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If this vitamin is in your sunscreen, it could actually increase your chance of cancer


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Photo: Stocksy/Jacques van Zyl

Even though it’s becoming easier to weed through ingredient lists to ensure what you’re putting on your body is actually good for you, there are still some harmful components sneaking through. And one of the most common? Retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A that makes you more vulnerable to the sun’s effects, which could potentially increase your risk of skin cancer.

Back in 2010 when the Environmental Working Group (EWG) first brought up concerns about retinyl palmitate, 40 percent of products contained it—something that’s not great considering research found it speeds up the development of tumors and lesions on animals when exposed to sunlight. Now, according to the just-published annual sunscreen report from the EWG, the vitamin A derivative is still found in 1 in 8 of this year’s reviewed products.

Despite being shown to cause cancer in past research, the vitamin A ingredient is still found in 1 in 8 of this year’s reviewed products.

Although the rate retinyl palmitate is being used has dropped by half, it’s still out there and has the potential to cause major harm to those who use it. According to the report, it’s currently in 12 percent of beach and sport sunscreens, 15 percent of SPF moisturizers, and 5 percent of SPF lip products, meaning there’s a solid chance it’s already lurking in your collection. So, the question you’re probably wondering: why would the sunscreen industry include it in products in the first place if it’s so bad?

Because vitamin A is an antioxidant, manufacturers add it into products with the belief that it helps slow down skin aging. Unfortunately, when the ingredient is exposed to sunlight, it actually compromises skin, making the ingredient sun-sensitizing. With the research available, the EWG is hoping manufacturers will voluntarily stop using retinyl palmitate in their sunscreens—at least until there’s some sort of proof it’s safe when exposed to UV rays. Because right now the best thing you can do for your skin is steer clear.

These sunscreens feel more like skin care than SPF. Also, find out why Hawaii is outlawing two common chemicals in sunscreen.

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