Many of you may be following the media reports regarding the safety of sunscreens and are probably wondering whether sunscreen is safe to use. The answer is yes.
Dermatologists and the Food and Drug Administration continue to advise Americans that sunscreen should be applied. One in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetimes, and sunscreen use can reduce this risk. Sunscreen also reduces risks of premature aging, wrinkles and sun spots.
So, what's all the excitement about? The FDA has advanced a proposed regulation requesting that manufacturers provide more data about the safety of certain sunscreen ingredients. What they want to know is how much of these chemicals are absorbed through the skin and whether these absorbed chemicals have any effects on the body.
Before we go any further, let me explain the difference between the current types of sunscreen.
- Sit on the skin and reflect the sun’s ultraviolet rays
- Contain ingredients such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide
- Most ideal for sensitive skin
- Can leave white residue on the skin
- Considered more “natural”
- Absorb the sun’s ultraviolet rays (think of a sponge)
- Contain ingredients such as oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, octinoxate
- Typically, more cosmetically elegant and don't leave much of a white film on the skin
Per the FDA's recent report, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are the only two sunscreen ingredients "generally recognized as safe." This doesn’t mean the chemical sunscreens are hazardous. It means the FDA needs to gather more information on their safety.
If this concerns you, consider sticking to zinc and titanium in your sunscreen until we know more. Some of the newer products contain tiny particles (referred to as micronized), making them more transparent and cosmetically appealing.
Of course, sunscreens are not your only defense against the sun. Wear a wide-brimmed hat and long-sleeved/lightweight shirt and pants. Seek shade. And remember, the sun is most powerful between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
If you have questions about which sunscreen is best for you, talk to your board-certified dermatologist.
Dr. Namrata Shah, fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, is a dermatologist with the Franciscan Physician Network in Dyer. Contact her at 219-934-2495.