Health dangers of using sunscreens

Sunscreen Side Effects

It is recommended to use sunscreen if we are exposed to sunlight for a longer time. We all know the benefits of sunscreen, but what about the side effects of using sunscreen? What about ingredients they contain and does using sunscreen put us in the risk of vitamin D deficiency? We have some answers to these questions.

Are there certain chemicals in sunscreen that people should avoid?

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 disruptor. A hormone disruptor is a chemical that can 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 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, although this is not common.

Even if you avoid sunscreens with oxybenzone, you may encounter it in other products, including plastic, hairspray, and nail polish. At this point, it is not recommended for patients to avoid sunscreens with oxybenzone, and if people choose to do so, they should be aware that the chemical exists in many other common products of daily use.

Does everyone need to use sunscreen?

It is recommended 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 the sun would still benefit from sun-protective habits, which include sunscreen, sun-protective clothing, and sun avoidance.

Related: Sunburn As A Child Reason For Skin Cancer 

Does wearing sunscreen put you at risk for a vitamin D deficiency?

Sunscreen indeed blocks ultraviolet B rays, which are shortwave rays from the sun that are important for generating vitamin D in the skin. However, because most people apply far less than the recommended amount (about one shot glass–sized amount to the body and a teaspoonful to the face) of sunscreen, users typically aren’t deficient in vitamin D.

If you’re concerned that sunscreen will put you at risk for vitamin D deficiency, there’s an easy solution. Your doctor can recommend a vitamin D supplement, such as 800 IU of vitamin D3 daily.

Some experts recommend spending 10 to 15 minutes in the sun each day before applying sunscreen, but there’s a debate about whether this is necessary when vitamin D can be obtained from certain foods and as an oral supplement. Concern about vitamin D deficiency should not be a reason to avoid sunscreen.

Related: Top Signs Of Vitamin D Deficiency 

Side effects of using sunscreen

1. Disrupts Hormones

Studies show that oxybenzone, triclosan, parabens, and phthalates, can disrupt the functioning of hormones. These ingredients are commonly found in commercial sunscreens. Studies showed that when adolescents switched to cleaner products without these compounds, the levels of these chemicals in their systems dropped quickly, so it’s worth switching to products free of these chemicals.

2. Damages Cells

Oxybenzone, a popular chemical in commercial sunscreens, is used because it absorbs UV light. However, it can also cause hormone disruptions and cause potential cell damage.

It seems to inhibit cell growth and interferes with the process of DNA synthesis as well. Potentially this could cause genetic mutations. Studies have linked oxybenzone to endometriosis in older women. Women with higher levels of oxybenzone during pregnancy had lower birth weight daughters.

3. Promotes Growth Of Cancer Cells

The damage that these chemicals do can cause the growth of cancer cells. The genetic mutations that they cause can potentially lead to the development of cancer.

4. Increases Risk Of Breast Cancer

Studies show that chemicals used in sunscreen called benzophenones can imitate the effects of excess estrogen in the body. This increases the risk of developing diseases like breast cancer.

5. Promotes Skin Tumors And Lesions

Retinyl Palmitate or Vitamin A Palmitate is a substance used in several skincare products because it is an antioxidant that reduces aging. However, research shows that rats that were treated with vitamin A formulation topically showed a faster spread of skin tumors and lesions.

How To Choose The Right Sunscreen

Try to find sunscreens that don’t include the above mentioned active ingredients. Instead, try to find ones that use titanium and zinc minerals.

These ingredients tend to provide a physical barrier than a chemical barrier between the UV rays and your skin. The good news is that these ingredients do not penetrate the skin unlike the chemical compounds mentioned earlier.

There are also plenty of natural sunscreens available that use ingredients like coconut oil, shea butter, and carrot oil which have their natural SPF value. Just make sure that the product you buy has a minimum SPF of 30.

Is The Sun That Bad For You?

Most of us use sunscreen out of the fear that exposure to the sun will cause skin cancer. The truth is that only 10% of cancer cases are attributed to any kind of radiation and out of that UV accounts for very little. Studies suggest that some exposure to the sun can help prevent the development and spread of skin cancer. Patients with melanoma seem to show a higher likelihood of survival and remission if they get more occasional sun exposure.

Judging by that data, it might be a good idea to ditch the sunscreen now and then if you’re going to be in the sun for a short while. Experts do agree that sunlight is the best source of vitamin D. Evidence shows that Vitamin D helps prevent include several bone diseases, muscle weakness, more than a dozen types of internal cancers, multiple sclerosis, and type 1 diabetes mellitus.

Sun safety tips

Here are some tips to protect your skin from the sun’s damaging rays.

*Don’t depend just on using sunscreen. Your best strategy is to avoid sun exposure when possible.

*Sun-protective clothing, which has become increasingly popular, is a nice addition to using sunscreen.

*Remember that sunscreen needs to be reapplied approximately every two hours. The effect of chemical sunscreen wanes after you apply it and most sunscreens tend to be sweated off.

Conclusion: If your skin starts to turn pink, then your skin is starting to experience sun damage, so find some shade as soon as possible or lather on some natural sunscreen that doesn’t contain harmful compounds. The best sun protection is to stay in the shade and wear hats and long clothing.

Sunscreen side effects may be avoided by using some alternatives mentioned above. Remember that in any case, some amount of sun exposure can do you good. If you are worried about damage, shade and protective clothing is the way to go.


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