Does Your Sunscreen Harm You?

People rely on sunscreen to protect them from the harmful UV rays of the sun, not only to prevent sunburn, but to prevent cancer from forming later in life. There is good reason for this; more than 3.5 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year.

With that said, is it possible that sunscreen might actually harm you? Sure, it will protect you from the rays of the sun, but at what cost? You may know that the FDA is in charge of approving the chemicals you apply to your skin each day, and you might rely on them to keep you safe from problems caused by unapproved drugs. However, the FDA has not approved a new sunscreen in roughly 15 years. That hasn’t stopped new sunscreens from being produced and imported from overseas, potentially holding dangerous components that could harm the body more than they help.

A collaboration between various sunscreen companies is working to push the FDA into approving new types. However, until then, there are a few things to keep in mind relating to sunscreen.

There are 17 chemicals in sunscreen that are FDA approved. Nine of those are called endocrine disruptors, which can potentially interfere with the hormone system in humans. Those with skin disorders such as eczema can allow compounds to enter the bloodstream. The main component in sunscreen is a “blocker” –- a compound that prevents UV rays from reaching the skin. The most effective two are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These two compounds are safe for those with skin problems; however, those using sunscreens whose active ingredient is something besides these two should focus on finding another form of sunscreen. Other compounds can be absorbed into the skin, allowing them to build up over time since the body is unable to metabolize them.

Because of this, it is important to know the proper kind of sunscreen to use for your skin. Another thing to remember is that sunscreen doesn’t protect the scalp, one of the main places that skin cancer will occur. For this reason, you should wear a hat while exposed to direct sunlight for any length of time. However, some spray-on hair products act as sunscreens, offering another option for those who want full protection.

Even so, sunscreen is better than direct exposure to sunlight, especially over long periods of time. While it might be dangerous for some people, the risks are greater in not using it. Make sure sunscreen is applied correctly; at least 2 millimeters are required to completely block UV rays.