It’s time to armour up against the sun now that summer is here. Skin doctors and beauty experts have been preaching about the virtues of applying sunscreen when you step out. The SPF lotions are said to protect the wearer against the harmful UV rays of the sun skin ageing, dark spots and even cancer. But a new study has uncovered a rather disturbing fact about sunscreens that could make you swear off SPF creams forever. US Food and Drug Administration has recently said that certain chemicals in sunscreens could be entering your blood via skin within a day. Not only that. The level of chemicals that leeched into the skin could be harmful to health. Palau To Ban Sunscreen To Save Coral Reefs: Here's How Sunscreen Affects Marine Life.
The study which was published in JAMA enrolled 23 people. They were asked to apply sunscreen four times a day for four consecutive days and on 75 percent of their body.
The researchers found chemicals avobenzone, oxybenzone, ecamsule and octocrylene in the subjects’ bloodstream. In just a span of three days, the levels of these chemicals increased. The concentration of the chemicals in the blood was over 0.5 nanograms per millilitre, which crossed the FDA-prescribed levels. But the study categorically mentions that the results don’t indicate that sunscreen should never be used.
Are Sunscreen Lotions Safe?
Now coming to the question of whether sunscreen lotions are safe or not. It’s important to know how SPF works in the first place.
There are two types of sunscreens – physical blockers and chemical blockers. Physical blockers work by forming a physical barrier between the skin and the sun. Natural ingredients such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide provide physical protection against sun rays.
Chemical blockers work by absorbing the sun rays. These include oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate and octocrylene. Oxybenzone has received a lot of bad press due to its role as a hormone disrupter.
Dr Jennifer Lin, assistant professor of dermatology at Harvard told Harvard Health Publishing, there is no conclusive evidence that oxybenzone is harmful to humans. Avoiding sunscreen won’t keep you safe from the chemical because of other cosmetic products such as hairsprays and nail polishes.
Dr Krithi Ullal a dermatologist from Kochi told The Week: “In this study, people were asked to apply sunscreen to 75 percent of the body surface area, which is much more than what people usually need for daily application, so whether sunscreen causes any side effects cannot be entirely proven. Very few sunscreens contain the chemical avobenzone and more people here tend to use physical sunscreen.”
Skipping sunscreen may not be the solution here since sun rays can be quite harmful to the skin and can even cause cancer. Perusing ingredients on sunscreen bottles can be of help to avoid harmful chemicals. Either opt for zinc-based sunscreens or cover yourself thoroughly before you step out into the sun.