Is Sunscreen Bad For You

Misinformation about sunscreens is common. Be informed and do not let myths deter you from using it to protect your skin!

If you have searched for information about sunscreens online before, you would have been hit by a wave of information. Mineral sunscreens, natural sunscreens, SPF 15, SPF 30, coral reefs and chemical ingredients may have all popped on your screen. All these would have probably left you feeling more confused than encouraged to wear sunscreen. The truth of the matter is that sunscreen is designed to protect your skin from the sun's damaging rays. However, there are some of the claims made about it suggest it could do more harm than good.

Ranging from ineffective use to plain danger, we have seen some writers even go to the extent of blaming it for skin cancer! Dr Jennifer Lin, an assistant professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School and co-director of the Melanoma Risk and Prevention Clinic at Brigham and Women's Hospital, provided some inputs to outline what is right and what is fiction. 

Q. Are there certain chemicals in sunscreen that people should avoid?

A. There are two types of sunscreens: Physical blockers reflect ultraviolet rays from the sun and contain one of two active ingredients, zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Chemical blockers contain chemicals that absorb the sun's ultraviolet rays. In the United States, these typically include aminobenzoic acid, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, and oxybenzone.

Oxybenzone has received the worst press because of concerns that it may act as what is known as a hormone disrupter. A hormone disruptor is a chemical that has the ability to cross cell membranes and may interfere with your body's natural hormone production.

However, there has been no conclusive evidence that oxybenzone is harmful to humans. Organizations that have raised concerns about oxybenzone typically cite studies done in rats, where the rats were actually fed oxybenzone. It would take an individual 277 years of sunscreen use to achieve the equivalent systemic dose that produced effects in these rat studies, according to a 2017 study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. Oxybenzone is also known to cause allergic reactions in some people.

Even if you avoid sunscreens with oxybenzone, you may encounter it in other products, including plastic, hairspray, and nail polish. 


Q. Is there evidence that sunscreen actually causes skin cancer?

A. No. These conclusions come incorrectly from studies where individuals who used sunscreen had a higher risk of skin cancer, including melanoma. This false association was made because the individuals who used sunscreen were the same ones who were traveling to sunnier climates and sunbathing. In other words, it was the high amounts of sun exposure, not the sunscreen, that elevated their risk of skin cancer.


Q. Some claim that sunscreen doesn't prevent the three main types of skin cancer. Is this true?

A, No, there are excellent studies that sunscreen protects against all three of the most common skin cancers: squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and melanoma. The degree of protection that sunscreen provides is directly related to the degree to which ultraviolet radiation is associated with the formation of skin cancer. For instance, in prospective studies of sunscreen, the incidence of squamous cell carcinoma is reduced the most—as much as 40% over four years.


Q. One online article claims that sunscreen is actually poisoning people. Is this true?

A. I don't think there is any evidence that sunscreen is poisoning us.


Q. Are the nanoparticles that are used in sunscreens with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide harmful?

A. Manufacturers use nanoparticles in the physical sun blockers I mentioned above. Nanoparticles are made using a process called micronizing that breaks up larger particles. This makes the sunscreens easier to apply and allows them to disappear into the skin, in contrast to the greasy, white sunblocks of the past.

I think that these physical blockers are much easier to use now that they are frequently micronized. Nanoparticles have not been shown to penetrate beyond the level of the skin and migrate into the bloodstream, which means that they are unlikely to create health risks.


Q. Does everyone need to use sunscreen? I've heard some people say that they don't need to wear it because they have darker skin that tans well.

A. We recommend sunscreen for skin cancer prevention, including melanoma prevention, which has been demonstrated in cohort studies as well as prospective randomized trials. Given that darker-skinned patients have a very low risk of skin cancer, using sunscreen for skin cancer prevention is not necessary. However, people looking to ward off the aging effects from sun would still benefit from sun-protective habits, which include sunscreen, sun-protective clothing, and sun avoidance.

As always, be sure to protect yourself from the harmful rays of the sun. Try to ensure you pick a sunscreen with natural sunscreen ingredients. A broad-spectrum sunscreen is much more safe and effective than the common sunscreen. 

Check out our natural range of sunscreens here! Be sure to follow our latest updates on our Facebook page.