and what ingredients they should use," added Lichtenfeld.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) alerts people against using products with oxybenzone, octinoxate and homosalate since they claim these are endocrine disruptors that could interfere with the thyroid and hormonal processes in the body.

Omar Charcousse

Sometimes going back to basics can be refreshing and safer, the Beauty Alchemist assures. Below, Pedrozo shared an exclusive DIY recipe to make sunscreen at home.

INGREDIENTS:

-2 spoonfuls of organic coconut oil

-2 spoonfuls of organic bee wax

- 2 spoonfuls of avocado oil

-1 teaspoonful of vitamin E or wheat germ

-30 grams of cocoa butter

-10 grams of zinc oxide

-1 spoonful of organic aloe vera gel

-15 drops of carrot oil

PREPARATION:

Boil in a water bath the avocado, coconut and carrot oils mixed with the cocoa butter and aloe vera. Slowly add the zinc oxide and mix. Then slowly add the bee wax until it melts, and lastly add the Vitamin E or wheat germ. Mix well and let the mixture rest. Then store in a dark jar or flask and keep it tightly closed. It can last from 2 to 4 months.

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