Is Sunscreen Dangerous?

Written By Melissa Jabour

According to a recent study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), several active ingredients in popular sunscreens are absorbed into the body, rather than just sitting on the skin.

The four ingredients in question are avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene and ecamsule. In a small experiment designed by the FDA, researchers found that far higher levels of these ingredients are absorbed into a person’s body than the amount considered benign enough to avoid safety testing—in some cases, as much as 40 times higher. The study also found that the blood concentration of three of the four studied ingredients continued to rise as daily use continued and then remained in the body for at least 24 hours after sunscreen use ended.

The FDA recently said that these four chemicals needed to be researched by manufacturers before they are considered generally safe and effective. So, should people stop using sunscreen? Absolutely not, experts say. The fact that an ingredient is absorbed through the skin and into the body does not necessarily mean that the ingredient is unsafe.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, more people in the U.S. are diagnosed with skin cancer each year than all other cancers combined. In fact, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.

Here are some sun safety tips to keep in mind as we approach summer:

  • Limit time in the sun, especially between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., when the sun’s rays are the most intense.
  • Wear protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts, sunglasses, and wide-brimmed hats.
  • Keep newborns out of the sun—sunscreens should only be used on babies over six months old.
  • When going outside, apply at least one ounce of sunscreen to all exposed skin every two hours or after swimming.
  • Because UV rays are always present, sunscreen should be applied even on cloudy days.