Active Chemicals From Sunscreen May Be Hazardous, FDA Says

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Now is the time of year when more people start to apply sunscreen, but the FDA has found that certain sunscreens may not be protecting you. According to a recent FDA study, chemicals in many common sunscreens can be absorbed into your bloodstream at levels far exceeding the FDA’s recommended threshold.

Researchers involved in the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that four active ingredients common in sunscreens — ecamsule, octocrylene, oxybenzone, and avobenzone, enter the bloodstream at levels higher than the FDA threshold without a government safety inspection.

Nneka Leiba, the director of healthy living science at the Environmental Workout Group, says that sunscreens with these ingredients, especially oxybenzone, ought to be avoided.

“Don’t shun sunscreens in general,” said Leiba, “but lean toward using the mineral products available.”

Oxybenzone is a potential endocrine disruptor. This means the chemical can impact development, growth, and reproductive health.

Studies have shown that oxybenzone can lower testosterone in adolescents because it’s considered a weak estrogen. The chemical could also negatively impact those who already have estrogen dominance, which affects millions of people.

Scientists have also voiced their concerns over oxybenzone because initial research shows it can damage coral reefs. In 2018, Hawaii’s banned sales of sunscreen with oxybenzone and octinoxate for this reason and other states have also considered similar bans.

The FDA says that more research is needed to understand the effects of the other three chemicals.

The FDA and other health officials recommend using mineral sunscreens with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide as active ingredients to protect yourself and your family from the sun. The Environmental Working Group also deems these types of sunscreens safe for the environment.

However, Dr. Henry W. Lim, a former president of the American Academy of Dermatology, points out that using sunscreen is just one part of a larger package when it comes to protecting yourself against the sun. He also says that mineral-based sunscreens that use zinc oxide and titanium dioxide as active ingredients usually have lower SPF ratings compared to those that use the four chemicals the FDA is wary of.

“Sunscreen is a component, but not the only component,” said Lim. It’s recommended to stay in the shade when you’re outdoors, wear sunglasses, and to keep your skin covered to protect yourself from harmful rays.