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As summer approaches, the opportunities for fun in the sun are bountiful – barbeque’s with the family, laying out by the pool, or having a picnic at the park. Most of us are aware of the dangers of too much summer sun, skin cancer, skin damage, rapid aging of the skin, and as such, we reach for our favorite sunscreen and lather up before heading outdoors. But, how aware are you of the chemicals in sunscreen?
Before you lather up this summer, there are some things that you should know. SPF is not the only important factor to consider when choosing a sunscreen, how you use it is just as important as the type you decide to buy. Sunscreen safety is very important.
According to a recent study, it took just 24-hours for ingredients for three ingredients in sunscreen to filter into the bloodstream. The findings of the study highlighted the need for further studies to determine the effects of the absorption because while the findings are alarming, they do not necessarily mean the chemicals are unsafe. Further study will allow researchers to decide if the chemicals truly are harmful to humans. (But, of note, oxybenzone, one of the active chemicals in sunscreen, is harming coral reefs at a rapid rate.)
Does that mean you should stop using sunscreen? Absolutely not. “The sun is the real enemy here,” said Scott Faber, senior vice president for government affairs at the Environmental Working Group, or EWG, an advocacy group that publishes a yearly guide on sunscreens.
Simply put, you should still use sunscreen before spending time in the sun. But, it is important to choose a highly-rated sunscreen. How do you choose between all of the products out there? Some offer protection of SPF 30 or SPF 50, some are water resistance, some offer protection against UVA rays while others protect against UVB rays, and some are mineral sunscreens. There are many options which can be quite overwhelming.
The EWG does the work for you and compiles a list of sunscreens safe for consumers after analyzing approximately 650 beach and sport sunscreens. According to the 12th annual guide, “two-thirds of the products examined offer inferior sun protection or contain worrisome ingredients.” But, 243 of the sunscreens studied proved to meet EWG’s criteria. To view that list, click here.
For additional lists of sunscreens, Good Housekeeping Insitute Beauty Lab recommends the following common sunscreens to protect your skin from the sun, keeping in line with U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations.
“It’s not news that things that you put on your skin are absorbed into the body,” Faber said. “This study is the FDA’s way of showing sunscreen manufacturers they need to do the studies to see if chemical absorption poses health risks.”
The FDA is pushing sunscreen manufacturers to provide more safety information. On February 21, 2019, the FDA issued a “proposed rule that would update regulatory requirements for most sunscreen products in the United States.” While the rule pertains to nonprescription, over the counter sunscreen products, regulatory action for sunscreen is moving in the right direction – protecting users from unnecessary harm, while still protecting from the sun.
The information is out there – evaluate your sunscreen safety options, read sunscreen labels, and choose the best sunscreen for you. Most importantly, enjoy the summer!
"EWG's 2018 Guide to Safer Sunscreens." EWG, Environmental Working Group, www.ewg.org/sunscreen/.
"FDA Advances New Proposed Regulation to Make Sure That Sunscreens Are Safe and Effective." FDA Advances New Proposed Regulation to Make Sure That Sunscreens Are Safe and Effective, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 21 Feb. 2019, www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-advances-new-proposed-regulation-make-sure-sunscreens-are-safe-and-effective.
LaMotte, Sandee. "Sunscreen Enters Bloodstream after Just One Day of Use, Study Says." CNN, Cable News Network, 6 May 2019, www.cnn.com/2019/05/06/health/sunscreen-bloodstream-fda-study/index.html.
Matta, Murali K., et al. "Effect of Sunscreen Application on Plasma Concentration of Active Ingredients." JAMA, American Medical Association, 6 May 2019, jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2733085.
Picard, Caroline. "What You Need to Know About the New FDA Sunscreen Regulations." Good Housekeeping, Good Housekeeping, 22 Feb. 2019, www.goodhousekeeping.com/health/a26470685/fda-sunscreen-regulations/.
Saporita, Nicole, and Birnur Aral. "These Are the Only Sunscreens Worth Buying in 2019." Good Housekeeping, Good Housekeeping Institute, 2 May 2019, www.goodhousekeeping.com/beauty/anti-aging/g1288/best-sunscreens/.
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