WARNING: This is a long blog. I hope you care enough about yourself and your family to read it til the end. Comments welcomed!

There are some days when my head spins trying to figure out the real deal on a myriad of issues.  As I have stated before, I am not a scientist nor shall I ever be.  But I do my homework.  The issue of skincare and carcinogens is one near and dear to my heart and I try to stay up to date on this issue.  I visit www.safecosmetics.org on a regular basis and have a great deal of respect for the content. 

I wrote to Skin Authority about some concerns raised to me by people whose opinions I respect (and still do.) But this response from the CEO of Skin Authority blew me away.  Celeste is the CEO of this company and for her to take the time to provide such detail says a great deal.  It is most impressive & talk about doing your homework.  Kudos, Celeste. It’s not ever all black & white in the world of green. Read on please:

I can certainly understand and appreciate your concern to insure your overall health and well being when using products.  Skin Authority and I personally share that concern for all of our customers as well as our own families who use our products.  Because of a commitment to the safety of our consumers, we only use ingredients which have been proven to be safe and non toxic when used on a daily basis.  This is why we painstakingly eliminate fragrances, dyes and parabens from our products.  Formulating skin care products is a very complex process today because many all natural ingredients can be harmful for the skin.  On the same token, when we test ingredients, some synthetic component can be safer and less toxic than the natural alternative.  So the key is testing EACH and EVERY ingredient to insure safety and only using those ingredients which have a substantiated safety record. I hope the following information helps you.  In the case of sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate, there has been a great deal of misinformation circulated on the Internet about sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and the more gentler sodium laureth sulfate. Used primarily as a detergent cleansing agent, SLS can be derived from coconut. Although in concentrations over 2%, it can be drying to the skin,  it is not toxic or dangerous for skin. In concentrations of 2% to 5%, SLS can cause allergic or sensitizing reactions for many people. It is used as a standard in scientific studies to establish irritancy or sensitizing properties of other ingredients (Sources: European Journal of Dermatology, September–October 2001, pages 416–419; American Journal of Contact Dermatitis, March 2001, pages 28–32; and Skin Pharmacology and Applied Skin Physiology, September–October 2000, pages 246–257). Being a skin irritant, however, is not the same as a link to cancer, which is what erroneous warnings on the Internet are falsely claiming about this ingredient!  In Skin Authority’s case, we only apply sodium laureth sulfate at a very low .001 percent in our cleansers which is washed off with water and does not sit on the surface of the skin.  The types of products in which the  irritation factor occurs are household products like Tide or other detergents which imbed in the clothes and sit on the surface of the skin all day or toothpaste where it is actually ingested and hard for the liver to metabolize. 

Further, according to the American Cancer Society’s Web site (www.cancer.org), “Contrary to popular rumors on the Internet, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) do not cause cancer. E-mails have been flying through cyberspace claiming SLS [and SLES] causes cancer … and is proven to cause cancer…. [Yet] A search of recognized medical journals yielded no published articles relating this substance to cancer in humans.”

According to a Health Canada press release (February 12, 1999, www.hc-sc.gc.ca/), “A letter has been circulating [on] the Internet which claims that there is a link between cancer and sodium laureth (or lauryl) sulfate (SLS), an ingredient used in [cosmetics]. Health Canada has looked into the matter and has found no scientific evidence to suggest that SLS causes cancer. It has a history of safe use in Canada. Upon further investigation, it was discovered that this e-mail warning is a hoax. The letter is signed by a person at the University of Pennsylvania Health System and includes a phone number. Health Canada contacted the University of Pennsylvania Health System and found that it is not the author of the sodium laureth sulfate warning and does not endorse any link between SLS and cancer. Health Canada considers SLS safe for use in cosmetics. Therefore, you can continue to use cosmetics containing SLS without worry.”

It is important to realize that many natural ingredients can cause allergies, irritation, and skin sensitivities. Irritation or inflammation of any kind causes collagen breakdown, impairs the skin’s ability to heal, and reduces its ability to defend itself from environmental damage. 

All of the following common natural ingredients can cause similar skin irritation, allergic reactions, skin sensitivity, and/or sun sensitivity as SLS.  So we when or if we choose to use these ingredients, we use them in very low concentrations: 

  • Almond extract
  • Allspice
  • Angelica
  • Arnica
  • Balm mint oil
  • Balsam
  • Basil
  • Bergamot
  • Cinnamon
  • Citrus
  • Clove
  • Clover blossom
  • Coriander oil
  • Cypress
  • Cottonseed oil
  • Fennel
  • Fir needle
  • Geranium oil
  • Grapefruit
  • Horsetail
  • Lavender oil
  • Lemon
  • Lemon balm
  • Lemongrass
  • Lime
  • Marjoram
  • Oak bark
  • Papaya
  • Peppermint
  • Rose
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Thyme
  • Witch hazel
  • Wintergreen
  • Ylang ylang

On our two sunscreens (Age Defying Moisturizer SPF 18  and Suncreen Moisturizer SPF 30) which is what your friend was referring to, the answers are not so clear cut. In truth, all sunscreen agents whether it is those applied by Skin Authority or any other sunscreen, even natural minerals such as nano-particled titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, can be absorbed into the skin. 
Some in vitro studies have indicated that there is a possibility that sunscreen ingredients can be absorbed into skin, and there are a handful of in vivo studies as well. However, there are still many researchers whose studies substantiate that most sunscreen ingredients stay on the surface of skin (where skin cells are dead) and do not penetrate into the lower layers of skin where the real damage occurs. If that’s the case, it means the negative effects seen for surface skin in test tube studies may be irrelevant. Even when absorption has been shown, the related risk has not been demonstrated.  Skin Authority formulates is sunscreens at a very high pH to assure the product sits on the surface of the skin and resists deeper penetration.  In order to prevent all light spectrums (UVA and UVB) from damaging skin cell DNA, effective sunscreens need to combine sunscreen ingredients both chemical and natural to get full coverage protection at all ray lengths.

All these issues are significant and require ongoing research, but with 1 in 4 Americans now experience skin cancer in their lifetime due to lack of sunscreen use, none of the findings indicate that anyone should give up using sunscreen or that the presence of these substances is cancer causing. It is also important to note that no one sunscreen ingredient stands out as more of a potential risk than any other. Finally, it is imperative to recognize what a massive amount of research does show: That not wearing sunscreen, as well as prolonged sun exposure, are both related to lots of serious skin problems and life endangering concerns.

(Sources for the above: Aquatic Toxicology, November 2008, pages 182–187; American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, August 2008, pages 570S–577S; Environmental Health Perspectives, July 2008, pages 893–897; Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, May 2008, pages S155–S159; Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, April 2008, pages 456–461; International Journal of Andrology, April 2008, pages 144–151; Toxicology, July 2007, pages 140–148; Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews, July 2007, pages 522–530; Critical Reviews in Toxicology, March 2007, pages 251–277; 2007 CIR Compendium, Cosmetic Ingredient Review, 2007, pages 37–38; www.cosmeticinfo.org; Current Drug Delivery, October 2006, pages 405–415; Toxicology In Vitri, April 2006, 301–307; Toxicological Sciences, April 2006, pages 349–361; Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, July-August 2005, pages 170–174; Toxicology, December 2004, pages 123–130; Journal of Controlled Release, June 2002, pages 225–233; November 2002, pages S131–S155; http://ec.europa.eu/health/ph_risk/committees/sccp/docshtml/sccp_out145_en.htm; and Encyclopedia of Pharmaceutical Technology, Second Edition, Volume 1, page 519.)