Is your sunscreen toxic? Are sunscreens toxic?
There is so much information/mis-information and unknown information, that it's hard to discern what is true or not.
I have a family, with three children and I care about their health and safety, as well as our own. I've been using sunscreen on them since they were 3 months old.
I can safely say that there is probably no human being on this planet that has used more sunscreen than me over the last 28+ years! As the Sunscreen Evangelist, I apply virtually everyday. At hundreds of events, trade shows and promotions over the years, I've sprayed our sunscreens on myself upwards of 100 times a day. If there are any detrimental effects of sunscreens to a human, I'm that test subject. Knock on wood, no issues, feeling good, for which I'm thankful, with everything else going on in this crazy world.
Are sunscreens toxic? I've had many discussions, debates and conversations with people that have strong opinions about skin care products.
We have used all FDA & Health Canada approved sunscreen ingredients in different formulations over the years with the exception of Oxybenzone in our sprays. This prompted a call from Margret Schlump in early 2000's to see if we'd fund a study on Oxybenzone as an Endocrine disrupter. Even though we didn't use Oxybenzone, we didn't fund this, as the Abstract was based on mice that were fed (oral ingestion) whopping doses of Oxybenzone. It has been calculated that it would take over 150-250 years for a human to absorb this much Oxybenzone in their system.
Scientists have found that ingredients in sunscreen, like oxybenzone, can penetrate the skin and seep into the bloodstream, lingering in the body for days at a time. That doesn’t necessarily mean those chemicals are harmful—in fact, the numerous studies’ authors urged consumers not to stop wearing sunscreen because of their findings—but it raises the stakes for finding out if they are.
The research looks fairly reassuring. A 2020 research review published in the International Journal of Dermatology found no conclusive evidence that either oxybenzone or octinoxate causes health problems. A 2021 report from the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety also noted that, while there are concerns that oxybenzone may disrupt hormones, those data are “not conclusive.”
Past American Academy of Dermatology President, Dr. Henry Lim, a dermatologist, has done research and consulting for a number of personal-care brands. He stated that sunscreen active ingredients have been around for decades, and there’s no evidence that they’ve caused population-level health issues.
But, says Dr. Lim, “the negative effects of sun exposure — skin cancer and premature skin aging — are very well known. And using sunscreen has been shown to decrease those risks.” That’s why the FDA isn’t recommending that consumers avoid any of the active ingredients (including chemical ones) currently in sunscreen, many of which have been in use in the United States for more than 30-70 years without proved claims of negative health effects.
Yet, there is still concern, as some animal research using oxybenzone have been linked to reproductive and hormonal disorders. Though there’s no concrete proof that the chemicals harm humans, oxybenzone has also been found in the breast milk of women who report using cosmetics that contain UV filters, as well as in humans’ urine.
Other chemical issues recently are based on the benzene scare, found in sunscreen products like Banana Boat, Sun Bum, Coppertone, Aveno and Neutragena.
“Everything in the world is a chemical,” Dr. Jennifer Beecker, a Canadian physician certified in emergency medicine, family medicine and dermatology, says, and many are harmless.
Using sunscreen is one way to prevent sunburn and possibly worse. UV apparel, wide brimmed caps/hats can provide an important barrier against UV rays. Wearing UV clothing helps, as you need less sunscreen, since parts of the body will be covered. Outdoor activities before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m. avoiding peak sun hours, also helps to keep you sunburn free. The key is to find a product you like, so you'll apply and reapply it as directed.