Understanding Sunscreen

Dermatology | | Return|

Recently the FDA released an editorial - Click Here

This is based on a study - Click Here

It is about common sunscreen ingredients. As a dermatologist, you can imagine this only increased the number of questions I get on a daily basis regarding which sunscreen to use.

I was invited to discuss this study with Brian Holmes at KTVB News Channel 7 in Boise.

I thought it would be helpful to share my thoughts regarding this study from the FDA and give you recommendations for sunscreen use.

Do sunscreen ingredients get in your body?

This recent study did indicate that several common sunscreen ingredients are absorbed into the bloodstream when applied to the skin. The fact that an ingredient is found in the blood does not mean it is unsafe. This finding indicates that we need additional testing to understand if these ingredients pose any risk of toxicity.

What we do know is that these ingredients have been used in over-the-counter products for more than 40 years with no reports of toxicity. Conversely the results of cumulative sun exposure are known to cause cancer and I see patients every day who are dealing with skin cancer because they did not frequently use sunscreen. The current evidence supports the use of sunscreen in the prevention of skin cancer.

For another perspective, think of all the things we put on our skin that we are not studying. Few patients hesitate to use essential oils or any “natural” product yet those may show up in the bloodstream if only we were looking for them. (Please note I am not suggesting to avoid any certain product.)

Are sunscreens safe?

Sunscreens are regulated by the FDA and have been shown to be safe. I support further investigation to determine the implications of this recent study. However, if you are concerned there are alternatives.

Sunscreens are broadly categorized as “chemical blockers” and “physical blockers”. The study examined the ingredients commonly found in “chemical blocking” sunscreens. Namely; avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, and ecamsule. Although data doesn’t support avoiding these sunscreens you may choose to instead use a “physical blocking” sunscreen. Physical sunscreens use active ingredients such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. I personally use both forms of sunscreen without reservation.

Are there alternatives to sunscreen?

If you remain concerned about the use of sunscreen there are certainly alternatives with no downside. UPF protective clothing provides excellent sun protection without washing off or the need to be reapplied. Wide brimmed hats and long sleeve shirts by companies such as Coolibar or Solumbra are both fashionable and protectiveWhat happened. They pose no risk of exposing you to chemicals. Dermatologists have also long recommended that you avoid sun exposure during the hottest hours of the day (10am-2pm) to limit your risk of sunburn.

In conclusion

If you still have questions or concerns, schedule an appointment with one of our providers by calling 208-519-4333 or requesting an appointment online. We can help you design a sun protection strategy that is safe and effective.


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