‘A’ still a Scarlet Letter

Sun Protection — February 14, 2011
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Luckily we’re not living in 17th century puritan Boston. However, it seems ‘A’ is still a burning issue. Literally.  In this case, ‘A’ is for acceleration.

Last year a study was released citing a mere 8% of 500 widely recognized sunscreens as being safe. The rest contained a widely used but very hazardous-to-your-health ingredient called — Vitamin A.  Sounds a bit like an oxymoron doesn’t it?

How could a vitamin be harmful? Vitamin A and its by-products such as retinyl palmitate were found to actually speed up the incident of skin cancer.

Why is vitamin A an ingredient in sunscreen anyway? ‘A’ is also is for antioxidant, aging and additive. It’s a common ingredient used by sunscreen manufacturers to prevent sunburn and halt the aging process.

S.O. that’s a good thing, right? In theory it may sound ok. While we’re all for antioxidants, we don’t want them derived from Vitamin A in our sunscreen.  The study revealed that Vitamin A lived up to claims that it is really good at preventing sunburn. What was shocking however was finding that Vitamin A is also classified as a photocarcinogen.  In simple terms, when used on tissue exposed to light, Vitamin A can cause cancer.

What is being done? Currently the FDA lacks regulations in the personal care products industry and has even gone so far as to deny the findings of the Vitamin A study. While manufacturers should follow due diligence with the latest information given, there’s nothing forcing them to change their formulations. Ultimately, it is up consumers to take ownership of their own health. Shopping the more natural holistic care aisles is a good way to find Vitamin A-free sunscreens.

S.O. the good news is that ‘A’ is also for alternative.  Finding chemical-free personal care products is challenging for sure, but they’re out there.  Get to know the harmful ingredients and helpful info like that listed in the EWG’s databases before you go shopping and you’ll get an ‘A’ for effort.

And when you do see Vitamin A in sunscreen, think of poor Hester Prynne who was forced to wear the letter A as a badge of shame for her indiscretions. While we’re not seeing adulterers being lambasted in the town square, we are dealing with another serious issue. Potential cancer causing ingredients in our sunscreen is something we’re glad was brought to light.  In the end though, it’s all about choice and we’re choosing to stay away from A.



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