Since CNN published a news story about sunscreen earlier this month, there’s been a lot of buzz in the media and we have been receiving a ton of questions. In a nutshell, the story says that the four main chemicals used in chemical sunscreens—avobenzone, oxybenzone, ecamsule, and octocrylene—require more research before the FDA can label them “safe and effective.” The story also summarizes a new study showing that these chemicals absorb into the bloodstream at high levels, which has triggered a government safety investigation.
That all sounds pretty scary, but rest assured that in reality, sun protection isn’t as risky as it may seem. There’s no conclusive proof that sunscreen chemicals harm the body after they are absorbed.
“These ingredients have been used for decades without any reported internal side effects in humans,” says Dr. Jessica Riley, a dermatologist at our Encinitas and San Clemente clinics. Plus, the participants in the research study applied about twice as much sunscreen as people do in the real world, so the results they saw probably wouldn’t resemble those of a regular sunscreen user.
On the other hand, these chemicals haven’t been deemed innocent, either. “For a long time, no one thought that smoking was bad for you until it was scientifically proven,” says Dr. Riley. To be as safe as possible, use physical sunscreen, the kind that relies on zinc or titanium dioxide to deflect the sun’s rays. Dr. Riley always recommends that pregnant women and children use these kinds of sunscreens, which (as an added bonus) are the most effective.
Better yet, depend on something other than sunscreen for your main source of protection. “The first line of sun defense should be protective clothing, hats, and sunglasses, and sunscreen should be the last line,” says Dr. Riley.
The important thing is that you don’t let stories like these scare you away from sunscreen altogether. UV rays are inarguably dangerous and, unlike sunscreen, are proven to cause skin cancer, which is the most common cancer in the US. Choose a method of sun protection that feels right for you and stick to it! If you have any questions about how to keep your skin safe, from the sun or anything else, just make an appointment and we will talk you through it.
We even sell recommended sunscreen brands in our clinic (at 20% off this month!). See you in the sunscreen aisle!