Sunscreen Chemicals Can Seep Into Your Bloodstream, FDA Says

It’s that time of year when doctors remind everyone to layer on the sunscreen. But a new study conducted by the Food and Drug Administration questions several ingredients found in some SPFs.

High levels of four chemicals–avobenzone, oxybenzone, ecamsule and octocrylene–were found in people’s bloodstream after one day of sunscreen use, according to a pilot study conducted the US Food and Drug Administration. This suggests sunscreens are absorbed into our bodies.

This study followed 24 healthy people who used either a spray, lotion or cream sunscreen containing various concentrations of the previously specified ingredients. Participants slathered on the SPF so it covered about 75 percent of their bodies. This was repeated four times a day to mimic label instructions that recommend applying sunscreen every two hours. Then, researchers took blood samples to determine which ingredients were found in people’s bloodstreams. The results were published May 6, 2019 in the journal JAMA.

Are chemicals in sunscreen dangerous?

For now, there’s no reason to panic, says Dr. Jennifer Stein, dermatologist at NYU Langone.

“I don’t think there’s any great evidence right now to say these are dangerous ingredients,” she tells Men’s Health.

Research indicates that oxybenzone may irritate skin. Many people are opposed to the ingredient because it’s toxic to marine life.

Although this study indicates sunscreen is absorbed into your system, there’s no evidence that it’s toxic or unsafe, says Stein. However, she asserts it’s important to evaluate whether our skincare products are harmful and says studies like these trigger additional research determining safety.

The Skin Cancer Foundation issued a response urging people to continue wearing sunscreen.

“The sunscreen ingredients currently FDA-approved have been used in the U.S. for many years, and there is no evidence that these ingredients are harmful to humans,” they wrote in a statement. “There is, however, substantial evidence showing that sunscreen helps reduce skin cancer risk, as well as skin aging. In fact, the study authors reiterate that people should continue to use sunscreen.”

Protect yourself using sunscreen without oxybenzone

Undoubtedly, the new findings will spark alarm for some. Thankfully, there are plenty of sunscreens that don’t contain any of the ingredients in this study.

“Zinc and titanium are great forms of sunscreen,” says Stein. She says concerned shoppers can look for SPF with these two ingredients since they are deemed safe and effective by the FDA.

And it’s important to remember that sunscreen is just one way to protect your skin from the sun. Stein recommends wearing a hat, covering your skin with long sleeves, sitting under an umbrella, and yes, wearing sunscreen.

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