Kate Tietje (“Modern Alternative Mama”) is a scientifically illiterate mommy blogger who routinely hands out some of the most dangerous advice on the internet. I’ve previously covered her shameful “vaccine injury awareness month” (meant to counter Breast Cancer Awareness Month–yeah, figure that one out) and the endangerment of her children through neglect. Today I’d like to go back to basics and concentrate on points that even her 57,000+ pseudoscience-loving followers will be able to grasp: hypocrisy and lies.
There will be no squirming out of this one, Kate.
In a recent article, “Have You Gotten Your Sunscreen Yet This Summer?”,1,2 Tietje has this to say about sunscreen ingredients:
“I’m not really comfortable with the physical blockers, like titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. I know they are common in “natural” sunscreens and probably fine, but I just do not want to rub that on my children’s skin. I don’t know, I worry. Maybe that’s crazy.” (emphasis mine)
Whoa! Crazy, indeed! Sherman, set the wayback machine7 to a month earlier and let’s peek at another Modern Alternative Mama (MAM) post:3
“It’s been awhile since I’ve done a giveaway here. But, I know that you will truly love this company [BanjOrganics] and I wanted to share it with you.”
Yes, it’s MAMs huge “BanjOrganics Giveaway” contest! The lucky winner takes home a gift basket chock full of natural products, including a jar of sunscreen. Let’s have a look at the ingredients in that sunscreen, shall we?4
Oh dear. See the highlighted ingredient? Zinc oxide? What was it that Kate said about zinc oxide? Oh yes… she’s not comfortable with it and just doesn’t want to rub it on her children’s skin.
I suppose one way to avoid exposing your children to “toxic” ingredients is to pawn them off on unsuspecting readers.
So, what does Tietje use on her children? Well, sadly, she freely confesses she’d rather let them run around in the sun unprotected and burn. But when she does apply a sunscreen to her endangered kiddos, she makes her own.
Unfortunately, by her own admission (she doesn’t know it yet–hint hint), she’s using an ingredient that she claims will give the kids skin cancer.
Let’s walk through this. First, here’s her homemade sunscreen recipe. Take note of the highlighted ingredient. It will be important later.
Next, we have to remind ourselves of a sunscreen additive that Modern Alternative Mama told us that we must avoid. She lays this out clearly in her article “What to Look For in Non-Toxic Sunscreen”:5
Hmmm… avoid vitamin A in sunscreens because, according to intrepid scientist Kate Tietje, it can speed development of tumors when applied to skin in the presence of sunlight. Really?
I think you can see where this is heading. Remember those raspberries in Mama’s homemade sunscreen?
According to the USDA, raspberries are a rich source of vitamin A:6
So… vitamin A in sunscreen leads to the possibility of tumors, and Modern Alternative Mama is pushing a sunscreen recipe rich in vitamin A. Or were we supposed to go back to the zinc oxide solution she’s giving away to readers, but is afraid to use on her own children?
Needless to say, none of the products or ingredients mentioned in this article are actually dangerous. I’d be happy to debate the issues with Tietje, but like everyone else who questioned her bad science, I was banned from her Facebook page.
Modern Alternative Mama, Facebook, and BanjOrganics screen snapshots are used in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, commonly known as “fair use law”. This material is distributed without profit with the intent to provide commentary, review, education, parody, and increase public health knowledge.
(1) Have you gotten your Sunscreen yet this summer? (Facebook Intro)
(2) Have you gotten your Sunscreen yet this summer? (Facebook-Linked Blog Post)
(3) Modern Alternative Mama BanjOrganics Giveaway
(4) BanjOrganics Sunscreen Ingredients
(5) What to Look For in Non-Toxic Sunscreen
(6) USDA Raspberry Nutrient Profile
(7) The WayBack Machine
Thank you for confirming one of my deepest concerns with MAM’s ‘natural remedies’. I will be delighted when she realises the damage she can cause. Preferably with a cease and desist letter rather than a dead body laying on a cold slab at the coroner’s.
I suppose on the upside, since nothing she says is dangerous is actually dangerous, little harm would be done. On the downside, the things she doesn’t realize are dangerous (like being out in the sun for long periods of time with no protection, taking a baby with a broken arm to a chiropractor, not getting vaccinated…) yes, you are right, those could lead to a body on a slab. I feel so sorry for her children 😦
I’d like to agree that there will be no squirming out of this one for dear Kate. But there will be. There always is. She will say that you are the one who’s wrong, because she always does. Always. If she acknowledges this at all, she will post a lengthy diatribe about how people on the Internet are always persecuting her, twisting her words, uninformed, and just plain mean. Because she absolutely has to be right about everything.
You’re right, of course. Doubtful she’ll ever even hear of the article. She banned me when I pointed out that there’s no aluminum in the yearly flu vaccine (after she wrote an article about the dangers of aluminum in the flu vaccine). I suppose I can comment on “another” account. But like all quacks, she’s quick to censor.
It embarrasses me as a woman and a mother to come across so many of these ignorant, ridiculous women who are terrified of “chemicals” and “toxins” that they believe will give their children or themselves cancer/autism/autoimmune disease, etc. I have yet to meet a doctor or biologist (and these are the people I tend to hang with) who support any of this stuff.
It’s really scary, Jennifer. And she has 57,000+ followers. Thankfully there are many more mothers like you who see through her nonsense.
I wonder about those 57k followers, though. I’ve been banned from her page for over a year and that number has barely budged since.
Apparently, her husband is in IT and, if so, I suspect he’s familiar with buying “likes”.
There’s some speculation that some of the likes are bought/bot in nature. You make a great point about her numbers not changing. Almost like they were pushed there artificially! 🙂
Would her recipe for sunscreen have any effect? Not that I want to use it, it jus looked like to me it wouldnt
There are claims in some studies that some of the ingredients (such as raspberries) have mild UV blocking capabilities, but nobody AFAIK has ever studied them as a safe sunblock. It looks like everything in her mix is water soluble, so you’d probably sweat it right off–if it provided any protection at all (and the research papers I looked at did say the protection was minimal). I’m not an expert in this field, but there certainly look to be more effective solutions out there.
Is her recipe effective? Not interested in using it ( my mother died of melanoma at 30 and I’m not about use some homemade recipe ) just curious
I came across real research papers studying the UV blocking abilities of a chemical found in raspberries, but nobody was actually recommending using them as a sunblock. It was only research, and there are a lot more effective solutions on the market 🙂
It seems crazy that the ‘natural’ folks don’t embrace the 1st sunscreen: mud. It’s a physical barrier (no toxic chemicals) and I’m sure there is some exfoliation too!
All sarcasm aside, I really I do wonder why the folks on survivor aren’t covered in mud as protection from the sun & bugs.
I’ve wondered about the mud protection also. Great call!!! 🙂
“Needless to say, none of the products or ingredients mentioned in this article are actually dangerous.” I disagree – using a blend of oils as a “sunscreen” is very dangerous. It would actually have the opposite effect!
Good point! They also list zinc oxide, which is the only way it would offer protection. The oils alone are only good for frying 🙂
Hello Mark, my question to you. Are Titanium dioxide and Zinc oxide safe to use in sunscreens and cosmetics? I realize you debunk their claims and expose their own use of these ingredients, but bottom line, is it actually safe for humans?
Hi Naomi. Thanks for reading and commenting! I always defer to professionals on questions such as yours, and the answers I get from those such as my dermatologist, my personal physician, and the published literature is a resounding YES, those ingredients are safe.☺️