How safe is sunscreen?


Believe it or not, another summer is upon us. Although this summer is going to be a-typical because of the global pandemic, the sun will be the normal level of brightness. Sunscreen is essential when it comes to protecting the skin from harsh UVA rays but recent research challenges whether sunscreen is actually good for your health. When looking at the ingredient contents of sunscreen it seems that sunscreen tends to do more harm than help with your longterm health.

Ingredient issues with sunscreen begin with the application. Sunscreen comes in different forms, sprays, lotions, and even chapsticks. With sprays, some of the contents are sprayed into the wind or cannot withstand powerful UV radiation, or worse people inhale the ingredients. With lotions, the same issue with constant reapplication, and with chopsticks, some of the ingredients are ingested. With these aspects in mind, sunscreen ingredients should refrain from ingredients that can be harmful to the lungs or internal organs.

Sunscreen includes active ingredients that function as a way to filter UV rays from the skin while protecting and maintaining stability in sunlight. However, the most common sunscreens on the market include chemical filters as well. Some of the common chemicals include active ingredients such as oxybenzone, avobenzone, and octocrylene. Mineral sunscreens which are also typically used include ingredients such as zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide.

In regulation, the FDA characterizes sunscreen as a drug due to the active ingredient content. Since sunscreen is FDA regulated, it must pass certain tests before hitting the market. In 2019, the agency released sunscreen monographs that contained insufficient health and safety data to make the current ingredients used in sunscreen as ‘generally recognized as safe and effective’ also known as GRASE. The agency also mentioned in their studies posted last year and this year that “nearly all sunscreen active ingredients have limited or no data characterizing their absorption” meaning the studies showed that these ingredients did show up in the blood and skin samples, however, there isn’t sufficient data that can determine whether the ingredients have an effect on a users health in the long run.

Aside from the FDA conducted research, other studies have found health effects with some of the ingredients used in sunscreen. The biggest concerning ingredient used in sunscreen is oxybenzone. Oxybenzone is known to cause skin allergic reactions and in lab studies, are found to have potent anti-androgenic effects. The CDC ran a study and found that participants who reported using sunscreen had a higher oxybenzone exposure. The FDA released in their 2019 and 2020 studies that “there isn’t enough available literature and data supporting the correlation between oxybenzone used in sunscreen and hormone disruption.”

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