According to research from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, some chemicals found in sunscreen don’t just sit on top of the skin and absorb the sun’s rays, but instead actually seep into the bloodstream. Yikes.
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But before you swear off all sun protection lotion, dermatologist Alok Vij, MD, offers some reassurance and practical advice. After all, if skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, how else are you supposed to protect yourself if sunscreen isn’t even safe?
A look at the data
Based on the study, which included just 24 people, four main chemicals were the cause for concern:
The research included the use of sunscreen lotion, cream and spray. And although it was a small preliminary study, its findings were significant.
Researchers found that after applying sunscreen four times a day for four days – all four chemicals were found in the participant’s blood in just one day ― and at levels past the FDA guidelines.
Participants in the study applied 2 milligrams of sunscreen per square centimeter of their skin on 75% of their body. (You can breathe a small sigh of relief knowing that the participants in the study applied more sunscreen than what researches agreed the average person does.) The study was also limited to the indoors, so sunlight, heat and humidity weren’t factors in the results.
So what should you do?
“This study has certainly triggered the FDA to review guidelines and regulations about the benefits and risks associated with sunscreen,” says Dr. Vij. “But it’s not a call to stop using sunscreen altogether.”
Dr. Vij recommends to:
- Avoid the use of all four ingredients highlighted in the study: avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene and ecamsule.
- Opt for mineral-based sunscreen or natural options.
- Consider wearing UPF clothing.
- Avoid peak hours of UV rays between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.