The 10 Most Shocking Things About Sunscreen

April 30, 2013
Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Award-winning nutritionist and New York Times bestselling author.

What you don’t know about sunscreen may be hurting you.

After reading study after study reporting the alarming increase in skin cancer cases over the last several years, I’ve started to wonder what sunscreen might have to do with it. I recently came across the research of Dr. Elizabeth Plourde, the author of Sunscreens Biohazard – Treat as Hazardous Waste. Dr. Plourde is a hormone specialist with 25 years of extensive medical research and writing to her credit who has recently focused her attention on the hormonally-disruptive chemicals utilized in sunscreens. I had the opportunity to speak with her recently and here are the most disturbing conclusions of her research:

1. Sunscreens are now in 97% of Americans’ blood streams and in 85% of breast milk samples.

2. The rapid increase in melanoma cases demonstrates sunscreen is NOT the answer. Sunscreens contribute to its cause because they leave the skin open to deeper penetrating radiation! The FDA only requires UV filtering, but UV rays only make up 4% of the solar radiation spectrum. Sunscreen use exposes the skin longer to near infrared (NIR) rays that account up 47% of solar radiation and penetrate deeper than UV rays.

3. Sunscreen chemicals pass through the placenta causing fetal development disruption. Fish show gender disruption due to sunscreen chemicals’ strong hormonal influences, indicating the same gender disruption can occur in human fetuses. Common in the news today are children with gender identity confusion.

4. Sunscreen is now being linked to autism. Recent statistics show that autism is continuing to rise and to increase more rapidly in boys, which highlights the importance of addressing the many connections that connect the development of autism with the use of sunscreens.

  • The ratio of autistic boys compared to girls has risen from 4:1 to 4.6:1, or approximately 5 boys to every girl. Sunscreens are more potent anti-testosterones than Flutamide, the anti-testosterone drug given to prostate cancer patients to block the action of their testosterone. This would impact male development more than female development.
  • Autistic children demonstrate thyroid disruption. Sunscreens demonstrate the ability to disrupt normal thyroid development in the fetus. Abnormal thyroid affects speech and cognitive skills, both are aspects of the spectrum of autistic disorders.
  •  Autism rates vary by race. The MMWR (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report) 2008 reconfirms Caucasians have a higher incidence rate than either African Americans or Hispanics. More Caucasians use sunscreen than the other two groups, as evidenced by the higher percentage of sunscreen chemicals found in their blood.
  • The rise in autism incidence parallels the rise in sunscreen use. In the 1970s and 1980s when sunscreens were introduced, the incidence of children diagnosed with autism was approximately 1 in 2,000. The MMWR 2008 reports that it is now 11 per 1,000.
  • Vitamin D is identified as crucial to proper brain development before the age of 2.  Sunscreen blocks vitamin D production and proper brain development cannot take place. The deficiencies in the brain development—as a result of low vitamin D—are being identified in autistic children.
  • Aluminum is suspected as a cause of autism. Sunscreens contain aluminum—whether it is listed on the label or not—as it is used in processing the ingredients.

5. Vitamin D deficiency is becoming pandemic. Sunscreen use prevents the ability of the skin to manufacture our vitally important vitamin D. Diseases that occur from low vitamin D are increasing at rapid rates, including cancers. The cost for cancers resulting from vitamin D deficiencies in 2004 alone are estimated to be between $40 – 56 billion.

6. Coral die within 96 hours of exposure to low levels of sunscreen chemicals. The stress created by these toxins makes coral less resistant to slight temperature fluctuations.

7. Phytoplankton, the crucial bottom of the food chain, die because they absorb sunscreens’ zinc oxide until they explode.

8. Sunscreen chemicals are now ubiquitous in our lakes and rivers around the world.

9. Upon exposure to sunscreen chemicals, fish become “inter-sexed” as they develop both male and female reproductive organs. Some even stop spawning all together.

10. Sunscreen chemicals are even in muscles of the fish we eat.

All of this may seem a little overwhelming because it flies in the face of conventional wisdom and everything we have been taught by dermatologists and skincare experts over the last decade. I’m sure you may be as disturbed as I am, but I have some practical suggestions that will help you to transition into a skin-protective program from the outside in and the inside out.

This was such a popular article here on my blog last Spring, that I felt it was important to share with you again this year. Watch for my next blog where I’ll talk about the best natural methods of protecting yourself!


Related Articles and Podcasts

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS, is an award-winning New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty books including The Fat Flush Plan series and her latest book, Radical Metabolism. She’s been rewriting the rules of nutrition for more than 40 years and is internationally recognized as a pioneer in the field of diet, detox and women’s health issues. 

For a FREE daily dose of tips and strategies for maintaining healthy weight, conquering insomnia, and much more…check out my Radical Health Tips.

I’d like to meet and greet you on my Facebook groups, so won’t you check us out at the Radical Metabolism RevolutionFat Flush Nation, or my Inner Circle!


  1. Leah

    What does it say about zinc oxide found in diaper rash creams which we use liberally on our babies?

    • Sierra

      Leah, I would try a small amount of coconut oil for your baby’s diaper rash! It is extremely soothing and also has antifungal and antibacterial properties 🙂 Plus, safe and natural!

    • Cortney

      Lavender with coconut oil is also a good aid against diaper rash.

  2. administrator

    Leah – Zinc oxide is the only really safe sunscreen out there.

  3. Pat Chapman

    This is all very new and concerning. I have early stages of rosacea and when I’m in the sun with no block on my cheeks look like tomatoes! I love to be tanned in the summer. I’m also using Metrogel which seems to help. Thoughts?

    • terry

      I realize this answer is about a year late, but just saw your post. I was also given metrogel for rosacea, however this just treats the symptoms. I was later tested for food allergies and sensitivities and when I cut out the offending foods, including wheat, my skin cleared up as well as many other symptoms. Worth checking out.

    • Molly K Barry

      I’ve been reading that both Milk of Magnesia and Selsun Blue with selenium have successfully treated Rosacea by interfering with the fungus or whatever it is that causes Rosacea…..I do believe that magnesium supplements helped mine in the past and when I stopped using them, the Rosacea came back……right now I’m trying Selsun Blue as a face wash every other day.

    • Susieb

      There is a very good homeopathic for Rosacea. Look at
      A few well known books such as ” Everybody’s guide to Homeopathic Medicines”.

  4. Amy

    I have been buying the Blue Lizard sunscreen from Australia because it was supposed to be “hormone free.” Do you know anything about that?

    • Peggy

      Just looked at the ingredients for blue lizard, awful stuff. Lots of hormones in there, all the parabens, plus loads of other poisons. Dr. Mercola’s products are the best.

  5. Sophie

    Thank you so much for this valuable information. As you write, we are using more and more sunscreen products and are having more and more skin cancers….and other disorders. And we are being led to believe the sun is absolutely deadly when we as humans need sun to live. We are also being led to believe more sunscreen is the answer. I anxiously await your next blog to learn how to protect ourselves while still enjoying fresh air and sunshine as humans were meant to do. We need the sun but also need to know how to safely enjoy nature in our toxic world. You and your team provide great guidelines on these matters. Many thanks.

  6. Erika

    What is your take on natural sunscreens, derived from organic ingredients such as green tea? I know that conventional sunscreen is incredibly toxic, so I have always looked for alternatives. Currently, a natural green tea based sunscreen is what I use on my kids, otherwise they will burn. Is what I am using okay, or are there even better ways to protect my little ones from burning?

    • Vickie

      We recently went to Hawaii with our young grandchildren. Both my husband and I have had melanoma, so we are very cautious when we are in the sun. We both wear hats and wear sunglasses ALL the time. In Hawaii, we all wore long-sleeved rash guards with UV protection. We all also wore hats, even in the water. None of us got tanned or burned. We spent hours playing in the sand, playing in the water and snorkeling, so the rashguards really worked. You can find them at Target, as well as on-line many places.

  7. administrator

    Kindly provide the full ingredients of your green tea sunscreen, Kim?

  8. Zee

    I never have used sunscreens–not on myself or my children. I was always taught that the best sun protection was just getting little doses at a time. Now I’m happy that I didn’t use them.

  9. Kathy

    Is this green tea sunscreen something we can cook up at home? If so, what is the recipe?

  10. Kathy

    Is the green tea sunscreen something we can cook up at home? If so, what is the recipe?

  11. Cristee

    Could you give us any suggestions to a safe alternative? Zinc oxide by itself?

    Thank you!

    • Cristee

      Ah I read on to the end. The answer will be in your next blog!

  12. Nuri Fraile Lopez

    Haia i’m a medical herbalist and i was told at University that sesame seed oil is a natural SPF of 19. I have been using this oil for years and it works really well. I buyed in the health food shop.

  13. Laura

    So, after that rather shocking news (news to me anyway) what sunscreen is on the market currently that is safe?

  14. maryellen applegate

    I am very concerned regarding this information and would like to know what should we be doing in the meantime while you compile your next blog. I am very concerned and want the best for myself and children. I am always lathering them up within a hour and half after each application. Am I creating more health issues than I am preventing? Please let me know asap! The summer is almost here and we are always at the beach. Concerned to the extreme.

  15. Phen

    Vitamin D production in your skin is good.
    Skin cancer is bad.

    But there’s nothing that will protect your skin from the sun’s cancer-causing rays while allowing vitamin D production to remain undiminished.

    That’s why you have to get your vitamin D from supplements and/or food. Don’t rely on sun exposure to give you your vitamin D.

  16. Nick

    Be very careful what you read. I would have to see the statistics before I believed ANY of this. Saying that Caucasians have higher rates of autism probabably because they use sunscreen is VERY far from proving any causality. That is like saying that Asians have darker skin because they eat more soy sauce. Shot in the dark at best!

  17. administrator

    Thanks for all of your comments. We suggest that you read all the science for yourself which is presented in the 508 citations in the book that Dr. Gittleman references, Sunscreens and Biohazard. With regard to “safer” sun practices, do check out the next blog:)

  18. Heidi

    thank you for this article on sunscreens and I look forward to seeing what would be a healthy choice for my children and myself.

  19. beuna

    I have also heard of using sesame oil as a sunscreen. Shared on Facebook – wish there was a “Pin It” button with this post.

  20. Cara Craig

    I’ve always loved sunshine! And am actually glad I’ve stayed away from sunscreen, despite the use of it being drilled into our heads. I try to get about 15-20 minutes of sunshine, then I simply get out of the sun. Maybe I’ll get wrinkles, maybe I’ll even get skin cancer, but the benefits of the sunshine & vitamin D are very meaningful to me. We can’t live without the sun! Even my dog instinctively knows to take a little sunbath daily, when she can. Just my opinions…

  21. Cara Craig

    Are there any all-natural + non-harmful “near infrared ray” screening products?

  22. Jared

    What many of you do not know is that we cause much of the problems with our skin by wearing sunglasses when we’re outside in the sun. Our eyes are what triggers the brain to tell our skin to protect us from the sun. When you wear sunglasses you are tricking your brain into believing it is indoors and your skin does not naturally protect itself from the suns rays as it would if you were not wearing sunglasses. Every wonder why some kids get so tan and never burn in the sun and yet never use sunscreen or wear sunglasses? They build the proper immunity to the suns rays naturally. I know this first hand because I was one of those kids. I am now 42 years old and still have great skin. Think about it! It’s make perfect sense!

    • mtn girl

      or, more likely, it’s your skin type. Some people don’t burn at all, some people have fair skin and burn no matter what.

  23. Sharon

    Coconut oil has worked very well as a sunscreen for me; and my daughter uses it on herself and family, including her 3 year old. None of us have had sunburn using coconut oil, not even after spending a full day at Disney nor a couple hours on the beach.

  24. Kay

    Jared – what a fascinating theory, or thought … I’m going to have to think about this more but I think you may be on to something! Very interesting …

  25. ana perez

    could you please put here the link to the article about safe sunscreens…? thank you for the article. it wasn’t really new for me the fact that dna skin gets damage when using sunscreen… but the other things were new…. The problem is that for me is not clear what to use… All this info should be more known… we are using something that hurts us. Please spread the word



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