Follow-Up: Paula Begoun on the EWG and Vitamin-A-Related Sunscreen Warnings

By Voxy  

whip me by Xhanatos.Remember the recent kerfluffle over whether or not Vitamin A in sunscreens was safe? Paula Begoun has weighed in on the issue, and while I don’t always agree with her qualitative evaluations of products, I trust the soundness of her research.

You can read the full post here (and I highly recommend it), but here is an excerpt. Bold-face type is as it appears in the original post.

“Once again, the EWG has propagated incomplete, ridiculous information under the guise of being consumer watchdogs—and once again lots of consumers are eyeing their sunscreens with the same suspicion they’d normally reserve for an unmarked vat of toxic chemicals.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) was implicated in this report, with the basic sentiment being that the risks associated with retinyl palmitate and skin damage was something they were aware of yet failed to warn the public about. Reading the EWG report, you’d think a large percentage of sunscreen-wearing consumers would be stricken with cancer (never mind that sun exposure in and of itself is the most potent carcinogen we’re exposed to on a daily basis) by the very products they’re using in good faith to prevent this disease. In fact, the EWG report points to the increased use of sunscreen as the cause for the increase in current skin cancer cases. This is the very definition of stupidity. The real reason for rising skin cancer rates is the simple fact that today’s skin cancer rates are the result of decades of long-term unprotected sun exposure. Not to mention research shows only 10% of the population even uses sunscreen on a regular basis.

The EWG’s assertions about sunscreen efficacy flies in the face of hundreds of published, peer-reviewed studies from medical and research centers all over the world proving sunscreen can prevent skin cancer as well as wrinkles and skin discolorations.

In terms of vitamin A in sunscreens being a concern, the EWG seems to be completely ignorant of the fact that retinyl palmitate is one of the primary sources of antioxidant protection found naturally in skin (Source: Toxicology and Industrial Health, May 2006, pages 181–191).”

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  1. avatar a biologist
    Posted July 20, 2010 at 6:36 pm | Permalink | Reply

    This relates to a question I’ve been meaning to ask the Collective, however. I am confused about anti-aging products.

    There are anti-aging ingredients like retinol make your skin more sensitive to sunlight, correct? So, you need to make sure to wear sunscreen if you use it, right? I think that is what it usually says on the packages.

    But what if you are just beginning to think about using anti-aging potions? Would the sensitivity to sunlight cancel out the wrinkle fighting benefits to some extent? I am an obsessive sunblock user so I don’t really have much damage, but those lines are starting to appear.


    • avatar Voxy
      Posted July 20, 2010 at 9:54 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Yes to the need to use sunscreen, and no to the canceling out of benefits.

      Most of the time you will be using your retinol product at night, anyway.


      • avatar a biologist
        Posted July 21, 2010 at 12:25 am | Permalink | Reply

        So the effect of the retinol is more of a topical effect? If used at night, by morning by skin should not be extra sensitive to sunlight?

        Btw, Voxy, you and the rest of the vixens have glammed me up so much I’m about to qualify for VIB at Sephora.


        • avatar Voxy
          Posted July 21, 2010 at 7:28 am | Permalink | Reply

          Well, sunlight renders retinol inactive, so using it during the day is kind of pointless. But all exfoliants increase photosensitivity, hence the “be sure to wear sunscreen” warning. This is true of AHAs and BHAs as well as retinol.

          This does not necessarily mean that if you forget to wear sunscreen one day after using retinol that you’ll come home with a face as red as a lobster. But since you’re working to help reduce sun damage, the product won’t appear to be effective if you’re causing new sun damage every day. And, of course, new sun damage is bad regardless.

          “Btw, Voxy, you and the rest of the vixens have glammed me up so much I’m about to qualify for VIB at Sephora. ”


          I am so proud. ;)


          • avatar a biologist
            Posted July 21, 2010 at 7:42 pm | Permalink | Reply

            Thanks Voxy! I have a careful daily sun protection routine, but my skin very pasty and Biologistville is reasonably sunny. Especially now. Evil Daystar, I’m looking at you.

            I was worried that if I missed a spot or spent a little extra time outside on a given day, I’d get a sunburn.

            So I guess I’ll check out some of the more gentle exfoliants.


  2. avatar marigolds
    Posted July 20, 2010 at 2:43 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Word. I’m glad that Sensible Paula has cleared that up.


  3. avatar Francie
    Posted July 20, 2010 at 1:31 pm | Permalink | Reply



    Mr. Francie read something about the alleged toxins in sunscreen and promptly threw out most of our sunscreen supply. Then, he bought some with just zinc oxide as the active ingredient. So now, after slathering on the stuff just before loading his golf clubs into the trunk, there’s sticky white residue all over the rear bumper, the trunk lid, and the door handles of our cars.

    I repeat, GRRRRRR!! He’s not getting near the new, dark blue Accord that we pick up this Thursday unless he switches to a different sunscreen.


    • avatar Voxy
      Posted July 20, 2010 at 9:54 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Heh. I am imagining you socking it to Mr. Francie.


      • avatar Francie
        Posted July 21, 2010 at 9:39 am | Permalink | Reply

        You bet. I’m making him read your post and the linked article.

        Seriously and in fairness to him, I think the sunscreen issue hit home because of his father’s death due to melanoma. Now, my FIL was 84 and had had melanoma for about 10 years (cancer moving more slowly in the elderly, I’m told). Sunscreen was unheard of when he was young, and he spent 8 years in the Navy, scorching on the high seas.

        The EWG campaign against sunscreen is, IMO, reprehensible.


  4. avatar Inthelab
    Posted July 20, 2010 at 11:19 am | Permalink | Reply

    Thank you Paula.
    Years ago, Reader’s Digest had a writer,last name Cherry I think, who wrote similar scare articles to EWG’s about the dangers of wearing sunglasses (your pupils will be dilated so you’ll get cataracts) and sunscreens (they contain psoralens. As if).


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