What You Don’t Know About Sunscreen Could Hurt You and the Environment

The next couple of months in Phoenix and Scottsdale are some of the best to be outdoors and enjoying the spectacular weather. But did you know, scientists have discovered chemicals in sunscreen that could be more harmful than protective? Before you reach for last year’s sunscreen, there are a few key things you should know.

Knowing the facts:

Scientists at the US food and drug administration (FDA) warned last year that active chemicals in sunscreens may readily soak into the bloodstream.  This kickstarted a flurry of questions about the safety of sunscreen ingredients like avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, homosalate (and several others) as they had never been tested.  In January of this year, JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association, the most prestigious medical journal in the world) published a true, complete study of chemical sunscreens. This study confirmed that these chemicals are absorbed into the blood in concentrations that surpass safe levels even after a single application.    

So how did we get here?

When sunscreens were originally approved as an over-the-counter solution for sunburn, any concerns about absorption into the bloodstream after application where not raised or investigated. Until recently.

A year ago, after the FDA discovered these chemicals were being absorbed into the blood, they mandated that manufacturers begin testing these chemicals for safety. We are still waiting for more time to pass and for more evidence to be collected to confirm that these chemicals are safe.

Who is at risk?

The most at-risk parties are women of childbearing age and children, although we know the chemicals can also affect wildlife. Sunscreens containing these chemicals have been banned in places like Hawaii, where the chemicals were proven to kill the coral reefs.

So should I wear sunscreen?

These findings do not mean that you should stop using sunscreen. The FDA has certified that sunscreens that block the sun’s rays with minerals (zinc or titanium) are safe. That means you should choose a sunscreen with the active ingredients of zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.  Think, “white paste of the 80’s lifeguard”.  However, there has been tremendous improvement in sun protection products since then.  Now, the minerals are micronized so that they can be applied and blend in with your skin color.  The newest generation of sunscreens, like EltaMD, Revision and Skin Better, combine these mineral sunscreens with active hydration for your skin or tint for even better blending.

Have questions?

If you want to learn more about this research or are concerned you are using the wrong sunscreen, talk to one of our surgeons to find out more. You can contact us online through our form or give our office a call at 480-696-6361.