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Sunscreen. Photo: Harvard Health

Much Ado About Sunscreen: Is It Bad For You?

The FDA might be against your favourite sunscreen. The US Food and Drug Administration recently issued a proposed rule on sunscreens. This will ensure that sunscreens are safe and effective, and people have access to them. The proposal addresses the safety of sunscreen active ingredients, dosage forms, broad-spectrum requirements and the sun protection factor (SPF).

 

Sunscreens have 16 currently-marked active ingredients. In a statement, FDA proposes that two of these active ingredients — zinc oxide and titanium oxide — are GRASE (generally recognised as safe and effective) for use in sunscreens. Two other ingredients — PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid) and trolamine salicylate — however, are not considered safe or effective under the proposed new FDA rule.

 

As for the remaining 12 active ingredients, the FDA stated that there is not enough evidence to determine if they are safe or harmful to use. These ingredients are cinoxate, dioxybenzone, ensulizole, homosalate, meradimate, octinoxate, octisalate, octocrylene, padimate O, sulisobenzone, oxybenzone and avobenzone. They found that four of the ingredients remain in the body for at least 24 hours after the last sunscreen application. These ingredients are avobenzone, oxybenzone, ecamsule and octocrylene.

 

To use or not to use sunscreen

The FDA announcement is not a definite statement that these ingredients in questions can cause health issues. The organisation only states that the body could absorb them. However, consumers should look for products with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Studies show that the skin does not absorb these two ingredients.

 

Woman applying sunscreen. Photo: Medical News Today

 

Spray sunscreens are an area of concern to FDA. This is because sprays and powder are generally combustible and can enter the lungs if the particles are too small.

 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) studies of particle pollution show that particles 10 micrometres in diameter or less pose a great health problem. This position is due to the fact that they can enter the lungs. Inhaling these particles poses a serious health problem as it can affect the lungs and heart. People with a history of heart and lung disease or people with diabetes are at an even greater risk. Due to the lack of definitive testing, the Environmental Working group recommends people to avoid all sprays.

 

The FDA proposes that sprays are in the category of sunscreens that are GRASE. This is only as long as the particles in them are too large for individuals to inhale. However, according to the FDA, there is a need for additional testing of powders before the FDA can place them in that category.

 

While America’s Skin Cancer Foundation has stated that it supports the proposal, it notes,

“Sunscreens are an important part of a complete sun protection strategy. But the public should be aware that there are many ways to protect yourself from the sun, including seeking shade and covering up with clothing, hats and sunglasses.”

 

The FDA is still in the process of developing a final rule. You can read the full proposal on FDA.gov here.

 

Because May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, it is important to learn more about protecting the skin from sun damage and skin cancer prevention.

Damilola Soyinka

Dami is a quiet genius with loads of deep and amazing content flowing through her veins. Reading her articles makes you feel empowered with a wealth of knowledge. She's that enigma you would love working with on a daily basis.

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