Again, “Why Is Sunscreen Not Safe” headlines are showing up. Do you feel concerned? Why are there still some questions? These questions would have gone away if they weren’t true, wouldn’t they?
Why Is Sunscreen Not Safe?
There were a few warnings earlier in the year, but it seems that as summer starts heating up. we start seeing these warnings everywhere. The world of Sunscreens USA is under the controll of the FDA.
This is a big agency with lots of responsibility. Getting around to all the questions that make up the caseload the FDA regulates is a formidable challenge.
The reason Sunscreens fall under the FDA’s regulation is because they claim to prevent cancer. This makes them a “medicine.” As a medicine, the responsibility of the “over the counter” medicine manufacturing branch falls in the FDA’s responsibility circle.
The FDA works within its guidelines, and at times, unfortuantely with dated information. It was not put together with today’s databases or the ability to quickly analyze the information submitted. They have millions of products to monitor, and some seem more important than others.
As in most situations, the squeaking wheel gets the grease. So an occasional complaint about a formula that has been on the market for years does not get lots of attention.
But, does this mean that sunscreen is completely safe? Benzene continues to be the chemical that raises questions. How much of this product can be present and the sunscreen still be considered safe? Answers center around the idea that sunscreen is less a risk than getting too much sun. Is this good enough?
So What Is Benzene?
“Benzene is a colorless or light-yellow liquid chemical when at room temperature. It has been used primarily as a solvent in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries and is well known to cause cancer in humans.
Trace levels of benzene may be found in cigarette smoke, gasoline, glues, adhesives, cleaning products, and paint strippers.”
This description of benzene came from the report made to the FDA by the Valisure Research Group. Valisure is an independent laboratory that is dedicated to quality-testing pharmaceuticals, as well as personal-care products.
In the study its scientists warned the FDA that they had found benzene, a known carcinogen in vehicle emissions and cigarette smoke. This same carcinogen was also in 78 U.S.made sun-care products.
Benzene is not an actual ingredient in the formula, and might not be listed on the label. Most often used to stabilize the formula so that it remains in a useable condition. This also extends the shelf life to allow for storage and transportation to you. The addition can happen in the latter production steps.
Now, you understand why the amounts of the chemical may vary, product to product. Some formulas are easier to stabilize.
Why Is Sunsceen Not Safe Yet?
If you are to have the protection of sunscreen, the product has to arrive in a useable condition, as well being able to remain useable for a while. This all is understandable.
But, what seems questionable is why the formulas have not been changed to make the product stable and safe? Why have safe methods of keeping the product in good working condition when you buy it not been put in use? Will sunscreen makers continue the use of cancer-causing benzene?
Is it possible has the FDA been slow to take steps to protect our health? The very product that is supposed to prevent skin cancer is still suspected of causing other cancers. And I am supposed to be applying this sunscreen to my skin every 2 hours, all day long?
Some Results Of The Testing
To work, the formulas in some of the sunscreens, the ones we refer to as chemical sunscreens have to be absorbed into your skin. That is how they protect you. Under the surface, they set up a chemical shield. This filters and reflects the sun’s dangerous rays from your skin.
The testing was with blood and urine samples of the test group. These participants were in a test environment with the safest conditions possible for the test period. Reapplication was monitored closely, and safety protocols were followed.
There were traces of the carcinogens found in the blood and urine samples of some. The amounts were the results of a small short contained test. What happens when the user goes on all summer? What if you are on vacation? And swim or hike every day all week, using the recommended application schedule, of every 2 hours?
How about golfers and tennis players? Has any study been done on someone who uses sunscreen from this group of users? Traces of the chemical were found as much as 2 weeks later for some of their test subjects.
What about those of us who do as recommended and apply sunscreen every day?
For one test subject, who was a nursing mother, there were traces of the chemicals in the mother’s milk. She was sharing her risks unknowingly with her child. Will the infant’s system be able to filter out the bad stuff? Will this cause issues we have not been warned of?
What Kind Of Issues Can I Have From Using Sunscreen?
The kinds of issues that have been mentioned are generally of the reproductive system. Low sperm count for young adults males. Some breast cancer as well for men.
Women have irregular menstrual periods, as well as tumors of the breast. Often the irregular cycles produce low numbers of eggs. Naturally, these conditions in the affected bodies of the test group cause other issues.
With Skin Cancer being the one cancer that is growing in numbers of cases per year, awareness is important. We are becoming more aware of what we need to do to protect our skin.
No one wants to be among the 7000 deaths a year. Especially from cancer that most times is preventable. Stay out of the sun! Protect your skin.
Yes, I consider the sun blocking clothing in today’s marketplace to be our superhero. When you use some sun blocking clothing with your sunscreen, you don’t need to apply as much of aquestionable prduct as without. Already a win!
Wearing a sun block hat with a 3 inch brim, your sunglasses that are extra large lens or wraparound styles. Add your loose fitting long sleeve shirt. There is much less of you to apply sunscreen to.
Using a combination of sun block clothing and sunscreen can reduce the number of chemicals you come in contact with. What about your kids? Which had you rather they do? Get a sunburn or pile on sunscreen?
Now they have a choice. Use some sunscreen with some sunblocking clothing. Think about what is best for your family?
Another Danger From Sunscreen Use
Sunscreen is remaining in our water as well.
Have you heard about Molly Thaggard? She is the founder of Texas-based Supergoop. Supergoop claims to be a skin protecting product that is safe for the reefs. Supergoop will not cause damage as some of the product washes off the like the sunscreen that washes off people’s bodies while in the oceeans and bays around the reefs.
So many sunscreens are full of products that just don’t dissolve as they should and disappear. About the possible containments that the human race is unknowingly leaving behind.
“This has happened every single year for the last decade of my life,” says Thaggard, founder of Texas-based Supergoop, a sunscreen company that brands itself as reef-safe and free of hundreds of potentially problematic ingredients.
We have to be more responsible and know what we are leaving in the water around us.
Response By Companies Who Make Sunscreen
Following the release of the Valispar report, even though it did not reach definite proof of cancer, there was some action in the ranks. Companies aware that there are risks and are trying to avoid responsibility issues.
So far Johnson & Johnson has issued a recall including 5 of its Neutrogena and Aveeno sunscreen sprays because of the presence of benzene.
The recall came from an abundance of caution, according to the company spokesperson. “The levels we could detect in our testing were not high enough to expect adverse health consequences.” However there is a fresh flurry of worrisome news stories.
More food for thought: The amount in sunscreen may not be enough to cause any problems for you or me. However, when you add the amount from other things that have the “safe” limit in their product. What is the total amount your are recieving? Would testing done on your blood and urine show dangerous levels?
So, What Do We Do Now?
Because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) keep insisting that wearing sunscreen is important and safe. That it is important to protect your skin from the sun to reduce skin cancer.
We as consumers must keep asking questions, given ongoing concerns about both the environmental and health effects of sunscreen.
Hawaii passed a ban on sunscreens containing the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate, for fear they could damage coral reefs.
The FDA in 2019 requested extra safety data on sunscreen components as part of a stronger and wider reaching regulatory strategy.
Consumer watchdogs like the Environmental Working Group often publish warnings about the health risks of chemicals like oxybenzone. Just recently, a 2020 study found evidence this chemical could cause thyroid tumors in rats. (evidence, but with no follow through to become proof.)
So Sun Blocking Clothing To The Rescue
Without the proven data on the dangers of cancer, we will need to use our own conclusions for deciding what to do.
There is plenty of information to show that sunscreen helps prevent skin cancer.
Tighter regulations may be a blessing for the sunscreen industry. In a survey from the cosmetic procedures database, RealSelf, as many as half of Americans say they never wear sunscreen!
Have You Put Your Skin Protection Plan In Place?
Proving sunscreens are safe, once and for all will regain our confidence.
Skin cancer is the most common cancer for those of us in the U.S. One out of 5 Americans will develop some form of it during our lifetimes. About 7,000 die from melanoma each year.
Remember, most skin cancers are preventable. Many cancers are the result of genes, lifestyle, and for some people, just bad luck.
Skin cancer, by contrast, is almost always the results of excess sun exposure.
Some Basic Information About Skin Protection From The Sun
The sun gives off two kinds of potentially damaging rays.
UVA light causes wrinkles and other markers of aging.
UVB light is the primary cause of sunburn.
Either of these rays can contribute to skin cancer. Sunscreens must block both. By using either physical or chemical filters, or some combination of the two, we can protect our skin.
Physical formulas use minerals: typically zinc or titanium dioxide to create a physical barrier against the sun’s rays Mineral sunscreens can leave a telltale white residue on the skin.
Chemical formulas: such as oxybenzone, avobenzone, octinoxate, and homosalate to absorb UV light. The chemical formulas tend to sink in more completely.
In the usual way things happen, considering the user-friendliness perspective, that easy absorption is an asset.
But it’s also the cause of some concerns about sunscreen and health.
Does The FDA Help Or Hinder?
The FDA began regulating sunscreens as over-the-counter drugs in the 1970s, The standards set for product labeling and testing of a sunscreen formula’s sun protection factor SPF at that time. (These days, products labeled as “broad spectrum” protect against both UVB and UVA light.)
The FDA does not actually test individual sunscreens! Or any cosmetics or personal care products before they hit shelves.
As long as skincare for sun protection companies:
Formulate their products using an approved list of active ingredients laid out by the FDA.
Follow the FDA guidelines for manufacturing and testing these products.
There is not an approval procedure to go through or pass. The new products are ready to market and sell with no actual oversight from the FDA.
FDA And Control Measures
While the FDA sets the standards they must follow, companies are responsible for their own safety, compliance, and quality testing.
This hands-off approach is the result of an outdated regulatory standard.
The FDA began beefing up its safety-testing requirements after most sunscreen ingredients had already been on the market for years. Their approach essentially is grandfathering them into approval without any oversight.
Add to this information, that for years, scientists did not know that sunscreens could soak into the skin instead of remaining on top. Once they became aware of how the product did its’ job, sunscreens came into the over the counter medicine catagory.
With the realization that some ingredients commonly in chemical sunscreens, oxybenzone and octinoxate, penetrate the skin.. Then they seep into the bloodstream, lingering in the body for days at a time.
That doesn’t always mean those chemicals are harmful. The studies’ authors urged consumers to continue using sunscreen.
It does raise the stakes for finding out the true answer.
Some Follow Up Results
A 2020 research review in the International Journal of Dermatology found no conclusive evidence that either oxybenzone or octinoxate causes health problems.
Also in the report oxybenzone exposure (which can also come from the use of other personal-care products) can result in changes in hormone, kidney, and thyroid function. Again not conclusive.
Why Are We Still Concerned?
We as users are more attuned to the chemicals that we are putting on and in our bodies. We have more access to information to protect ourselves.
Who would have guessed the dangers of using Baby powder? We know that companies cut corners for profits.
Thinking about sunscreens, it isn’t only personal health, but there are the effects of the environment that concern us. Do we not use sunscreen?
What Hawaii Did To Protect Its Reefs
In 2018, Hawaii became the first state to ban the sale of sunscreens using oxybenzone and octinoxate.
Using this information to support the decision: Potential damage to coral reefs.
The policy went into effect in January of this year.
Key West, Aruba, Palau, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and several other tourist destinations followed their lead.
For both people and the planet, it seems that there is no clear-cut proof that sunscreen is harmful. There has been enough discouraging information about potential issues associated with sunscreen. It is time to revamp the FDA’s regulatory process..
Sami’s Take on Why Is Sun Screen Not Safe?
It seems there is a good bit of information supprting this question. My opinion is that the FDA has been busy and overlooked this issue for far too long.
The reluctance of Sunscreen makers to change is because of thier profit margin.and this is a huge and lucurative market. We have been buying their marketing claims forever.
I will continue to use sunscreen, although it will bemuch more sparingly. I will go with sun block clothing to complete my skin protection from the sun plan.
What do you think?
This is a helpful way to realize and explain how the chemicals in sunscreen products affect Marine Life.