After sampling and enjoying Simply Zinc (along with a few of CyberDERM’s excellent skincare products, which I will detail in another post), I had the delightful opportunity to speak with Dr. Denis Dudley, one of CyberDERM’s founders as well as its President and CEO. Dr. Dudley is a retired OB-GYN and endocrinologist, which means that he understands the importance of safe ingredients from all sorts of angles. Before speaking with Dr. Dudley, I fancied myself a very knowledgeable consumer of sunscreens, perhaps even a bit of an informal expert. I assumed that I would ask questions about his company, but that when it came to sunscreen itself, I knew about everything I needed to know. I could not have been more wrong!
Dr. Dudley’s passion for safe and effective sunscreen was palpable over the phone, and it did not take me long to realize that his knowledge about the topic is eons beyond that of any other doctor I have met (this includes dermatologists). Below are things I learned from our conversations and correspondence. All credit for the information below goes to Dr. Dudley (e.g., in other words, he is the brilliant one, and I am just the translator).
What You Need to Know about Sunscreens in North America with Dr. Denis Dudley, Retired OB-GYN and Endocrinologist
The clear majority of North American sunscreens are UVB-biased and do not provide balanced UVA protection.
Why is this important?
- UVA protection is shortchanged, yet UVA penetrates to the deeper dermis where the important elements regulating genetics, immunity, and cell function reside, while UVB barely penetrates through the epidermis.
- UVA is largely responsible for photoaging.
- Photoaging, in turn, is responsible for up to 90% of the visible changes attributed to aging
- Emerging science implicates UVA in skin cancer, and the lack of adequate UVA protection is implicated in rising annual skin cancer rates in North America (2-3% over the past 4 years).
Balanced UVA/UVB protection is necessary to better prevent photoaging and to stop the rise in skin cancer.
Not only do UVB-biased sunscreens provide questionable sun protection, they also pose health risks due to their use of soluble filters.
- Soluble filters in UVB-biased sunscreens include but are not limited to oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, homosalate, octocrylene, unencapsulated OMC, and 4-MBC.
- Soluble filters enter the blood through the skin and are known to be estrogenic hormone disrupters and carcinogens. These sunscreen and cosmetic chemicals likely represent the single most important source of human exposure to hormone disruptors in our society and present a clear and present danger to the reproductive and other endocrine systems.
- Reproductive system problems linked to hormone disruptors range from infertility, polycystic ovarian syndrome, endometriosis, fibroids, breast and uterine cancer, prostate cancer, oligospermia and male infertility.
- Non-reproductive disorders include ADHD and autism spectrum disorders, asthma, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, and thyroid cancer.
The only way for sunscreen ingredients like oxybenzone, adobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene, and octinoxate to be safe is if they are encapsulated (and unless specified, assume they are unencapsulated.)
Additionally, UVB-biased sunscreens commonly use another soluble ingredient that poses both health and environmental risks: oxybenzone (typically used in UVB-biased sunscreens as a UVB and shortwave UVA2 filter, as well as to stabilize avobenzone).
- Biomonitoring studies have demonstrated that oxybenzone is found in 97% of Americans tested.
- Dudley himself—when conducting studies as a reproductive endocrinologist–even found oxybenzone in the blood of unborn babies.
- Sunscreens with oxybenzone are destroying coral reefs all over the world–to the extent that Hawaii is currently working to ban their usage.
- This vast destruction of coral reefs is not just a tourist issue, it is a food chain and ecosystem issue.
The way sunscreens are currently categorized is misleading. Dr. Dudley advises that anyone serious about sun protection base their selections on INGREDIENTS, NOT SPF labels.
- You cannot rely on labels in N. America. SPF values can be only 10-20% of their labeled SPF when measured in sunlight.
- The Critical Wavelength (CW) adopted by the FDA and Health Canada for judging UVA protection and allowing a ”Broad Spectrum UVB/UVA” label claim can be inaccurate. It is not a direct measure of UVA-Protection Factor (UVA-PF), as mandated in the EU.
- The EWG assessed over 1800 sunscreens and found that 90% had little or no UVA-I protection, despite a broad-spectrum label claim.
- Here is an example. One leading brand uses 9% zinc oxide with 7.5 % regular (soluble) octinoxate and claims SPF 45. Compare this to CyberDERM’s Every Morning Sun Whip™ with 15% zinc oxide and 7.5% encapsulated octinoxate – SPF 25.
- Looking at actual absorption curves, CyberDERM’s Every Morning Sun Whip stops almost twice the UV radiation at virtually every wavelength.
- The consumer never sees absorption curves.
- It is unclear how the brand SPF got to 45 when CyberDERM’s with the same but higher filter levels is labeled 25.
- If the consumer chose between these two products solely based on the SPF, they would get inferior protection.
- CyberDERM Simply Zinc ™ Sun Whip with 22% clear zinc oxide is SPF 30 yet has a UVAPF >10 arguably the highest in N. America.
Rather than choosing a UVB-biased sunscreen with SPF 100 that will afford minimal UVA protection, look for a formulation with either:
- Zinc oxide at 20% or more
- Zinc oxide at 15% or more along with an ENCAPSULATED second filter
WHY LOOK FOR THESE HIGH LEVELS OF ZINC OXIDE?
Currently, very few effective UVA blockers are available in North America. In the US, zinc oxide is the only good option currently available to us.
- Zinc oxide is the single best and safest broad spectrum UV filter available anywhere although there are new filters elsewhere in the world like bemotrizinol and biscotrizole—not available in the US–that improve the performance of traditional particles like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
- Zinc oxide can be used alone or combined with two other particle type insoluble filters – titanium dioxide or encapsulated oxtinoxate
- The challenge with zinc oxide is to make it aesthetic.
- Most forms of zinc oxide leave a ghostly cast and do not blend, even when they are advertised as Invisible.
- CyberDERM, on the other hand, has crafted two sunscreens with zinc oxide that leave no cast and blend effortlessly (Melissa).
- CyberDERM is the safest and best sunscreen company I (Melissa) have found after a great deal of searching. Simply Zinc Sun Whip is their strongest protection. They also offer Every Morning Sun Whip SPF 25 with 15% zinc oxide and encapsulated octinoxate, which blends easily with a slightly lighter texture.
Why didn’t you know this already?
- In North America, a conspiracy of silence around soluble filters due to industry pressure has prevented the public from becoming widely informed about their contraindications for absorption, hormone disruption, and environmental toll.
- For example, the EU has a specific UVA Protection Factor mandated for all sunscreens along with the requirement of a critical wavelength above a certain value. An outcry from industry (full of UVB-biased products) stopped the FDA from adopting these full EU evaluation systems.
To read more riveting insights from Dr. Dudley, you can visit his blog http://thesunscreendoc.blogspot.com/